Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road – #2 Stay at an agriturismo

Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road – #2 Stay at an agriturismo

If you’re wondering what an agriturismo is, don’t worry. You’re in good company. I had no idea the word even existed before our trip to Italy this summer. In fact, it wasn’t until I stayed in one that I gained a good understanding of what they are and how they can take your Italian vacation to the next level.

Agritourismo businesses area everywhere in the Prosecco region near Valdobbiadene, Italy.

Agriturismo businesses are great places to stay in the Prosecco region near Valdobbiadene, Italy.

Simply put, an agriturismo is a small, family-owned tourism business, like a bed and breakfast, attached to a larger agriculture-related business that produces and sells something. Along the Prosecco Road, you won’t find a Hilton Garden Inn, but you will find all kinds of agriturismo businesses catering to the handful of tourists who have discovered this beautiful area.

Our hosts, Deb and Massi of Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver, arranged for us to stay at the Roccat winery agriturismo business. Beautiful flowers greeted us outside the front door, a sample of the warm hospitality we were about to experience.

Flowers at Roccat winery

Lovely flowers outside the Roccat winery agriturismo inn.

The family renovated an old barn on their property into a six room bed and breakfast in the year 2000. Each is clean, comfortable and has a private bath with toiletries provided. Breakfast, served in a charming, sunlit room is simply wonderful. They serve locally made jams, as well as meats and dairy products from nearby farms. There are cereals, as well, along with baked goods from a local bakery. My favorite was a wonderful cake. I had two pieces each morning. Don’t judge. If you tried it, you would, too.

Breakfast at Roccat

The breakfast spread at the Roccat winery agriturismo. It is included with the room.

Roccat breakfast cake

This homemade cake at the Roccat Agriturismo was the perfect breakfast food.

The rooms provide a cultural experience you won’t get if you stay in a chain hotel, and we liked that. Be aware, though, that the air conditioning is to Italian standards, meaning it doesn’t cool the room as much as Americans might be accustomed to. Also, like most places in Italy, washcloths are not provided, so if you typically use one you might want to pack one in your bag.

What was great about staying at the agriturismo is that after breakfast, we went out the back door and were in the middle of the winery. The morning of our second day there, we met the wine maker, Clemente, and walked about 20 steps to the area where they produce and bottle the wines.

Roccat winery winemaker

Clemente at Roccat winery.

There, Clemente explained to us the process for creating Prosecco and explained how it is different than Champagne made in France. While both wines undergo a secondary fermentation that puts bubbles in the wine, the method used for that fermentation is different. In Champagne, it happens in the bottle. In Prosecco, it takes place in large vats. At the end of the Prosecco process, the temperature in the vat is dropped below freezing, killing the yeast and stopping the process.

Cold fermentation vat

Huge vats of wine are chilled to below freezing to stop the secondary fermentation. The ice on the door to this vat shows that the process is being stopped.

Once the secondary fermentation is done, the winery seeks permission from the governing authorities to bottle the wine. When they have it, they send it through pipes to the bottling machine.

Roccat winery bottling machine

Clemente explains the bottling process.

To learn a little more about the wine making process, watch this video. Massi does a great job translating what Clemente explained.

After our tour, we walked the 20 or so steps back to the tasting room at the agriturismo, a room they call the tavern, and sat down to sample the wine.

This beautiful great room is ideal for group gatherings as well as wine tastings.

This beautiful great room is ideal for group gatherings as well as wine tastings. Photo Credit: Roccat Winery.

It was a little earlier than normal for drinking wine, so I won’t say the exact time that we started other than to say it rhymes with “hen dirty” in the morning. Again, please don’t judge. We were conducting important research so we could share with you, the readers of our blog.

Roccat winery tasting

Clemente pours a generous sample of Prosecco at Roccat winery. It was delicious!

Our stay at Roccat gave us a glimpse into Italian culture and wine that you don’t get at most hotels. Without this experience, our visit to Italy simply wouldn’t have been the same. That’s why staying in an agriturismo is our number two tip for your visit to the Prosecco Road.

