Our early-ish rises (by vacation standards) put aside, Kathleen and I opted to just sleep until we decided it was enough. That, of course, basically put a stamp on this morning, declaring it “slow travel” mode. But how nice to rise late, ease ourselves into the day with tea, nibbles, and lots more talk over the table.
We finally pulled ourselves away from the comforts of the table, dolled up, and hit town…first for a stop off at Ray’s office. Oh, I must insert here the experience – a good one – with the public toilet. The stories of toilettes/WC/bagno in Italy abound, and most are true. Being of the most creative nature, Italians have also designed any number of ways to flush a toilet, as well as configure a public restroom. However, the one in Castellina looks more like a huge, gun-metal grey can or space module with a panel of buttons and instructions that surely confound a non-native speaker. I was able to assist Kathleen a bit to figure enough of it out, the coin was inserted, and whoosh…the can door very StarTrek-ishly slid open. Kathleen stepped in, pushed a button, and the door began to slide closed. I hollered in my best female friend fashion, “Is there any paper??” A somewhat alarmed “No!!” could be heard through the metal, and I managed to last-minute abort the door closure as I dug for my tissue. Well, that lead to another round of coinage and such, but the door finally shut again with success. Exiting with a huge grin, Kathleen expounded on this wondrous invention that not only automatically dispensed the tissue, but also totally sprayed the area down with disinfectant once the user exited. We told Ray about our amazement at such toilet technology, and he commenced to tell us the story of how this device detects weight when you enter; a means to keep any toilet criminals from trying to get in 2 or 3 for the price of one. He then told us of how an unaware mother sent her 3 children in to use at the same time, and the first participant flushed…thus signaling the can that the job was finito. Well, the disinfectant sprayed down all 3 kiddos in a goopy mess, and there was a bit of upheaval in town over the merits of this high tech method of germ fighting!
Visiting done, we headed across the road to a local little spot called Il Re Gallo, recommended highly by Ray, as well as Matteo of Pornanino. We entered, were shown a table, and had the hardest time deciding what to order. Final answer was a beautiful plate of antipasto, followed by a shared dish of tagliatelle with the wild boar sauce. Mmmmm! And yes, the lunch Chianti. The food did not disappoint...bravissimo! It was wonderful to dine on these delights, looking out the window from our cozy table at what had become a gray, blustery, and very (very!) cold day.
Our path this day lead to Gaiole in Chianti, one of the 4 cornerstone towns in ancient Chianti. The drive didn’t disappoint (I don’t think that adjective is allowed, nor necessary, in this land) and we found the very quiet little town. The main area is rectangular in shape, and was the ancient market place for the entire area. Its origins are probably Etruscan, so many, many years of shopping have occurred on this spot. The kind lady at the little Tourist Info place gave us some good literature, and we decided to head out and visit the Castello de Meleto, a forceful looking structure dating back to end of the 12th century, built for the Ricasoli family. Their name pops up with many castles around here…they held some great real estate in the day!
We signed up for the tour, met the young lady who was our guide, and were then joined by two older gals from France, and a young Italian honeymoon couple.
The castello was converted to a villa somewhere in the mid 1700’s, and the popular French trompe d’oeil style of faux painting dominates the somewhat tired looking, yet still regal interior.
The gem of this structure is the little theatre, one of a kind in the castles of this land…and it was grand! I’m not clear on whether this was added in the earliest days…probably not…but it just reeks of glossy, gaudy 1700’s style and appeal. The stage and its well-worn wooden floor, original backdrops still in place, and all the side trappings intrigued me to no end. It was as if frozen in time, the wear of the years showing, but the majestic underpinnings still very evident. Having had my feet on what I thought were old stages, I was lost in time as I placed my hand on the stage floor and let the ghosts of theatre past come alive. How many rehearsals had taken place here -- how many shows that brought laughter and probably a few tears to the audience, tucked nicely into the small balcony, which was also coated in glamour. There were scratches and small chunks of wood missing on the stage floor. I could just envision the act that caused that…maybe some grand sword fight where the actor accidently gouged the floor, or a prop dragged quickly away by a hurried stage hand. The rest of the tour wandered out, but I managed to stay a few more minutes in the silence, totally surrounded by this almost “dream sequence” feeling/vision of a stage full of lively actors and a raucous audience taking it all in.
