Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mom and Dad's trip to Italy PART III

All email excerpts and photos are credited to G.F. Waters.

May 9

We made our own dinner this evening - just bruschetta with fresh tomatoes and rosemary from the back yard with some local ham, fresh and aged pecorino cheese, and lovely red wine. We also had the pecorino with honey and dates - very Tuscan. We love our I-Pad as it keeps us in touch with everyone and I am storing all of our pictures on it and I use it to plan next day activities.

It is getting to be a habit to get up after 9am. I am catching up on years of sleep deprivation. This morning we had to wait 30 minutes to get our car out as a work crew unloaded roof tiles at the local sports bar, which is in the process of being renovated. The workers were efficient but it was funny to watch this group labour away without hard hats and safety boots in front of huge signs that showed that was what was required.

We then drove to Cortona - we asked the GPS to set a route that didn't have any tolls and at the outset I thought we were off on one of those journeys determined by GPS where the old couple gets lost for weeks - except that never really happens here as there is almost always an agricultura, a village, or a house in sight. It ended up being a beautiful route with many switchbacks and narrow areas but the scenery.

Really we need continuous video to give you a good idea of what our eyes are enjoying and even then the lens would not have enough breadth to capture the vineyards, the olive groves, the fields of wild poppies, and the newly mowed hay fields all punctuated with little towns, winemakers, olive oil purveyors, and ancient hillside towns.

We are getting difficult. Today we went to Cortona and Arezzo - both made famous by Frances Mayes in her "Under the Tuscan Sun". If we had visited Cortona before Pienza we would have thought it was lovely but we preferred Pienza and Montepulciano by far. I think that the art in Cortona is better and Arezzo was the city where the Medici were occasionally exiled but if it weren't for Frances Mayes I don't think they would have the same popularity.

We finally did eat pizza in a small cafe named for the famous Fiat - the Cinque-Cento. I have a nice Renault that is about the size of a Camry but every time I park I wish I had a Cinque-Cento. We bought new sandals for mum and a winding scarf for me. The Italian men wear them all the time - even with plain white t-shirts - I am wearing it now and I swear I think I can speak Italian.

We are sitting outside on the our ninth day of continuous sunshine. We saw a few little raindrops coming through the Alps but that doesn't really count. We are drinking fabulous red wine from Montepulciano purchased for €22  but at the SAQ it would likely be $50. Tonight we are eating at the Botte again. Tomorrow is a bit of a mystery as there is a little market in Montefollonico and we would like to see it. Then maybe we will go to Montalcino.

May 10

Today we just drifted around paradise. First stop was San Quirico d'Orchia - not very many tourists but lots to see. We stopped at a pasticheria and bought two crunchy lemon slides. For lunch, a variety of roasted vegetables in olive oil with a variety of Pecorino cheeses and bread.

We drove to an area that has thermal hot baths - lots of Swiss and Germans, interesting to see but a pretty quick visit. We drove into a couple of hillside towns - one that had been heavily fortified by the Sienese to protect from attack by the Florentines.

I realised that we are now getting used to the driving - I do pull in when I get a chance to let the Grand Prix hopefuls by but otherwise, they can wait.
The little market had just set up in our village when we returned. We had to get a few bits and pieces at the Alimentaria and a we had to get a bottle of wine. I can't sit outside and write this journal without a glass of wine. Tonight  it is bottle of Rosso de Montepulciano. We will be back at the Botte tonight but will try to eat light.

I think we will try for Grossetto tomorrow.

"Taken from Montefollonico - whenever you drink a wine from the Montepulciano region, this is the town of Montepulciano"

May 13

I needed a rest day so we had a light day. We drove to Montepulciano and walked around a town that had largely been closed up to us when we visited last Sunday - those one o'clock to four o'clock closing times in some of the shops can be a little confusing.

There are just an incredible number of wine shops but I am already five bottles ahead, we are in the Chianti region starting tomorrow, I don't want to have to cart anything to Paris in a couple of weeks, and the cost of shipping to Canada is prohibitive. And of course there are the leather shops but I have yet to find the perfect pair of blue suede shoes. I should have bought the ones I saw in Parma.

We then visited visitor accommodations that the owner of the Botte Piena has built just behind his home. Two apartments, two bedrooms - in all ten people could stay there. It is all new and all of the rooms have views on a vineyard that is literally 10 meters away and that used to belong to his family and with Montefollonico clear in the distance.  There is a pool in the backyard. You can look it up here   The owner of these two businesses works seven days a week and his wife told us that he sleeps only five hours at night.

We decided just to take it easy this afternoon. We sat outside on the deck and literally smelt the roses and the peonies, all are in full bloom. We ate lightly and we have a reservation at the Botte Pienna for 8 this evening.

I don't find the driving so bad - it is all about the parking

May 15

It is raining this morning. This is the first rain since we left Montreal over two weeks ago. We waited until about 11am to go out hoping that the rain would let up but it just intensified. We shouldn't complain. Tuscany hasn't had real rain for two months now and the Tuscans and their grapes needed today. It will also help keep the dust down - it was starting to cake on our car.

We first visited Panzano where there was a tiny market. We bought some fresh fruits and vegetables and some other basic groceries that we needed to make life a little simpler. We ate a light lunch at a ristorante in that little town. We then continued on to Greve - we had parked and were almost ready to beat a retreat back to our car when some instinct made us go on. There was a "regional" producers market with small stalls from a number of regions - some from as far away as Milan and Bologna.

There were cheeses, pastas, salumari, breads, wines, olive oils, biscuits, and other food specialties. I think that I was most intrigued by the selection of old-fashioned, re-built deli slicers that were on sale all shining stainless steel and gleaming red being watched over by the old men that had re-built them.

The restaurant we went to in Parma had two of them and the man who operated them was busy all evening. I had wondered at that time where he had been able to find these marvels.
As we drive to Querceto from Greve the sky clears and we decide to call it a day. It is time for a nice glass of wine, some time in the sun, and maybe I will actually really cook for the first time on this trip

No comments:

Post a Comment