Other tips:

#1 Hire a driver and local guide

#3 Get to know your wine


Our tour of the Prosecco Road and transportation were complimentary from Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver. The opinions expressed are our own. If you would like to know more about Roccat winery, click [HERE].

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Tips for your visit to Prosecco Road in Valdobbiadene, Italy. #2 - stay at an agritourismo

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A year after our first visit, we’re going home to Pawhuska, Oklahoma

A year after our first visit, we’re going home to Pawhuska, Oklahoma

Just more than a year after I quit my job as a middle school principal, we’ve made another big life choice. We bought a house in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. (No, we’re not having a mid-life crisis, thanks for asking.)

Regular readers of this blog know that we have absolutely fallen in love with Pawhuska (pop. 3,477 3,479) over the past year. In June of 2017, we made our first stop in Osage County. It was a quick visit to pay homage to The Pioneer Woman and her Mercantile on our way to Texas. We enjoyed a chicken fried steak dinner and wrote a few blog posts about our time in town, including this one that listed six reasons husbands should take their wives to the Merc.

We rolled into Pawhuska for the first time in June of 2017 for a quick visit to The Pioneer Woman Mercantile on our way to Texas.

A couple of months after writing that post, the Pawhuska Chamber of Commerce contacted us to see if we’d be willing to return as celebrity judges for the National Indian Taco Championships. We felt obliged to call and tell them that we really aren’t celebrities. They replied, “Well, you are to us! Everybody here loves your blog!” We then shared that we knew little about Indian tacos. They told us not to worry and that we should just be sure to pack stretchy pants and Tums.

How could we say no to that?

We loved learning about how authentic Indian tacos are made from our new friend, Margie Williams, of Pawhuska.

We rolled back into Pawhuska early in the first week of October. We wanted to spend a few days getting to know the town a little better before the Indian Taco Championships and like we did for our own hometown of Crete, we decided to write an article on 70+ things to do after you’ve eaten at the Merc

Powwow at the National Indian Taco Championships

We saw our first ever Powwow at the National Indian Taco Championships last fall and can’t wait to see it again this year!

We figured five days would give us all the time we needed in Pawhuska. We were so wrong.

You see, when you’re in this cowboy town that has just one flashing traffic light, you can’t just walk into a store or museum, take a quick photo and leave. Nope. The folks you’ll find there are just too friendly and welcoming for that. We learned quickly that people in Pawhuska were genuinely interested in getting to know us and many of our conversations pushed well through the noon hour or until after closing. Nobody seemed to care. Relationships mattered more than time. We loved that.

Handy's Martha and Margie, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The day we met Martha and Margie at Handy’s in Pawhuska, they put their spoons down, forgot about their chili, and took time to tell us all about the history of this unique convenience store and the secret to the best fountain pop in Osage County.

It didn’t take long before we began to feel like locals. Though we had a hotel 25 miles away in Bartlesville,  townspeople insisted we should be staying in Pawhuska. By Friday, one had helped us find a room, and so we spent our first overnight inside the city limits. With no 30-minute drive to a hotel, we decided to go to the high school football game to cheer on the hometown Pawhuska Huskies. We met some nice folks as we sat down on the bleachers to watch the game and, as was normal for this town, we felt like old friends by the fourth quarter. It was homecoming that night. We couldn’t help but feel like we’d come home, too.

Homecoming in Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The Homecoming game had all the pageantry you’d expect in a small town.

By the time the National Indian Taco Championships were over that weekend, we didn’t want to leave and vowed that we’d be back soon. A couple of weeks later we took our moms to Pawhuska. We went back in December for the Holiday Parade of Lights. Starting in January, we found one reason after another to return to the Osage and learn more about its unique history and residents. With each visit, we grew to love the town and the people more and more. We started to feel like maybe we belonged, like maybe we had a bigger calling there. 

A view of Pawhuska at the Cavalcade street dance in 2018.