We ended our tour in the tasting room (all these places produce wine, and most of it is very nice), tasted some of their products, and enjoyed a little visiting with the tour guide and the young couple. I tried out a little Italian on the guide, and complimented her on her command of English. She’d apologized several times to us, saying this was only her 2nd week at this job, but she really was quite good. I also told her I have a new appreciation for learning a foreign language, and I’d come see her next year and we’d converse in Italian. Boy, why do I set my bar so high?? ;-)
Enough touring accomplished this day, we followed the road back to Castellina. A stop off at Bar Italia for a little refreshment and wifi time, then a visit to the COOP, and we were soon bumping down the beloved dusty road to Casamonti. I prepared a fresh bruschetta and salad, along with some delectable prosciutto paired with a nice glass of Chianti, and we dined at the little table until we were full to the brim. That “Eat, Love, Pray” thing really does fit this lovely country – can’t figure out why that character in the book ever decided it was time to leave Italy for other countries foreign.
Abbazia di San Galgano
We are both feeling a little tinge of sadness. This is Marty’s last full day here at Casamonti and in Toscana. Where did two weeks go, and so very quickly? I’ve mentioned earlier the time warp we’ve lived in here….no doubt it exists.
We chose to sleep in a bit, then leisurely prepared for the day. Departure took us southerly towards the Abbazia di San Galgano, the Monastery of St. Galgano. We stopped off in Costal Pino for a lunch at a medium sized trattoria and had one of our less exceptional meals. It was good, but obviously priced for the tourist pocket. Full, we felt some satisfaction at having bolstered the town economy in small way.
This day was stellar in beauty. How can each successive day be more gorgeous? Or maybe not…just another overexposure to extreme beauty in every direction and no human ability to fully ingest and describe it. Our drive took us through small hamlets and some of the winding-est roads yet….Sovicille, Rosia, Frosini, and more. San Galgano is an abby built in the 1200’s by a following of Cinestercian monks who honored their mentor, an ex-knight by the name of Galgano. Galgano had had enough of the knightly way of doing things, and renounced his former life to become a hermit in the mountains of this area. I’m not quite clear if he did anything good for co-humanity or just hung out, but he did plunge his knight sword into a rock where it was fully buried up to the hilt – his version of creating a cross since he did not have one. The sword in the stone is displayed in the Chapel of San Galgano near the abby, and has actually been dated to show origin in the 1200’s. It was pretty cool to see. And if all this holds up, this "sword in the stone" predates King Arthur's tale and is said to be the inspiration of the well-known myth. (See the second slide show for images of the chapel and sword)
The abby ruins are impressive, and enough remains to allow ones imagination to take full charge and fill in the missing mortar and accoutrements. For a short period of time, we were the only ones there save for the singing birds and warm sun, and it was memorable. Again, the ghosts of monks past seemed almost tangible as I slowly took it all in.
We walked up the rather steep incline to the Montesiepi Chapel, marveled at the sword, as well as the building. Its dome is of geometric brick and amazes one at how this was accomplished so long ago in the 12th century. We wandered into the small “gift shop” next to the chapel, and were met by a most strange odor and an even stranger little old woman who busied herself straightening shelves and having an animated conversation with…herself. Not sure if she was just having a good time, or if something more serious lurked, we nosed around as we tried to off-handedly listen and watch. Choosing a licorice stick to purchase, Marty approached her and began to engage her in conversation…in Italian, of course. Despite first impressions, she was quite lucid and fun and we were able to understand most all of what she said. Somehow our conversation went to how school children are over stressed these days, and feeling strongly about it, she repeated her views enough to where we truly did get every word! She told us, too, that she had been married in the chapel, and that she had lived most all her life there. Divorced at this point, she lived in the area just adjacent but attached to the chapel. She was quite a classic little gal!
