A Pop-Up Proposal Picnic in Chianti

A Pop-up Proposal Picnic in Chianti

We were the first to know….. Joey and Liz were engaged

I received an email from Joey, who asked about our Chianti Picnic option. He explained that he wanted to propose to Liz his girlfriend of 10 years with a romantic picnic. He asked if we could help make this picnic a little special, so could surprise her with ‘the proposal’

Our signature Chianti Picnic is one of our favorite tours to host. It is a fun way to entertain, dine, and showcase some of the local delicacies of Tuscany. We provide all the fixings for a lovely relaxing meal. The table is set with linen table cloth, crystal wine glasses, plates, cutlery, fresh flowers, and of course all the incredible food and wine.

We chose one of our favorite spots, under a shady old oak tree, overlooking the Chianti wine country hills, complete with a picnic table.  It was the perfect setting.

We were the first to know….. Joey and Liz were engaged!

Something only old friends and family may know about me is that at one time I worked for a catering company. I started right out of college after receiving a degree in culinary and liberal arts.  Catering for me is all about the details and the organization. You can cater almost any type of event at any venue, with forethought and detailed planning. This is pleasing work for me.

So here was a chance to be part of someones special day. My mind starting filling ideas of extra little things I could do to make this a most memorable day for these two lovebirds.

Joey and I emailed each other back and forth over the next 4 days. In that time we came up with a way to make the picnic a real surprise for Liz. I decided we would post brightly colored signs, along the road, that simply had the word PICNIC with an arrow. (of course I had given Joey the actual address for his GPS).  Joey suggested to Liz that they spend the afternoon exploring the Chianti hills, and in the evening enjoy dinner at a top restaurant.

Joey and I had agreed on a pre-determined time in which we would have the picnic table all set up for them. Knowing when they would arrive allowed us time to set up and then disappear, out of sight.

So the plan was this, Joey would drive in the direction of the picnic, and make a comment about the brightly colored picnic signs and arrows.  “I wonder what these signs are all about?  Maybe we should follow them and see where they lead us”?

After a few of miles through the beautiful Chianti countryside, Liz said, “a picnic sounds so nice right now. I would love to have a picnic, even more then a fancy dinner tonight, I wish we had thought of that”

I am not sure I could of kept a straight face after that comment, but he later told us, he was as cool as a cucumber, and did nothing to give the awaiting surprise away.  Finally they pulled up to the parking spot just in front of the old oak tree to find a picnic table all set for two, and ready to go. We were just up the hill and out of sight.

“I wonder what these signs are all about?  Maybe we should follow them and see where they lead us”?

Joey said he would make the proposal within the first 15 minutes of their arrival. The plan was for us to wait approx. 10-15  minutes before we arrived with a chilled bottle of Prosecco. We did not have to guess when the exact moment the BIG QUESTION was asked. We could hear the laughter, the joy and emotion in Liz’s voice from where we were ‘hiding’

This was the signal for Massi, my husband and business partner to congratulate them and open a bottle of Prosecco. Massi shows up with a saber (sword) an ice bucket and two glasses, he then ceremoniously opens the Prosecco with the sword!

We give them privacy and time to enjoy the picnic lunch. We provided, prosciutto, salumi, pecorino cheeses, with fruits and jams. All locally sourced and presented just for them. We even brought dessert. Joey asked for something chocolate, so we went to one of our favorite bakeries in Siena for just the right double chocolate pasticcini.

After lunch Joey and Liz wanted to thank Massi and I for our efforts on their special day. We toasted to their exciting news, and snapped a few photos for them to remember this special day.

Just a side note, Joey had a fun way of throwing Liz off the trail for a moment. After they arrived and settled in at the picnic table,  Joey handed Liz a small gift box, but instead of the box containing a ring, it contained a necklace. Poor Liz, I can only imagine, what must of been going through her mind. Joey quickly handed her an envelope, and card inside had the message.


There was a second box with a lovely ring.

As I mentioned earlier, by the sound of their voices and the excitement we heard, we knew the reply was a clear YES!

We hope to meet this lovely couple from Australia, again soon. Perhaps they will return to celebrate a wedding anniversary sometime in the near future?


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Sunday afternoon….. Special Invite to Vintage Fiat Cinquecento Event

How would you like spend your Sunday afternoon in Tuscany?

Many who know me, know my love for all things vintage. Amber Ostrich is where my original business of selling all things vintage was born.