So, after a lot of consideration, investment planning, and prayer, we contacted a realtor, put the word out, and began looking for a house to buy. We had looked at about a dozen homes before getting a text from a friend a few weeks ago that pointed us to one that seemed just right. It was in a great location, in our price range, and newly remodeled. We knew it wouldn’t last long on the market. So, despite the fact that we’d just gotten home from a trip about an hour earlier and our suitcase was not even unpacked yet, we put our dirty clothes in the laundry, re-packed clean ones, got in the car and headed south. 

It is less than a six-hour drive from Crete, Nebraska, to Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

We spent time looking at the house and talking with the owners and everything about it just felt right. We made an offer that evening around their kitchen table, shook hands, and were under contract the next day. If all goes as planned, we’ll close on the three-bedroom, craftsman style bungalow Monday morning. We can’t wait to show it to y’all (I think we’re allowed to use that word now that we’re south of Kansas) and be a part of the Pawhuska community.

Pendleton Blanket, Clifton's Gift Shop, Pawhuska, Oklahoma

We were honored to be given this blanket by longtime Pawhuska residents and business owners Mr. and Mrs. Trumbly.

What, exactly does the future hold for us? We honestly aren’t sure. For now, we are planning to go back and forth between Oklahoma and Nebraska, splitting time between the Huskies and Huskers. We hope you’ll stop by for a visit if you’re in the area. We may even look into becoming Airbnb hosts, someday. We can write about travel from anywhere with internet service, so we’ll do just that as we create a new home while maintaining another one, at least for now. 

What we know for sure is that Pawhuska is a special place, and very soon we’ll be proud to call it home. 


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Our incredible private tour and cooking class in Chianti with Italy Unfiltered

Our incredible private tour and cooking class in Chianti with Italy Unfiltered

After spending a day on our own exploring beautiful Siena, Italy, our hosts Deb of Italy Unfiltered and her husband Massi the Driver picked us up at our hotel and we began our complimentary tour of Italian food, wine, and culture in the Chianti Region. As we got in the car, Steve confided in me that he’d already set his belt one notch looser in anticipation of the day.

Deb of Italy Unfiltered and her husband, Massi the Driver.

Of course, our first stop of the morning was for an espresso. This is a very Italian thing to do when you are having what Massi likes to call an “espresso deficiency.” I’m used to my Americano style coffee and still need a bit of milk in mine, so I ordered a caffe macchiato which is espresso with a dollop of foamed milk on top, typically served in a something that resembles a shot glass.

Cafe machiatto was a great cure for our espresso deficiency.

Now with the proper amount of caffeine in our systems, we headed down winding roads and up and down hills into the Chianti Clasccio region of Tuscany. The drive was incredibly beautiful and we were thankful that we had a personal driver and tour guide to not only tell us about the food and wine of the area but to actually get us there as there is no way we could have found this place by ourselves.

The family home where we did our cooking class and explored their winery.

The family home where we did our cooking class and explored their winery.

When we arrived at our destination, Deb and Massi greeted the owners who appeared to be old friends and they welcomed us into their home and winery. Our time with there began with a private cooking class.

Steve and I laced up our aprons and we got right to work. Our first lesson was in making traditional tiramisu, one of my all-time favorites.

We "mostly" separated six eggs for our tiramisu.

We “mostly” separated six eggs for our tiramisu.

We mostly separated six eggs and began beating the egg whites with an electric mixer. Sadly, we had spilled just a touch of yoke into the whites which was enough to ruin it. No worries. We started again and the second time around was successful.

As you can see, the the little bit of yolk that accidentally fell into the white ruined the process.

As you can see, the the little bit of yolk that accidentally fell into the white ruined the process.

Steve beat the egg yolks with a bit of sugar and then we folded the whites and yolks back together along with some mascarpone cheese.

Next, we dipped individual lady finger cookies in cooled espresso and placed them in a small, square dish. Then, we added a layer of the cream filling and sprinkling of cocoa powder before repeated the process again.

Our tiramisu, ready to set in the refrigerator. We marked each our creations with a colored band so we could see which one turned out the best.

Next, our instructor insisted that we take a few of the extra lady fingers and dip them in the left over espresso, then dip in the cream filling, and eat! Of course we had to try, I mean, we wouldn’t want to offend our host.