Back to the hotel/trattoria near the abbey, we enjoyed a cool beverage and sat to enjoy the beauty of a warm day. Easy to do. Time to go, though, and we retraced our steps towards Castellina. Going through the small community of Forsini, I’d seen another very awesome looking castle type building. A “Can we?” on the way predetermined the attempt to go to this castle on the way home. Well, lo and behold….same story! Another lucky soul’s private home, and nothing more than gazing from afar allowed. Ah, well.
We made our way back to lovely Lamole for our last dinner together in Toscana, and it might have been the best yet. Watching a beautiful sunset, we relished Lamole’s excellent wine and savored food above a rustic description, but true to its origins…and absolutely amazing. We closed out the evening there with a panna cotta that was indescribably good, along with two limoncelli for buona fortuna. Arriveaderci, and buona notte…
Mid week in Toscana and the beauties of spring, la primavera, have blossomed around us even more than in previous days. Having been here almost two weeks, it’s been interesting to see the season unfold. The yellow broom, a high-ish bush with spindly leaves, was barely putting forth a bud, and now it’s starting to explode in brilliant saffron yellow blossoms along country roadsides and in the hills. The poppies have taken note of the warmer sun and are preparing for their decline. The delicate lavender irises are stalwart in their attempts to remain regal, but they, too, are showing the signs of giving passage to new colors. Roses, so incredible in their ability to thrive here, are budding and blooming out for a truly grand late spring/early summer parade, and the spring light greens are beginning to take on the darker, comfortable tones of summer green. Tuscany is a tapestry, and she is weaving new threads.
We chose to make this day relaxed and somewhat unplanned. What unfolded were country drives, first through nearby Lilliano – a tiny area that maintains an active vineyard and wine production, a grand villa from the 1600’s (maybe 1700), and a few farmhouses. However, the drive down the gravely road to Lilliano is worth the effort. It is a picturesque little jaunt down a brilliantly tree lined strada that is an overhang of vibrant greens. Sky is hidden, and the heavens become a ceiling of glowing tomato-stem green that causes one to instinctively slow and gaze. From there, we drove on through wonderful little villages, some made up of no more than a few buildings, others not much larger…place names like Bibiano, LaGruccia, San Fabiano – all so fun to roll off the tip of ones tongue.
Everywhere we traveled, there seemed to be workers in the vineyards. One person on a row…leaned over clipping, possibly, or working some other kind of magic those of us peering in from the outside are not privy to. What we are privy to is the joy of tasting the fruits of these efforts – the rich, complex Chiantis of this area, the subtler Nobile of Montepulciano, the grand Brunello of Montelcino, and the practically worshipped sweetness of Vin Santo. An analogy came to me at one point in taking all the activities of the vineyards in: as we savor and drink the wines of Italy, or of any region, we are not just enjoying a beverage that is more akin to an art. It is the act, too, of ingesting the land – the soil, the sun at just this certain angle, the artisanal care of certain human hands, and the air that envelopes and surrounds it all. It is taking in the entity of a place, even its culture and history, in a mere sip.
As we made our way, another classically beautiful vista came into closer view; the boxed tower of a castle, positioned with another tower of some sort, sitting serenely on a hilltop. As we continued, it became evident that the road we were traveling would lead us to the to the turn off for the castle! Of course, I immediately pleaded to make the detour, and up we went. Italy, being the land of many small castles, doesn’t find it as necessary to make them available to the curious public as we seem to do in America with anything older than about 75 years. This particular castle…and a very cool one at that…was private property, someones home, and of course, a gawking tourist isn’t on the guest list. The church/abby with the castle-looking spire was the same…something that was no longer serving a community, but a place that now was someones everyday abode. I was disappointed at not getting to roam about these buildings, but I was also very charmed by the fact that I was not welcome in someone’s “Home Sweet Home” ala Italia.
Ah well....back on the road to further adventures!
As we meandered along Chianti paths, we continued on the "slow" approach...taking our time enjoying the nature scape, as well as slowing to try to take in the intricacies of each small village or borgo (actually means a small village outside the protected walls of a city...thank you, Wikipedia!) we found ourselves as brief guests of. One small place - name escapes me - consisted of not much more than what looked to be a few dwellings, along with a nice looking little caffe bar and small ristorante. A little creek ran right through this place, so undoubtedly it was at one time an important waypoint for travelers along this same path. What a great thought imagining all who had passed this same way before us.