This past Sunday, the local Fiat 500 Motor Club called CinquinoSiena had a gathering of their classic Fiat 500’s and a wine tasting for locally produced wines in the territory of Berardenga.

fiat suitcase

There were over 40 of these super mini vehicles, which their owners go to great lengths to restore, and personally customize to their liking.




They were on their way to a Chianti Classico Wine Tasting Event, which was held  at Certosa di Pontignano,  a beautiful 14th century Abbey  just outside Siena, Italy.

wine sign fiat








We were had stopped with our client Jenny to take some photos on the property of the Losi family estate. We were perfectly poised to capture the following short video (see bottom of post) of the vintage cars as they motored their way down the country lane that runs through the Losi family vineyard.

We were honored to receive a special invitation to attend the wine tasting with the members of the club. Our client Jenny was very pleased to be able to sample such a variety of wines in a beautiful setting.

jenny car yellow







You just can’t help but smile as these classic cars roll by. They remind me of an era where friends and families would take a Sunday ride through the countryside and make a picnic or walk in the forest.

fiat small red


Stay tuned….. for re-cap of this coming Sunday as we explore more of the local color here in Tuscana.






Here is the You Tube Video of the vintage cars rolling by, horns beeping and riders waving!


How do they classify Brunello di Montalcino?

Every year the Consorzio del vino Brunello di Montalcino classifies the new wine production. The evaluation takes place in January. The wine rating is expressed in stars corresponding to the following classifications:

  • One star- insufficient vintage
  • Two stars- fair vintage
  • Three stars- good vintage
  • Four stars- excellent vintage
  • Five stars- outstanding vintage
    The declaration of the stars assigned to the latest vintage is announced each February.


Hand painted tile on wall in Montalcino.   #instatuscany #winetour #Brunello

Starting in 1992 the Consorzio has commissioned a commemorative tile to place on the wall of the town hall in Montalcino.
The tiles are created by people from all backgrounds and all parts of the world.
The tiles are hung in February during the ‘Benvenuto Brunello’ event.

Brunello tile Montalcino Italy


Some of the tiles are shown here with Venus my Chihuahua!

Montalcino Consorzio del Vino Brunello tiles with my Chihuahua Venus

Come and be part of the new release event!
Let me help you plan your trip now.

If you like to meet and mingle with the locals and see
what Italy is like without all the “tourists.” See pics of our adventures.

This is a perfect time of year to visit.

Montalcino street in early March without tourists. Come see Tuscany in the off season!

This photo was taken in Montalcino in early March.

Just another reason to visit Italy in the off season with ‪#‎italyunfiltered‬


Getting Fresh In Italia

Getting Fresh in Italia

I enjoy exploring Italy during the winter months. Lack of tourists has its benefits, many will agree. This winter is the first time I am here in Italy as a student at Siena School for Liberal Arts.


Hallway with old photos at Siena School for Liberal Arts in Siena, Italy







A few years ago, I traveled to Sicily with my friend Libby during summer. This was her first time to Italy. She told me about her Nonna who used to make stuffed artichokes for her.

Libby, la prima volta in Italia

Libby, la prima vo;ta in Italia








It came as a bit of a shock to Libby that the dish she so desired was not available.

Wait staff would smile and tell us artichokes or Carciofi as they are called here, are a winter vegetable, and you will not find ANY in Sicily during this time!

In hindsight this makes perfect sense, if we can for a moment step out of our America mindset. What is so natural for an Italian, had us caught us slightly off-guard.

Since that trip, I have come to enjoy the traditional way of eating that defines most of Italy. Fresh, local and in season. When something is in season the locals can’t seem to get enough.

Italian Peppers






When I first arrived three weeks ago, I noticed towering mounds of artichokes offered at local produce stands. Shoppers almost elbowing each other to get to the wonder thistle home to the family dinner table.







Eating what is in season has many benefits. Not only does it help promote the local food culture and farmers, it also promotes sustainability.

I recommend savoring Italian produce in season, and at its peak. Your taste buds will thank you for it. Try one of our Private Food Tours to experience Italy like a local!

Who is the birdman of Berardenga? A Mystery in Chianti Tuscany Italy

Who is the birdman of Berardenga? A Mystery in Chianti Tuscany Italy

Who is the Birdman of Berardenga?

Ok I will be truthful I am not actually sure this person is a man. I am just making an assumption.

I have come to use this name in honor of the well-known classic movie, the Birdman of Alcatraz.