Then, because we’d worked so very hard on our tiramisu, our host broke out the Prosecco and served it with some fried pizza dough that had been sprinkled with sea salt. Prosecco and a snack? This was my type of cooking class.

Steve got very happy when the glasses of Prosecco and the fried pieces of pizza dough came out for a snack.

Steve got very happy when the glasses of Prosecco and the fried pieces of pizza dough came out for a snack.

Next, we learned to make fresh pasta using semolina flour, farm fresh eggs, and just a touch of Tuscan olive oil.

We kneaded the dough before rolling it into a ball and covering it with a bowl to prevent it from drying out.

Next, we used a rolling pin to roll our pasta out into a long rectangle. Once the dough was smooth and thin, we rolled it like a scroll from the top to the middle, and then up from the bottom so the rolls met in the middle.

After kneading and rolling the dough, we rolled it up from each end until they met in the middle.

Then we cut the rolls into small strips, separated them with our cutting knife, and voila — we have pasta!

Next, we cut the rolls into thin strips with a sharp knife.

The fun part was slipping the knife under the noodles and lifting in the middle to see them all unrolled.

Our third and final dish was traditional Tuscan bruschetta — that’s pronounced bru-sketta–which is an antipasto dish consisting of grilled bread topped with garlic and olive oil or other fresh things like tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.

Tomatoes, basil, and garlic are the main ingredients in tomato bruschetta.

I’ve made bruschetta many times before, but a new tip in our class is to leave any extra tomato seeds and juices on the board after cutting the tomato. These hold much of the acidity of the tomato and can make the bruschetta too runny.

After our cooking class was finished, we wandered outside where Massi and Deb told us more about the gardens and vineyards on the property. We had fun checking out 50 year-old wisteria and some 100-year-old grape vines. The property was just beautiful — full of color and life.

One of the 100-year-old grape vines.

The property was filled with beautiful flowers and plants, including lots of fresh lavender.

Then, we walked up a view steps to a patio where the table was set for the most amazing wine tasting and lunch. My jaw must have dropped when I saw the view. It was just incredible.

This view was just stunning.

We began tasting wine, made right there on the property, along with the bruschetta we’d made and some other cured meats and cheeses.

At lunch, we tried the bruschetta we’d made along with other pizzas, cured meats, and cheeses.

Then, two types of pasta arrived, both using the noodles we’d made just a few minutes before. One dish had a mild tomato sauce with fresh torn basil while the other had a spicier red sauce and thyme. Both were delicious.

The pasta we made!

Throughout our intimate lunch, Deb and Massi shared their expertise about Tuscany and tradition. We learned so much about Chianti Classico wine, food preparation, and everything that goes into owning and operating a small, family winery in Tuscany.

The black rooster is a quick and easy way to spot a Chianti Classico wine.

After a long and relaxing lunch which ended with sweet bites of our tiramisu, we headed into the winery where Massi told us all about how the wine is made, stored, and perfected. We had ample opportunities to ask questions and take photographs, things we don’t always have the opportunities to do when traveling in group tours.

Chianti Classico wine.

As we headed back to the car, I couldn’t help but think that this opportunity would not have been possible without the help of Deb and Massi. They knew this family personally and were able to provide us with a Tuscan experience that is not easily found on TripAdvisor or in a Google search. The personalized experience they gave us made our day special, and it was all the more special because we only did things we wanted to do.


While the tour and transport services were provided to us free of charge by Italy Unfiltered and Massi the Driver, the opinions in this post are our own. To learn more about Deb and Massi’s services, email them at dlarsen5@icloud.com.

Watch a video about our day in Chianti with Deb and Massi at the link below.

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How we learned how to cook like an Italian on our trip to Tuscany.