We noted a small, quite run down little place right off the road across the street from the bar. "Let's stop!" escaped from my mouth, and before you knew it --- we were poking our noses into the building, all the while permitting ourselves a quite fun "What if??" conversation of buying and restoring. However, after having already viewed a number of window fronts of Italian real estate offices, even a fixer-upper such as this comes at a steep price. Want to take that journey? Be sure your pockets are deep and even better, bottomless!
Nonetheless, it was a fun diversion, and as in many little villages mid-day, we seemed to be the only ones about, save for a nice assortment of butterflies.
Continuing to the west, we wound our way up one of the prettiest drives in the region to a small community called Lamole. We’d come across this last trip, thanks to Ray's once-again swell advice, and were instantly taken. It’s the sight where we were able to sit on the veranda of the only ristorante in town, sip wine, and watch the little tractors haul the abundant harvest of the deepest purplely red grapes we’d ever seen towards the press to begin the process of the year’s wine. There’s a charming little chiusa (church), and 4 or 5 friendly cats. We seated ourselves at a small table with a view – not hard to find being the only folks there at the moment – and ordered wine. The young waitress entered conversation with us, and we enjoyed about 45 minutes of solving the world’s problems with her.
It was time to head back to Castellina for dinner with Anna Rita and Ray at probably our most frequented restaurant here, Fattoria dei Dottorie. We hopped in Ray’s Land Cruiser and began our way out. Needless to say, the conversation and laughter on the way were a grand aperativo for our meal. The owner knew Anna Rita and Ray quite well, of course, and we were warmly greeted and shown to a table. Drinks served, he sent a lovely (huge!) platter of antipasto to our table, courtesy of the house. How kind! Pizzas and almost 3 hours of talk and laughter, and we found ourselves the last folks in the restaurant. Feeling somewhat guilty, we downed the last drops of limoncello and headed home. It’s a delightfully sweet thing to have friends in this beautiful place that, although you’ve known them a relatively short time, feel like life long friends. Anna Rita made a statement later in the week that truly humbled and touched both of us…she told us we are family to them. One of those things more precious than gold.
Today marks the long awaited cooking class with a delightful young lady named Guila Scarpaleggia, creator of Jul's Kitchen! GPS programmed for her country home, we set out with plenty of time to arrive, as well as make a stop at the gas station for an artistic cappuccino. This time, Simone the barista and latte artist, made one with a turkey and one with a bunny….awesome! He probably thinks I’m a little strange at my glee over this, but I also think he enjoys seeing his work appreciated. As I sat, he came over to the table and gave me a calendar that featured his creations, made for the gas station to give to customers, I presume. How thoughtful and sweet, and I will enjoy it so much! Note to self to take Simone something of our Texas gifts on the next visit.
Onward to the outer regions of Colle d’val Delsa where Guila’s family home is. At 31, she, like many young Italians, lives at home with her parents. Guilia obtained a degree in communications and marketing, found work unfulfilling and underpaid, and decided to turn her passion for cooking, writing, and photography into a food blog. This has opened incredible doors for her, and she is now conducting classes and even finding kitchenware sponsors. We choose to take one of her small classes…no more than 4 people, but just us 2 this day…at her family home in the countryside!
The drive was, what else…so very beautiful, and we were rewarded with views of poppy fields unlike any we’d seen thus far. The brilliant red-orange of these flowers seems almost surreal, as if they’ve been lit from within. Alone in expanse of red, or intermingled with the whites and yellows of other spring flowers, the sights were pure delight.
Following the GPS with somewhat less faith than normal – how could all these odd turns and little roads lead to where we were headed? – we decided to push onward, and alas…it was correct! We came upon a conglomeration of lovely buildings, some ancient, others not quite so, that were knitted together in community like only Italian villages can do. Probably no more than 25 individual dwelling places marked by numbers, we wound through the little street until we arrived at the last building on the right….a lovely two story home that is Guila’s family’s. We greeted each other warmly, took in the spectacular view over the valley behind the home, and commenced to talk.
