Oh, what a lovely day, despite extra chilly temps, cloudy skies, and periodic rain! We slept in really late, which was easy to do with the leaden skies…and probably our bodies were grateful for having done so. I think we’ve really acclimated completely to time here, but our go-go-go routine can take its toll, I suppose. Anyhow, it was nice to have the chance to get a solid rest and greet a new day on this side of the pond.
We decided to do another loosely planned day, and thus commenced with it by heading into town. We stopped, however, at the previously mentioned Agip station (one of the benzina/gas brands) and Marty accomplished his personal mission of getting the car washed. It’s a cute little moving type automated carwash, but totally outside. We’re pretty impressed that our limited Italian allows enough to figure out most signage. Marty’s ahead of me in verbage and conjugation…go figure! The little autowash worked great, and we arrived in Castellina all shiny and fresh. We made our way to the Chianti Bar, stepped into a wonderfully warm and cozy ambiance, returned the “Buongiorno” , and settled into a table for a simple lunch of pannini, chips, and Diet Coke. Not having had any morning caffeine, we did the Italian requirement of caffé after most meals, and downed a couple of really wonderful espressi. They were truly awesome, if stoically strong and direct. In fact, we’d really only planned on one, but decided something that good needed a revisit…a’ presto!!
Being comfortably seated and satiated, we found time to catch up on email, posting, and checking a little of the news back home, thanks to the free wifi. Not much had changed in one week’s time, after all. We packed up and decided to head off in the direction of Radda in Chianti with plans to take one of a couple of options for road tripping. However, we opted to stop off beforehand and say hello to our new friend from last visit, Roberta – owner/operator of the hotel Il Colombaio. It’s an ancient farm house restored to function as a lovely little albergo (hotel), and we spent several days there last October. Roberta recognized us, which was really nice, and we proceeded to have about a 20 minute conversation with her, 95% in Italian. She was amused and pleased for us, and agreed…l’italiano e’ molto dificile (the Italian language is very difficult)! At her suggestion, we took a detour to the gelateria on that side of town, artisan and made on location, and had a delicious dessert of gelato. I had la cupetta piccola of half vanilla coffee bean and half chocolate hazelnut. Yummmmmmmm.
I really wanted Marty to see the old monastery of Badia a Coltibuono, so we began the drive east , executing enough turns to make our way there. The drive out takes one through a good section of beautiful medieval forest. I do swear one can see the shadows of knights of old making their way towards the next conquer. Or if you’re a Monty Python fan…you know which scene I’m thinking of! And of course, this roadway was an absolute disciple of the required undulation of Tuscan roads….I almost got carsick! I’ve decided a “how to” for driving Tuscan roads would be quite short…one page that reads “One hand on wheel….hard left for 3-4 seconds; hard right for 3-4 seconds. Repeat ad naseum.”
Badia a Coltibuono greets one at the top of a gently climbing road up a hill, and at first appears as a rock wall with some structure suggesting either church or castle. Once parked, a green door in the smaller wall has instructions to wait until the door opens, generally on the hour, for the next tour. The wind had picked up by this time, and we were beyond chilly, so we walked around to the other side of the structure and took a self-guided tour through the chiusa/church, a humble space built sometime about a thousand years ago and decorated with rather rustic frescoes. It was grand in its own right, though, and we could appreciate the milieu of service it had offered over the centuries. We wandered back behind the alter to where the old organ sat. Sheet music was propped to the side, and we took a gander at interpreting the words. I think I’d give us a healthy B+, maybe even an A-. The music appeared to be quite new, however…probably printed in the 1940’s or 50’s.
With more time to kill, we decided to drive back down the hill to the osteria (wine shop) and check out what was inside. No time for a tasting, so we bought some postcards and a bottle of water, looked around, then made our way back for the tour. A cute young lady was our guide, and Marty started out by asking her about a town within view down the mountainside, using Italian, of course. She was a little confused, so I tried to help – marginal success. After we walked back to the garden where the tour started, she asked why we were trying to use Italian. After a laugh, we told her we were trying to learn the language, and like most we’ve encountered, she gave us a big smile, words of encouragement, and a “bellissimo”!
The tour was quite interesting of this monastery turned personal home turned B&B, built sometime in the early 1200’s. The wine cellar, in particular, was impressive. It was cool, dark, coated in splotches of dark mold (which are very conducive to good wine), and had a room or two stacked floor to ceiling with dusty, dark bottles of aging wine. This cellar was more like a movie set! The Chianti produced here was very nice, as our post-tour tasting proved. They have a small production of organic wine from the vineyards original to the monastery, then produce another wine that combines grapes from surrounding lands.
The rain picked up as we were leaving, so we decided to head back to Castellina. Arriving at “home”, it was really starting to come down, so we opted for a dinner in. Dare I say a simple meal of previously bought fresh tortellini with a nice Barilla sauce and a simple salad, prepared in our tiny little apartment in the middle of the beautiful Tuscan/Chianti countryside was pretty darn nice?? And it felt good to just be here, comfortably dressed, acting more like we were home than like we were tourists. Yep…la dolce vita!
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.