 

True confession: We’ve slept around Pawhuska, Oklahoma

True confession: We’ve slept around Pawhuska, Oklahoma

When Ann and I were married, we took vows to forsake all others and be faithful to one another. That being said, I have a confession to make: We’ve both slept around Pawhuska, Oklahoma. All around. And we’re not too shy to admit it was wonderful! Now don’t get too excited. It was just the two of us, by each others’ side every night. (Smile)


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Places to stay in PAWHUSKA, OK-5


Turns out, The Pioneer Woman’s hometown of Pawhuska, Oklahoma, is also home to a number of great bed and bath properties and we have done our best to spend the night at as many as possible. While each property is unique and provides an individual experience, every place we’ve stayed has been exceptionally clean, managed by friendly people, and the prices have been reasonable. If you’re planning a visit to Pawhuska, we encourage you to book a place in town instead of settling for a chain hotel in another city. Staying right in Pawhuska gives you the real experience of small-town life in Osage County and the hospitality there is second to none.

Here’s a rundown of the many wonderful places we’ve slept in Pawhuska.

The Grandview Inn Bed and Breakfast

Stephen and Tiffany Poe are owners of this stately home located just up the hill from The Mercantile on Grandview Ave. This house, formerly owned by Ree and Ladd Drummond, has been beautifully restored and decorated and is absolutely charming.

Grandview Inn Bed and Breakfast in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Grandview Inn Bed and Breakfast in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

We enjoyed our stay in the Peacock Room at the Grandview Inn B&B in Pawhuska.

We enjoyed our stay in the Peacock Room at the Grandview Inn B&B in Pawhuska.

Guests are welcome to hang out in the living room and watch TV or head to their well appointed, comfortable accommodations upstairs for a good night’s rest. Each room is uniquely decorated and in the morning, you’ll come down to wonderful aromas wafting out of the kitchen promising a fresh, hot breakfast.

Steven Poe's eggs Benedict was delicious.

Steven Poe’s eggs Benedict at the Grandview Inn was delicious.

We loved sitting at the dining room table, sharing a delicious breakfast with other guests while chatting with the Poes. If you want to stay there you should know that some of the rooms have a private bath attached, while others share one. Ann and I stayed in one of the “shared bathroom” rooms, and it was never a problem. Plus, the Grandview has an on-demand water heater meaning that everyone gets all the hot water they need. This inn is also popular with large groups traveling together as they can share the whole house. See their website for more information.

What we enjoyed most: Visiting over a delicious breakfast with Steven and Tiffany Poe and their adorable children. 

The Flamingo’s Nest

Lauren and Cody Garnett, who are also proprietors of the World Famous Buckin’ Flamingo, own this whole house B&B property located just around the corner from Handy’s. This home can sleep up to 13 people, but Ann and I enjoyed the space just for ourselves, as well.

The Flamingo's Nest is a perfect place for a large group of people to stay.

The Flamingo’s Nest is a perfect place for a large group of people to stay.

A great place to bring your family or a group of friends, the Flamingo’s Nest offers a full kitchen, dining room, pool table, living room with entertainment center, as well as three bedrooms and three bathrooms. It also has covered parking behind the house which was great for keeping us out of the sleet as we unloaded the car one cold night.

The Flamingo's Nest is such a fun place to stay, especially with this pool table.

The Flamingo’s Nest is such a fun place to stay, especially with this pool table.

Thank you, Lauren and Cody, for the complimentary night in your wonderful property. We slept really well!

What we enjoyed most: Having an entire house to ourselves! 

The Pioneer Woman Boarding House

With eight unique rooms in a totally renovated building only two doors down from The Merc, The Pioneer Woman Boarding House brings “cowboy luxury” to life with amenities like custom-made coffee brought straight to your room each morning, and a wine and cheese reception each evening.

The Prairie Room at The Pioneer Woman Boarding House.

The Tack Room at The Pioneer Woman Boarding House.

In addition, guests at The Boarding House enjoy valet parking, room service, and even get reservations so they can skip the line at The Merc. This may all sound too good to be true, but it is all very real.

The bathroom in the Emerald Room features a claw foot tub and a walk in shower.

The bathroom in the Emerald Room features a claw foot tub and a walk in shower.

Add those VIP amenities to the huge, spacious rooms with genuine Tempur-Pedic mattresses and luxurious bathrooms that have to be seen to be believed, and you’ll find yourself immersed in a beautiful, relaxing place you won’t want to leave.

What we enjoyed most: Visiting with staff and other guests over complimentary wine and cheese. And, of course, the his and hers toilets. 