Guila shared that this home was built by her great-grandfather in the 1920’s, I believe, and what is now the kitchen was the barn. Their little village was filled with city dwellers during WWII when many escaped to the countryside to avoid danger. She told us of how people hid in the upper rooms and areas of the home when the French and German troops came through, and of how her grandmother tells of remembering when the American soldiers came through. It was sobering to think of standing right there where this had occurred, and to remember how the war is so much more “real” to most Italians. It was on their soil, in the towns and cities, and not so long ago.
Cooking! Ahhh, yes! We had a wonderful time listening, learning, doing, tasting, experiencing as Guilia took us through the rotations of Tiramisu, made first so the flavors could meld, then fresh pasta – tagliatelle and tagliatellini, fresh antipasto of pecorino, truffle jam, fava beans and salt. Next, preparing a stuffed turkey breast using sliced sautéed little artichokes with onion in a reduced sauce, soon to be seared in olive oil and butter, then roasted on the stovetop. A fresh, lovely lemon sauce and a heartier porcini mushroom sauce where prepared as Marty and I rolled out the rested pasta dough and cranked out beautiful golden strips of pasta using Guilia’s grandmother’s pasta maker. It came out paper thin after having been pressed and pressed through the maker until almost transparent and ready to dry ever so briefly.
A warm salad of fresh fava beans, thinly sliced artichokes, lightly sautéed asparagus, grilled pecorino cheese, dressed lovingly with fine olive oil, salt, and pepper was our antipasto for the meal, and dare I say it’s presentation of colors, flavors, and textures was indeed a Tuscan masterpiece. We commenced to dine together after several hours work, enjoying incredible food, wonderful wine, and the company of a very special and talented young artist named Guilia.
The tiramisu, along with a taste of a local sweet wine made with honey and water, was the crown of the beautiful day we shared with Guilia in her family kitchen. The talk went on until we realized it was 4:30 (we arrived at 10:00), and we felt somewhat bad at taking up so much of the day that surely held other matters to be addressed. Guilia assured us it was not a problem, and that she had truly enjoyed the day, as well. We departed with a warm hug, the day’s recipes, two Jul’s Kitchen aprons, and a lovely hardbound book titled “Le Ricette di mia Nonna…My Grandmother’s Recipes”, Guilia’s first cookbook. Having now had a little time to peruse the book, we both found it to be not only a cookbook holding a wealth of marvelous authentic recipes, but also a beautifully written book of prose that carefully and lovingly paints a picture of the story behind each recipe. Guilia had a true gift for finding the words to convey her thoughts, her joys, her passions….and to share them with you. Her photography is exquisite, as well. What a tangible treasure to take away from our day.
Hurrying home, we arrived and began to prepare for yet another delight to this day….a TexMex meal with Lucio and Francesca! I brought along taco seasoning, freeze dried beans, and Spanish rice….oh, and tortillas!...to see if I could recreate such a meal under this Tuscan sun. Tortillas fried, hamburger cooked and seasoned, beans done, and rice ready…we all gathered at our little table, poured the Corona, and Lucio and Francesca were given their first lesson in constructing a tostado. Much good talk, laughter, eating, and enjoyment pursued as the night wore on. They brought a lovely prosecco and little pastries that look like mini cream puffs for dessert. It was perfect! As the congeniality persued, we again looked at the time in sheer amazement that it was already 11:30pm. There is no doubt that we have stepped into some sort of medieval time warp as the hours slide by like mere minutes.
Warm good byes and thanks exchanged, Lucio and Francesca headed out towards their home in Montesperutoli and we began the TexMex round up of dishes, feeling full, happy, and satisfied in only the way that food and friends can offer.
May 2 – continued….
Oh dear, typing something two days later can be quite the challenge for this vagabond of middle age status! I think I shall skip ahead to yesterday (!), Thursday the 3rd, then I’ll take a little time to recap Wednesday, May 2nd . Most likely a strong hit of espresso will assist in that endeavor. J
So…allora….Thursday, May 3rd, presented itself as yet another gloriously sunny day with temps on the cool side. Highs have been in the mid, maybe upper, 60’s with lows in the 40’s at night. Here, the government mandates when heating and cooling can be used, and I believe it’s the end of March when heating is a no-no. I have acclimated, though, and also found it a lovely excuse to buy the cute little black Italian sweater.
