It's been a couple of weeks since I've posted something new. As we get closer to our travel date, I've been busy doing the checklists. Between work, walks, laundry, shopping, bills, etc., we are finding moments to get all giddy about being back in Italy soon.
What we love to do, of course, is go over what we did last year, and what we want to do this year. One of our day trips last year was to Montalcino, in Tuscany. We wanted to do some Brunello tasting, and maybe even buy some to send home. We did, and it was a fab day. I love a good day trip. Get up early, grab a cappuccino at Bar Gallo, and head out.
We had been to Montalcino before, but really wanted to go back. The day we chose was a beauty, with just enough clouds to make the sky magic. To get there, we went by Montepulciano, Pienza, and San Quirico d'Orcia. This would be along the SS146 to the SR2, two of the most classic and beautiful roads you will ever want to drive. Stunning scenery through out, with rows of Italian Cypress, Umbrella Pines, ruins of old farmhouses to die for, and hill towns perched in the distance. If you have a calendar of Tuscany, you have at least one picture from this area.
|A perfect Umbrella Pine|
|Tuscan Landscape in all it's glory. Well, at least it's late winter glory! |
(I do love me some good cloud shadows.)
|Little wild euphorbias I spied on one of our breaks along the road. Once I started looking,|
I saw that they were everywhere. So sweet!
|The much photographed Capella di Vitaletta, a scene along the SS146.|
We mosey along to Montalcino, tummies beginning to growl for lunch. Parking was a breeze, being off season and all. We parked below the Fortezza, in a big lot with a machine that took coins for a ticket. No problem. Once we hiked it up the hill, we were at the backside of the impressive Fortezza. The views from the ramparts are spectacular, giving you the birds eye of town. Also, great wine tasting in the cantina.
|Fun to climb up the rickety wooden stairs to get to the top of the ramparts.|
|Town views from the ramparts. I love the colors of all the tile roofs.|
|Another view of the roof tops. I like the "tumbling down the hill" look of it.|
What I really enjoy about her books is the attention she places on the history of the region, and the generations of families that have worked the land. She respects the reality that most locals have roots that go back hundreds of years. There isn't a lot of sugar coating... it was hard for her and her husband to be accepted into everyday village life. She gives the reader a nice look at day to day life in a small Italian village...one that swells with thousands of tourists at certain times of the year. I also got a much deeper understanding of the pride that these villages have for their "contrade". Most towns have several completely separate contrade, or neighborhoods, each with it's own church, flag, and community gathering space. You can see flags flying the colors in each different contrada. It's a big deal, and there are age old rivalries that become paramount during festivals featuring various contests.
If you love to read about this sort of thing, check these books out. The books can be found on Amazon, for sure. I actually bought them both in Siena one year. ("Vanilla Beans & Brodo" is the first, "Bel Vino" is the second)
|Nice view that really lets you know you are in a "hill town".|
|Flying the colors of this particular "contrada". There are four in Montalcino.|
I can tell you that I had a wonderful, rich pasta "cacio e' pepe" (pecorino cheese and lots of black pepper) and Johnny had polenta topped with a vegetable stew. We also enjoyed a mixed green salad, and a salad with apples and pecorino. We splurged on a half bottle of local Brunello. A perfect lunch.
After lunch, it was off to taste Brunello to decide what we wanted to ship home. We chose a mixed case of three different varieties and vintages. Luxury? Yes, for sure. But we are so frugal most of the time, and I don't buy clothes or shoes..... I refuse to feel guilty! Anyway, it was a really fun experience, and isn't that what traveling is all about?
|Brunello, here we come. I love the couple on the bench.|
After all that, we ended the afternoon driving down the way to the awesome Abbey of Sant'Antimo, a place I have wanted to visit for years. It was everything I hoped for, and will be featured soon in another post, I promise.
Until then, so much to still get ready, though many things have been done. I'm very excited to see what Johnny paints this year. He keeps talking about "finding a new language", which sounds inspiring. We will have to wait and see.