Redbud Cottage

The Redbud Cottage is a charming house located on 7th street. This whole house rental offers three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and an attached double garage.

There is a large living room and open floor plan at Redbud Cottage in Pawhuska.

There is a large living room and open floor plan at Redbud Cottage in Pawhuska.

It also has a full kitchen (with Pioneer Woman dishes and pans), dining room, living room, sunroom, and fenced-in backyard complete with a gas grill which makes it a perfect getaway for a family or for a group of friends hoping to explore The Merc, Pawhuska, and Osage County.

Redbud Cottage is a perfect place for a girls weekend getaway.

Redbud Cottage is a perfect place for a girls weekend getaway.

We took our moms there and loved the flexibility we had being in our own house, able to make coffee (it’s provided!) when we wanted, and even prepare a full meal. Plus, being just a couple of blocks from downtown, the house is super convenient to so many amenities in Pawhuska.

What we enjoyed most: The water pressure. Seriously, one of the best showers I’ve ever had. 

The Million Dollar Inn

Overlooking downtown Pawhuska and across the street from the site of the Million Dollar Elm and the Osage Nation Museum, sits this charming bed and bath property that has been fully renovated. Owner Cheryl Potts has decorated each of the four guest suites in the house with heirlooms from her family that show her unique style and personal flair.

A sunny sitting room at the Million Dollar Inn in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

A sunny sitting room at the Million Dollar Inn in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

The house boasts a common area with a TV and large windows that offer a lovely view of downtown, making this property a nice one for groups traveling to Pawhuska together. In addition, each suite is equipped with its own kitchenette and full bathroom.

The Million Dollar Inn in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

The Million Dollar Inn in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

It is definitely worth noting that our bed was super comfortable. We spent a lovely evening visiting on lawn chairs outside with Cheryl and her husband who were a real pleasure to get to know. We’d like to thank them for the complimentary night we spent in this great property.

What we enjoyed most: A very comfortable bed and soft, luxurious bedding. Oh, and the view. 

The Prairie Cottages

We stayed in one of these on a recent trip to Pawhuska, and were among the first to do so as these newly built cottages just opened in the spring of 2018. Two cottages occupy what had been a vacant lot on Main St. next to the Prairie Cottage store and are conveniently located about 89 steps from the Merc.

The Prairie Cottages are located just 89 steps from The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in downtown Pawhuska.

The Prairie Cottages are located just steps from The Pioneer Woman Mercantile in downtown Pawhuska.

The inside of the Prairie Cottage in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

The inside of the Prairie Cottage in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

One of the cottages has two queen beds, while the other features a king bed. These cottages both have all the modern amenities you’d want in a hotel room (including coffee and a coffee maker) while still giving you the privacy of your own building. We were there soon enough after they’d opened that they didn’t have WiFi, yet, though the owner told us it was to be installed soon.

What we enjoyed most: The location. I’m pretty sure I could smell Ree’s chicken fried steak from the front porch. 

The Historic Whiting Bed and Bath

This hotel, built in the 1920’s, is about two blocks up Kihekah Ave. from The Merc and offers some of the most unique rooms in town. Located above the Osage Square Mall, the rooms were originally efficiency apartments for newlyweds and oilfield workers. Over the past 30 years, the apartments have been renovated into unique rooms that retain a historic feel, some with the original Murphy bed frames from the 1920’s.

French room

The French room at the Historic Whiting Bed and Bath. Courtesy photo.

The Whiting Bed and Bath has so much character and history.

The Whiting Bed and Bath has so much character and history.

With chairs to take outside onto the shared balcony, you can spend time watching the comings and goings in downtown Pawhuska. Some of the rooms have only a large, antique clawfoot tub with no shower, so ask when you make your reservation if that makes a difference to you. No matter which room you choose, however, it is sure to be clean and comfortable. This property is also excellent for large groups traveling together.

What we enjoyed most: Ann loved bathing in an old fashioned claw-foot tub. 