Despite our very best…honestly…intentions, we didn’t make it on the highway until late morning. We have vowed to change that habit…tomorrow. Anyway, the road awaited and we took the Autostrada a portion of the way to pick up a little time. The autostrada here is a nicely divided 4 lane highway, easily marked once you figure a few of the signs and protocol out. This is my 3rd time to drive in Italy, and it feels “normal” once I get my Italy goggles on. Marty’s enjoying his first round of it, and has only nearly killed us a couple of times (wink-wink). The main thing to remember is 1.) stay right unless you plan to go 30+ miles faster than the speed limit, and 2.) keep ALERT! There is no such thing as a shoulder, either on the Autostrada, the country roads, or anywhere else…at least that I’ve encountered. I’d dare to say that the wreck stats here for reasons of distraction are dramatically lower unless one has a death wish.
Andiamo (Let’s go)...! We found our way to the beautiful hilltop town of Montepulciano, famous for the exquisite nobile (NOH-be-lay) wine. Again, the scenes along the way were dramatically spectacular. One can look any direction and be instantly rewarded with seemingly endless vistas of rolling emerald green punctuated with lighter and darker hues, seas of the spring yellow flowers, and the soldier lines of cypress marching up and down the hill crests, usually leading the way to and from a hilltop villa. There were enough clouds of puffy white to add interest, and it seems the wheat (the majority of the green fields) were just beginning to show the first kisses of gold along their tops when the sun shone just right on them. Sheer beauty.
At the top of the windy, twisty road that lead us upward, we crested at the town of Montalpuciano and found the free parking area (thanks again, Rick Steves), then wandering up into the centro storico. Another gorgeous example of antiquity, this town offered all the rewards aforementioned. And a plus…seemingly relatively few tourists. Now I hesitate to glory in that because I hope it’s not an indication of the downturn facing Italy, as in so many economies these days. We’re all in the same boat, but I think Italy may be a bit ahead of the US. However, this isn’t the big tourist season yet, so it may be the norm, of sorts. We decided to hit the desired restaurant early, and it was a good thing. This spot (name eludes me at the moment) was incredible, both in food and ambiance. Tiny and intimate, it was secluded in yet one of hundreds of little spots that make up the inner spaces of these marvelous, medieval buildings. The walls were old stone, the ceilings terracotta tile with rough hewn timbers holding them up, the staff efficient yet attentive, and in the back within view, the tiny kitchen and the roaring brick oven that seemed to contain enough flame to be the entrance gate to hades. The flame, however, was merely the vehicle to sear the absolutely HUGE slabs of beef they famously serve here.
We choose the vino della casa (the house wine), a rich and pleasing nobile, a dish of panzanella ( rustic Tuscan bread salad with tomato and basil) and pici pasta con cinghiale ( a pasta that reminds me of giant worms covered in a rich, meaty wild boar sauce) to share, followed by a stuffed, roasted chicken dish. This was probably our best meal yet! Everything was subtly powerful in flavor, texture, and delight…just right. We added a dessert of tartufi gelato (truffle ice cream..yep!) …oh, and some limone gelato (lemon ice cream), too. All told, the food and ambiance alone would equal a memory to behold, but then…a French couple were seated at our table (this place is small, so all seats are used). We exchanged a smile or two, then he asked if my meal was good…in English. We started talking, and lo & behold…our talk lead to discovering we have mutual friends in Texas! Can we say small world?? Turns out this fellow is a long-time blues music promoter, and thus knows a few of our fellow music friends. Our talk lead to much exclamation over such things, much laughter over other things, and even the kind sharing of the Mrs. of her meal…a plate of what looked like empty bones, but were actually goat ribs. That lead to a lot of joking and laughing amongst our table and the one near by. She even insisted we sample her dessert…a biscotti type small cookie called cantucci dipped in vin santo, a lovely sweet wine. How sweet and wonderful to meet friends you never knew you had! We parted, Facebook info exchanged, then headed out to explore the town.