My first encounter was very close to home. Home right now is the little town called Castelnuovo Berardenga in the Chianti Region of Tuscany Italy. I have adopted this quaint village during my stay in Italy this summer.


Castelnuovo Berardenga, My Suggestion is to call it CNB

Castelnuovo Berardenga, My Suggestion is to call it CNB

You may be thinking that the name Castelnuovo Berardenga is a mouthful, and I couldn’t agree more. So from this point on it will be written as CNB. You know how we Americans love acronyms and I am no exception. In fact I have started an informal campaign to see if the locals will accept my suggested acronym, but that is fodder for a whole new blog, TBC (to be continued)

Back to the birdman. Some of you may recall an earlier blog post of mine in which I wrote about unusual Italian road signs such as the one below.

Dogs Pollute… more Italian Signs

This sign from earlier blog, about the more unusual signs I encountered in Italy

This sign from earlier blog, about the more unusual signs I encountered in Italy










So imagine my surprise when I spotted this particular road sign at the entrance to my little apartment. I admit at first I thought it was a genuine sign. One I could not for the life of me figure out. What could a pigeon on top of a commercial truck possibly mean?


My first encounter with the Sticker Artist

My first encounter with the Sticker Artist

Upon closer inspection and confirmation with my Italian friend Massi, I realize I have been duped! This is someone’s artistic expression. Yep sticker art. Sticker art AKA sticker bombing or sticker tagging is defined as a form of street art, in which an image or message is publicly displayed. The birdman had indeed tagged a road sign with a black of a pigeon sticker on top of the truck. Clever enough. It made me smile. In Italian they would say ‘divertente’ meaning something quite funny or amusing.


A couple of days later and less then two blocks away I spot a new bird sicker strategically placed on another road sign. This time an owl. I have always loved small owls for some reason, and this one I thought was striking with the addition of the white eyes and red beak.

Note the addition of white eyes and red beak

Note the addition of white eyes and red beak

Ummm I say to myself, in Italiano, ‘interssante’. Two bird stickers within two blocks of one another. What does it mean? Who is the tagger?






While walking to the local farmers market in CNB, I spot another modified road sign. This one with a delicate flock of birds.

Hardly noticable, this flock of feathered friends

Hardly noticable, this flock of feathered friends

If you had asked me if I am intrigued at this point? The answer is a plain old YES, or as I can hear from recent memory how my friends from Minnesota often exclaim ‘you betcha!’





At this point I have photographed all three signs with the intent to create a future blog post. Like many other great ideas and stories, this one it too filed away in some compartment in my brain for later use.


One late night as my friend Massi and I were returning from diner in a neighboring village, I spot a Flamingo on a road sign. Now yes I must admit I had consumed a couple of glasses of tasty Chianti wine that evening, (that is why I was not driving) and when I saw the sticker, I announced out loud to Massi, FLAMINGO! I am certain he thought the wine was having a strong effect on me. The sign was on the passenger side of the road, and he did not see it as we drove by. We pull over, turn around to verify that indeed I did see a flamingo and to take a photo.

The following week I had a busy schedule and I make another note to myself to write this blog.

Having plenty of projects here while on vacation, both by myself and with other friends in Italy, keeps me fairly busy. The blog remained unposted……..

But something is clearly on my mind. I now notice that as I am either driving or a passenger, I find myself checking almost every road sign. It is like I half expect to see a bird where there was not one before.

There is no shortage of road signs in the Chianti region, most the standard easy to understand, some not so much. But I take note that my brain has now been switched on to “search mode” whether intended or not. I can’t seem to switch it off. Thanks birdman.

Not a bird tagged sign, just one that may be fun to come up with caption for the BIG Glove!

Not a bird tagged sign, just one that may be fun to come up with caption for the BIG Glove!










AUGUST 15, 2014 

Yesterday was the defining moment in which the budding blog post was to move from my head public posting on-line.

As I drove home from Siena into my village of CNB,  I spied the following Toucan where there was none the day before.


The defining moment this blog post was born

The defining moment this blog post was born

So here we are, blog post written, photos posted and here is where I am seeking help.

Welcomed either fact or fiction. Is there by chance anyone in the local area who may have a clue as to the identity of the “birdman” is.

I am willing to listen to all insider tips, whether rumors or not.

Any additional photos of bird stickers spyed either here in Italy or abroad also welcomed. Please share your comments, and photos, would love to see them.

Ciao Ya’all