Places we haven’t slept, yet

Even though we’ve really gotten around, there are still a few more places we’d like to try. The Little Rainsong Loft, located right on Kihekah Ave., is definitely at the top of our list. It offers, among other things, a yard with a fire pit and sleeping accommodations for a group of people. Then, there’s the Maybelle, another old Pawhuska mansion that has been turned into a B&B that we’ve heard is absolutely beautiful. The Wah-Zha-Zhi house, located close to downtown, has two fully renovated efficiency apartments that are available for rent. JJ’s Place, Park Place Bed and Bath, Gray Haven, and Haven on the Hill are all full-house rentals in town. Finally, the Lodge at Taylor Ranch is a bit out of town, but it is located on a championship disc golf course and offers a lake view.

There’s also a new hotel set to open later this summer. The Frontier Hotel will include 20 rooms in what is known as the Triangle Building just across the street from The Mercantile. We’ve anxiously watched the renovations over the past year and can’t wait to see the finished hotel.

The Triangle Building in downtown Pawhuska will soon be the Frontier Hotel.

The Triangle Building in downtown Pawhuska will soon be the Frontier Hotel.

With this many options when you plan your next trip to Pawhuska, make sure that you try to stay in town. You’ll be close to the action, which in a small town is refreshingly little, and you’ll be the first one downtown for a Pioneer Woman breakfast in the morning.


Have you slept in Pawhuska? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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Places to stay in PAWHUSKA, OK-5

Places to stay in PAWHUSKA, OK-5

We’ve been invited to tour Italy with Deb and Massi the Driver and we can’t wait!

We’ve been invited to tour Italy with Deb and Massi the Driver and we can’t wait!

Yes, we’ve been invited to tour Italy with Deb and Massi. She’s from upstate New York, backpacked through Australia and New Zealand, and worked in Silicon Valley and in Texas. He’s small town boy who grew up on a Tuscan hunting estate and winery and took a job in a salumeria just 20 miles from his home. Somehow they met, fell in love, and were married in a bar-b-que line in Austin, Texas. And this summer, we get to spend five days touring the Italian countryside with them. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?

Deb and Massi

Massi and Deb, with whom we’ll be spending five days this summer.

Three years ago, long before I’d even thought of leaving my career as a middle school principal, Ann and I booked a cruise on the Celebrity Reflection for this summer from Rome to Greece. Because the ship will whisk us away from Italy almost immediately, and now that I’ve got some flexibility since leaving my job, we thought it would be nice to see a little more of Italy before our cruise because, well, Italy.

Italian countryside

This should help answer any questions as to why we’d want to see Italy.

As the date for our trip came closer, we began making plans and asked a question in an Italian travel group on Facebook.

Deb Larsen of Italy Unfiltered, responded by telling us that she and her husband, Massi, (Massi the Driver), would like to host us for some amazing experiences like winey visits and cooking classes, offering their services free of charge. Now, if you think for one minute that the promise of fresh Italian meats, cheeses, pastas, and wines as well as beautiful views of the Italian countryside could lure us in, then you would be 100% correct. I mean, look at these pictures! We. Can’t. Wait!

Italian charcuterie board

A beautiful Italian charcuterie board.

Let me tell you a little bit about our hosts. Deb is a world traveler who isn’t afraid of adventure. After finishing culinary school in upstate New York, she caught the travel bug and backpacked around Australia and New Zealand using the skills she’d learned in school to support herself. After three years, she figured she’d better head back home, but didn’t have money for airfare, so she worked her way home on a container ship. A container ship!


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Italy Unfiltered with Deb and Massi the Driver


Once back in the U.S., she took a job in marketing in Silicon Valley and learned the ins and outs of the internet. Later, she moved to Texas where she began an estate sale business. After being in the rat race for a bit, these jobs took their toll, so she decided to go with a friend to Italy to recharge. She immediately fell in love with the country and told us that, “Italy was this magical place.”

Beautiful Italian sunset

We would agree that this view seems pretty magical.

So magical, it seems, that she stood crying in the airport in Milan when it was time to leave. Seriously. She was in tears. Just as soon as she was home, she began planning her next trip.