Our wanderings took us to the main piazza, a climb up the clock tower (and some joking in Italian with the ticket fellow…he actually seemed to appreciate Marty’s attempts at humor, all spoken correctly!), then on to the renowned Contucci wine cellar off the main square.
We met the “famous” Adamo Contucci and did a tasting. He spoke no English, and we managed quite well. At 75, this fellow was warm, lively, friendly, and much fun. He is a Contucci, the family that over 800 years ago created the famed nobile wine. The cellar, underneath the family home (built in the 1200’s), was amazing. Dark, chilly, with huge oak casks lining the walls, it was all it should be. This nobile created by the Contucci’s was revered by ancient popes….one was said to have bathed in it. We tasted 4 or 5 (surprised we could walk out…the servings were generous), and commenced to purchase for taking and shipping. Our new friend Adamo wouldn’t let us pay for the opener we wanted to buy…un regalo da il nostra amico (a gift from our friend)! We took some photos with Adamo, hugged and kissed, and left with our rich wine and our even richer experience.
A bit more walking around town, the purchase of my sweater (all conducted in Italian…yeeee!), then off to find the car. The drive home was splendid….more country roads through small villages, tiny almost/or were villages, and scenery to die for. We came across the famous “This is Tuscany” scene most all of you have seen…the little chapel with a cypress on either side, sitting on a hilltop. Had to stop for photos, of course, and a waxing moon was pinned just high enough above to add the final touch to what will be some amazing shots. Bella, bella!
We decided to revisit the pizza trattoria right outside of Castellina for a bite, then headed home…late again….to undo the day.
May 4th – Friday: Since I have a few more minutes here, I’ll keep going!! We slept in really late today, by decision, got up and headed into town to wash clothes. A very nice do-it-yourself lavanda was found, and after finally noticing the “How to” in English, in huge letters, on the wall…we got some washing done. Really wish I’d brought more than one pair of jeans to fend off the chill, but ah well. I’m currently sitting in our favorite little spot, Bar Italia, sipping a Corona (it’s Italy…why not have an early afternoon nip…of Mexican beer?? LOL!), and working on media catch up. Castellina is at its day pace of locals going about business, the cute old people sitting and watching or strolling the street (always dressed to look nice), the intermittent tourists (or big groups when a bus comes through), and life in general at business. This bar is more local than not. And all “bars” here mean for coffee, although you can always find the stronger stuff, too! They truly are the social center of town. We always find the older gents sitting watching a game or reading the paper together, the working folks coming in for a bite or espresso, and the tourists, like us, popping in now and then. Nice rhythm to the place, and it feels good. The workers here are the same 2 or 3…they probably get amused at us.
Our plan after leaving here is to stay more local…a slower paced day…and see a few spots not far from town. AND… we have vowed to go to bed early and get up early (sounds familiar, doesn’t it??) !!! Cortona is on the map tomorrow, and we’d love to get our little car on the road before 8 or 9 nel domain mattina (in the morning tomorrow)!
A couple of notes of random nature: we bought some cherry tomatoes at the COOP, from Sicily, that were like nothing we’ve ever tasted. The brightest red globes attached to green stars linked to stems that looked to be made of green velvet. Almost hard to believe they were real. The first bite presents a crunch/pop/ burst of flavor that is startling. Needless to say, they didn’t last long.
Another thing that is pervasive and always amazing to me is the antiquity beneath our feet, at our hands, everywhere. To walk the same stones that people walked a thousand or more years ago, to touch the same wall or brick or seat. To look upon the same views, gaze at the same painting, rest myself on the same stone bench in the piazza that others did for so many years…it’s an experience that is incredible for lack of better words. And you know, people are so much the same. The Etruscan museum in Volterra illustrated that so finely….people are, well – people. J
Time to finish my Corona, then hit the road with il mio marito (my husband)…adventure awaits (and something pretty good for lunch, too, I imagine!).
Paula A. Reynolds
Traveler or Tourist?
All photos used in this blog were taken by the author, the author's husband or friends, or found by way of images.google.com. Photo credit is given when possible.