I had the good fortune to do some Graduate Studies in the Tuscany region of Italy.
I stayed at Il Podernovo - Monticiano, Italy. Podernovo is a beautiful Tuscan farmhouse divided up into several apartments.
This was the view from my window. The rural village ~ Monticiano was a five minute walk away.
Grape vines hanging over the doorways. Could it get any better?
The lovelies downstairs...............................................
A field of smiling sunflowers.....................................
The details............Ahhhh, the details.......................................
The cucina at Il Podernovo. We had breakfast in here a few times. Lunches were on location and dinners were always out under the grape arbor (where else?). One night the Monticiano firemen came over and made pizza for us in the outdoor oven. A quintessential Italian experience.
More details................

The lane leading to Monticiano......................................
Now, to get to the real point of this post - Italian Vintner Carlo Cignozzi. The villa that I stayed in, Il Podernovo, is owned by Diana Grandi & Carlo Cignozzi. Carlo was just starting his vineyard/winery Il Paradiso di Frassina at that time (1997). He would bring bottles of wine for us to sample and enjoy with dinner. It was incredible - some of the best wine I've ever tasted ~ Brunello di Montalcino. I wish that I had purchased cases of it ~ because now ~ it is $160.00 per bottle at Damien's Cucina Houston. Brunello di Montalcino is a little hard to find here in the states but can be ordered through Small Vineyards Imports. Carlo is also trying a technique that I'm very interested in. Music for the vines. He is employing a technique that he is convinced helps his vines thrive and keeps animals and pests away from the vineyard. I love this idea.................
I'm trying to grow vines as pesticide free as I can and am inundated by deer, raccoon and birds.
Carlo has speakers all through his vineyard and plays Mozart, Haydn, Handel, Mahler and Vivaldi. According to Stefano Mancuso, a professor of agriculture at the University of Florence, "Sound exposure has some positive effects on vine growth in the vineyard, especially shoot growth." The effect of sound on plants apparently depends on frequency, intensity and exposure time. In 2001, Chinese researchers found that low-frequency sound does not damage cell structure but instead activates enzymes, increases cell membrane fluidity and promotes DNA replication and cell cycling. Sources: http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/news/2007/06/music_and_wine#

Photography By: Ryannan Bryer de Hickman
Copyright: Sotto Il Monte Vineyards
Illustration of Carlo Cignozzi by: Tim Tomkinson


  1. first i have to say your pics took my breath away... honest. i have been up since 3am, came online to quietly entertain myself as my husband sleeps and i see all this beauty, it really made me stop breathing as i watched my idea of heaven unfold as i scroll. yes life is the details, the small captured moments, which is why i adore your blog, your visions enchant me. not to mention you lead such a beautiful life...

    second, you didn't even need a point to this post, the pics speak enough~

    how many acres of grapes are you growing? i applaud you for being organic, but i understand first hand about the deer, can you fence the area? makes perfect sense to me that music would enhance the garden, but it will only encourage the wild life to come in and linger even more, i know i would...

  2. I love all your posts..and this one is no exception..every photo un trésor!
    Tell me about the sketch too:)

    Can you imagine walking the vinyards listening to Water Music?
    I went to Montalcino.. and Montepulciano..
    Our friend bought Brunellos and received 2 as gifts for his 60th..
    You brought back fresh mamories..That is beautiful countryside..
    Look at your place and the ebautiful girls..:) The only one missing is you!

    Thanks for treating us..I hope your blog stays forever so I can keep peeking..

    My only regret of Italy..if you can call it that..is that I missed the Sunflowers~

    Have you been back?

    Now look at you..your very own vineyard!

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  4. Such beautiful pictures...you took me back to a lovely place in my mind...
    Just lovely!

  5. **swoon** I found you through Lime in the Coconut and now my head is spinning! Beautiful. Seeing your header left me short of breath. Stunning work. **blows kisses** Deborah

  6. Those pictures are truly stunning! I could feel, touch and smell it! I love that you have your own vineyard! Friends (actually he was the photographer for our wedding) have a family vineyard in California. It is all so romantic to me. sigh~


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