Consul Ragini Gupta and her connection with Florence and Tuscany
The US Consul General in Florence takes us on a tour of her favourite places amid history, taste and nature
Ragini Gupta has served as the Consul General of the United States of America in Florence since July 2020. Before joining the diplomatic service, she worked as a lawyer for large law firms in New York. She is also the mother of two teenage children and happily married to a fellow foreign service officer, Rohit Nepal. She loves the city where she carries out her prestigious job with expertise and sensitivity, but she is also deeply passionate about the Tuscan hills, which she enjoys exploring with her family every time her diplomatic engagements allow it. Recently, with her husband and kids, she decided to visit themagical Pitigliano, Sovana and Sorano area and graciously shared her impressions and travel notes with our readers. Here is her story.
“Since I’ve lived in Florence, I keep thinking back to the first American Ambassador to Italy, George Marsh, who was appointed by President Lincoln and lived in Florence when it was the capital of Italy. Marsh, who loved the countryside, had a passion for nature and historic abbeys. I am also attracted to natural beauty and I have often longed to be in his shoes. Especially in my first year as the Consul General when, in full lockdown, I would gaze out of the windows of the American Consulate looking onto the Lungarni and I would dream of “swimming” in the green sea of hills, including those stretching out before me. The dream come true later on, on more than one occasion, including with my unforgettable 4-day trip to Maremma with my family. Our first stop was Pitigliano, the ancient town built into rock. It is also known for the Jewish community that settled there during the mid-1500s owing to its long-standing tradition of religious tolerance and acceptance.
Our hotel was located downtown and, after a delicious lunch at La Rocca restaurant, we toured the historic Jewish quarter. For me, the U.S. connection was particularly poignant, exemplified in the story of Italo Salomone Servi. In his teens, Italo escaped to the U.S. and built a successful life there, but always had Italy in his heart. In 2021, just after Italo’s death, his adult children came to Pitigliano (the family’s hometown) and erected a monument in his honor. Everywhere I go in Tuscany, I find incredible U.S. connections, but this one was touching and brought tears to my eyes.
The next day we headed on the main hike of our trip, the walk along one of the famous Vie Cave. We clocked about 20,000 steps, but all well worth it! The Vie Cave are spectacular ancient Etruscan roadways excavated in the rock, sometimes 25-meters high and extending as far as the Upper Lazio area. Probably built to hide the tombs from the passers-by view or for the transportation of goods on donkey back, these roads are still the fastest way to go from one local town to the next. This amazing trip back in time led us to Sovana, considered to be one of Italy’s most beautiful “borghi”. We walked through Pitigliano’s DOC vineyards, constantly marveling at the amazing landscape.
On day 3, more trips through the Vie Cave in the morning and then off to lunch in the nearby Sorano, where I tried homemadepasta with chestnut flour for the first time and the local black lentils. In the afternoon, we went to Montemerano where we had planned to have dinner at Da Caino, the Michelin-starred restaurant run by female Chef Valeria Piccini. What an experience! It was the kids’ first time eating a ten-course tasting menu! We spent the night at a holiday farm nestled in the vineyards, with a view of the olive groves and Montemerano and then, what better way to round out our trip than a visit to Saturnia’s thermal waters.
A paradisiac place with pale blue warm water cascading down the hillside. Between relaxing at the baths and walks around our holiday farm, picking and eating fresh grapes and pomegranates, reading in the garden, here we are at the end of our short trip. But before leaving, we were invited at the house of friends of the local Carabinieri for a tasting of freshly-pressed olive oil (delicious!), cheese and home-brewed spirit, plus sugar cubes soaked in limoncello. No need for lunch on that day…”