Travelling through the Tuscan hills, plucking fresh olives and popping them in one’s mouth, and sipping on a freshly fermented glass of Chianti is a dream for many people’s parents.
Let’s be honest, it’s been one my fantasies even before I’ve had the chance to sip on the courage nectar. I don’t even like wine that much, but it’s hard to argue with that glorious vision. I dreamed of absolutely demolishing plates of heavy pasta, wood fire oven pizzas, cannoli, gelato and everything under the Tuscan sun.
In the summer of 2018, I got the chance to fulfill my legacy, when I arrived in the small town of Certaldo of Tuscany. I can confirm with confidence that I had no clue what to expect when entering the Country. I had studied Guy Fierri extensively throughout my teen years, eating a large amount of fettuccine, but never had I experienced the real thing.
In all seriousness, Tuscany exudes an authentic cultural identity — a deep understanding and passion for food and beverage and spectacular landscapes.
Anyways, we arrived at our hostel, located in the middle of a section of secluded woods. It was called the Bassetto Guesthouse and it looked like a confused 14th century settlement, equipped with vines growing on the walls, no real doors, and medieval windows. I was a little weary at first, the place was intimidating as hell, but it warmed up to us.
What happened that night changed my perspective on the Hostel and on travel itself. The hostel owners offered pasta making classes, a wine tour and a tour of the city castle San Gimignano, and even personally drove us to the excursions. After a full day of exploration, vicious eating and sipping wine, we ended up with a big and fantastic group of friends. As we returned to the guesthouse, our newfound group introduced us to a tradition at the hostel.
The front desk offered wine bottles for 4 euros each. But you did not have to pay for them right away. You could open a tab and close it when you check out of the hostel. At night the group would grab many bottles of wine and settle into the backyard of the establishment and drink through the night. There were no artificial lights, so we had to light candles like those you would see in horror films.
As we sat drinking wine, sharing stories, and laughing surrounded by a sea of lit candles in the lush Tuscany wilderness, I noticed something very peculiar. Every guest that I’ve met, had extended their stay by at least a couple nights.
If you add everything up: the unlimited wine, the lit candles as our main source of light, the people unable to leave this wonderful place, it really screams cult. It felt like I had stumbled on a traveler’s cult. A CULT. And I loved it. We even extended our stay as well, to get more nights of candle light wine drinking.
On the final night of our stay, our crew had become very close. We were saddened that we had to depart for Rome of all places. We decided to take a walk, wine in hand to a nearby vineyard. We sat among the grapes and talked about every aspect of life. Until I fell asleep.
I woke up an hour later, surrounded by my sleeping friends, by the sound of an intruder alarm. We ran back to the hostel and called it a night.
I will never forget that amazing hostel, the massive bill I had for all the wine I “borrowed” and the friendships I made during those short days. The candle “cult” will always reside in my memory, and I’m hoping I can find a place that special on each one of my future trips.
For those interested I have included a link so you can check out the place, and potentially plan a trip to stay there.