Deb traveled to Italy regularly after that. She said that when she kept coming back to the same place over and over again, even in the winter, the locals got to know her. One day she walked in to a salumeria and began speaking to one of the employees in her broken Italian. (Try not stare at this prosciutto too long. There’s more story below.)

Italian salamis and meats

One glance at this delicious looking plate tells us why people visit salumerias.

That employee was Massi. He’d grown up just 20 miles away, on a Tuscan hunting estate and winery where his father had worked. By age 15, he was working at the winery. After high school, he spent some time working for an energy/recycling company and began doing some driving. Later, he took a job at a salumeria in Siena, a store that sold cured meats, cheeses, and wines. It was there he really began to learn about Italian wine and not just the stuff his dad had made in their garage.

Grapes on the vine in Italy

Grapes on the vine in Italy.

He worked hard, and his employer soon rewarded him by taking him on tours of wineries. He took advantage of those opportunities and learned as much as he could.

Massi opens Prosecco

Massi even learned to open Prosecco in the traditional way: with a sword!

Then he met Deb, and let her talk in her broken Italian even though he spoke English well. They exchanged emails. Then phone numbers. Then, they fell in love.

Soon, friends in Austin were asking Deb to help them arrange trips to Tuscany. She worked with Massi to help create perfect, custom experiences for these people. One group led to another. Then repeat customers began to call. Suddenly, they were in business, even bringing an authentic Tuscan meal back to the states for a group of 14 people in California. They served it on a terrace, the ultimate in take-out dinners.

Italian meats ready to be served

Italian meats and bruschetta ready to be served.

Is your mouth drooling yet, looking at these pictures of cured meats and cheeses? Back to our story.

It was on a visit to the U.S. that they decided to get married. They considered Vegas or the courthouse, but those weren’t them. They did, however, love Franklin’s bar-b-que in Austin, Texas, where they’d waited in line together many times for the iconic barbecue. It was the perfect venue. So, they decided to get married in the line that forms daily outside that Austin favorite. Wanting a small wedding, they invited one of Deb’s friends to be the witness and found a justice of the peace to join them in line. Even on their wedding day they had to wait in line, but the restaurant did give them a banana cream pie for a wedding cake. Oh, and their intimate wedding wound up featured on the local news.

Deb and Massi wedding

Deb and Massi exchange vows in the line of Franklin’s Bar-b-que in Austin, Texas

Deb and Massi wedding announcement

The couple left a wedding announcement at Franklin’s Bar-b-que.

We’ve enjoyed getting to know Deb and Massi while preparing for our trip this summer. Planning travel to a foreign country where you don’t know anyone or even speak the language is a pretty daunting task. But working with this great couple has made things so much easier. Deb is from the U.S., so she understands where we’re coming from, and has been super-responsive to all our questions. Knowing we have her as a contact and helping with arrangements has taken away so much trip-planning stress. Massi is Italian, and knows all about the area, history, food, and wine.

Montalcino wine

Wine ages in barrels at a winery in Montalcino.

He knows all the locals and knows where to go to get the experiences their clients want. He’s also a fully licensed tour driver [CLICK HERE], meaning he can take his van to places a rental car isn’t allowed to go and many tourists will never see. And let’s be honest, we’re excited to have a designated driver as we tour Italian wineries.

Massi with his van.

Massi stands next to the van he drives for tours.

Now in their third full year, their business is growing. They offer mostly private tours meaning we won’t be two of 50 crammed on a huge bus full of people, craning our necks, hoping to hear from the back of the crowd. Instead, we’re looking forward to a customized, personal experience built around our interests with ample opportunities to learn about Italian culture, history, food, and wine from real locals. And, after talking with Deb and Massi only a couple of times, we feel like we’ll be enjoying our experience with old friends. We can’t wait to begin our voyage, and share it with you. You can follow on our trip to Italy and all our journeys on social media on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

I mean, just look at this view. Ciao!

Tuscan countryside

A beautiful view of the Italian countryside


All photos used in this post are courtesy of Italy Unfiltered.

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Italy Unfiltered with Deb and Massi the Driver

Italy Unfiltered with Deb and Massi the Driver