A Hospitality Lesson for Me…from a Hot Air Balloon!

I have to begin by explaining that Marilyn and I are in Tuscany, the beautiful region of Italy known for its wine and olive oils…and, as we discovered today, its hospitality.

We took a hot air balloon ride over the countryside this morning with Idea Balloon, a company owned by Stefano Travaglia and his wife Gianna.  A bit nervous, but willing, we took off into the morning sky for a delightful and awesome view of the Chianti region countryside with its olive trees and vineyards.  But you can see my slide show of photos some other time…that is not the amazing part of the day.

We landed on a postage size plot of land between trees and the posts of a vineyard only a few feet away…an amazing feat in itself.  Lovely…so far.  But the chase car with the trailer could not find us…we were hidden in a valley behind said trees.  Stefano kept

the balloon inflated as a marker for the chase car which did not arrive for about 1-1/2 hours.  I hiked up the mountain to the road to identify where along the asphalt road was the little gravel road to descend the hill to find us.

Stefano was mortified that such a lovely trip ended with such a bad pick-up experience…but it didn’t bother us much (except my 2 mile hike up the mountain) as we had no other plans for the day.  But such an experience was not his standard…he felt

the need to make amends.  And he knew how.

Stefano and Gianni invited back to their home where we spent about 3 hours.  Gianni invited Marilyn and her sister Vicki to go to the market with her (which Mare loved!) while Mare’s brother and I sipped champagne.  Then they prepared a Tuscana lunch for us with Marilyn helping in the kitchen (definitely in her element!).  They invited their neighbor Hugo (who has a grove of olive trees and

makes his own (fabuloso!) wine) to join us for an outdoor feast that will be, forever, a memory for us.

And that is when it struck me, (again), that a guest LOVES the full experience.  The balloon ride was fun and beautful, but to be invited into an Italian home, to be welcome in their kitchen, and to make new friends who warmed us with their kind spirits.  It was difficult to leave, but with hugs and kisses all around, we knew they had touched us with more than a balloon ride…it made our day and, probably, the highlight of our trip for Marilyn and me.   Ciao!  Scott

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