Lately, I’ve received a few letters asking about my research on the setting for my new book THESE TANGLED VINES. I mentioned in the author’s note that I made a research trip to Tuscany for a week of winery tours with our good friends Natalie and Darrell. (Have I mentioned I love my job? :)). We met up in Florence to sightsee for a few days before we took a train to Montepulciano, where we stayed in an “agriturismo” which is a combination of the Italian words agricoltura (agriculture) and turismo (tourism). An agriturismo is a working farm that also receives guests. Here’s the website for Azienda Agraria Nobile, our home base for the week. I highly recommend it if you ever plan to visit Tuscany. Our hosts were wonderful and provided fabulous shuttle service to and from Montepulciano and delicious breakfasts every day.

The location was positively dreamy, at the base of the hilltop town of Montepulciano where I chose to set the novel. We arrived at night when it was dark and foggy, and we couldn’t see much of anything, but when we woke the next morning and opened the windows, we were stunned and awestruck by the view of Montepulciano, high up on the hill just above us. I gave that same experience to Fiona in the novel.

Here is a picture of me in front of our guest suite, which was the inspiration for the guest suite where Lillian stays with her husband Freddie while spending the summer in Italy. Those stone steps are the ones she climbs with Anton after their delicious dinners at the villa. If you visit the Azienda Agraria Nobile website, you’ll also see a picture of the swimming pool where I set a few scenes in the book.

This picture doesn’t do it justice, but you can see a bit of the hilltop town of Montepulciano, taken from our agriturismo.

As for Maurizio Wines (the fictional winery in the novel), it was based on a compilation of a few different wineries we visited. Below are some pictures from our wine tours, but first… our first few days in Florence.

This was our first night to celebrate after meeting up after our LONG redeye flights from Canada. Do we look tired? Not too tired for a toast!
You can’t visit Florence without seeing the art. Here we are standing in front of Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus.
And then this…
This was taken at the agriturismo: Natalie is wandering to the gate on our way to breakfast. This was what I imagined for Fiona’s first walk to the villa for the reading of the will.
Our first day of winery tours. Darrell arranged a private tour of Piccini Family Estate where their passion for winemaking was inspiring. Check out this old bottle of Chianti Classico. Yum!
Again, the passion for winemaking at the Piccini estate was infectious and we learned a lot in those gorgeous cellars.

One of my favorite tours was at Badia a Coltibuono, recommended by our friend, The Real Wine Guy, Peter Rockwell. It was once a monastery, and there was so much about this place that turned up in my book. The atmosphere was lovely and the interior rooms were what I imagined when Lillian and Anton were sipping wine that first night in the novel.
Waiting for a wine tour begin.
Stephen telling me it’s time to get started.
Taking pictures from inside.
Learning all sorts of things from our wonderful tour guide.
Enjoying a wine tasting after the tour.
Another day begins. Here we are enjoying the view before a tour of a Frescobaldi winery: Castello Nipozzano.
The Frescobaldi Castello Nipozzano estate was a great inspiration for the fictional setting of Maurizio Wines.
These old bottles inspired all sorts of ideas for the book!
Outside the wine cellar at Frescobaldi.
Olive grove at Frescobaldi.
Me looking very excited and eager to start tasting Frescobaldi wine.
Stephen, me and Darrell in Siena, taking a day off from wine tours.
Chatting with Natalie while exploring Siena.
Goofing around in Montepulciano.
Heading up to a restaurant for dinner in Montepulciano.
Heading down to a wine cellar in Montepulciano.
Exploring the wine cellar in Montepulciano.
Who can resist a secret passage in an old Italian hilltop town?
Sometimes it’s nice to just wander quiet streets…
With my handsome husband, enjoying a glass of vino on our last day in Montepulciano.
Scribbling a few notes about plot ideas while waiting for dinner to arrive in Montepulciano on our last night.