Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mom and Dad's trip to Italy PART IV

 All excerpts and photos credited to G.F. Waters

My parents are in Italy right now! My father retired just a couple of weeks ago and he and my mother planned a trip to Italy. I thought we wouldn't hear from them for a while but thanks to technology it doesn't matter where you are my dad has been writing to us on his ipad. I look forward to his emails SO MUCH. They are beautifully written and every day he sends us a "picture of the day". They only began last Friday but because my dad is a wonderful writer (much to my surprise) and he spoils me with a "picture of the day" I asked him if it would be possible to spoil you too and share some excerpts with you and he said: "YES" so here goes...

May 14

We were sad to leave our little medieval village with a view of Montepulciano but not so sad to leave the dark apartment. In many ways it was charming and romantic but I think some things could be done to lighten it up - a bit more artificial lighting, a bigger window in the courtyard door, more mirrors,  and maybe go away from the traditional dark furnishings to some lighter colours. It could also do with a dehumidifier that could kick in while the residents are out or outside. On the other hand, in it's previous life it had been a wine cellar for the church to which it is attached so every glass drunk there was a Vino Santo and I am a very holy man. We had said our good-byes to the owners and staff the night before and it was a little more emotional than I had expected. Our server, Moynya ( phonetic spelling) hugged Nicole and kissed me on both cheeks and the owner, Simoni, and his sister were clearly unhappy to say goodbye.

We drove north into the Chianti hills and stopped in three small towns - Gaiole in Chianti, Radda in Chianti, and Castellina in Chianti. I am not sure what the average population is in these small towns but certainly no more that 5,000 but there are enough wine shops ...... In Castellina, we were greeted by a parade of vintage cars on a run from Siena to Florence - from the newest Ferraris to original race cars. I have a bunch of pictures more focussed on the antique.

We made our way to Querceto - and our little villa is, in many ways, an upgrade on Montefollonico but it doesn't have the charm of the village. It is on an Agriturismo so some distance from a town but the shower works well, there is no humidity, it is much brighter with somewhat bigger windows and white washed walls, more lighting, and a swimming pool. It is a working farm that makes about 4250 cases of wine each year - one of it's varieties has scored 94 points in Wine Spectator. The owner here is much more mercenary than most of the business owners we have run into - she is a Florentine and must be a relative of the Medici.

May 16

Today we visited the town of towers, San Gimignano. These towers were built by noble families to demonstrate their wealth and power - the higher the tower the more wealthy and powerful the family. San Gimignano is much smaller than either Florence or Siena but very, very interesting. It's size meant that it was neat and tidy.

There were the usual shop but probably more ceramics stores than in the other cities - and knives and swords. It again provided beautiful hilltop views all around the city onto valleys of vineyards and the silver green of olive groves. We will have to go back - I didn't find the restaurant everyone recommended so maybe when Jacques and Marina get here from Montpellier and that way we will be able to try more dishes anyway.

I am getting good at the crazy driving. I am passing the occasional car and twice today people pulled into lay-bys to let me get ahead. I will never be as fast as the white van drivers or the motor cycles,  nor is it my ambition to be so. I am getting good and finding and understanding the parking. It is the one way signs that worry me but I haven't been caught other than in Pienza where there is one split in the road that I just don't understand. I started to go down the wrong way three times in three but I always managed to stop before I got in too far.

We decided today to do a day trip to Venice - this will be the big adventure as we use Italian public transit and figure out the best town to leave the car. We stopped in Radda on the way back to Querceto and think we have it figured out. Step one is complete - we have a hotel reservation at Hotel Luna Baglio, the front entrance is on a canal and is only 50 metres from  the Plaza.

May 17

We have decided to make this an easy day as the 18th and 19th will be jam packed with activity as we travel to and from Venice and visit it's sites. This morning I tried to book train tickets on Trenitalia and it drove me crazy. We took a break and drove to Greve to look around in the sunshine. It is a relatively modern town with a square that is more turn of the 20th century. There appear to be more Brits in this town than anywhere else we have been - The capital of Chiantishire?

Booking the train to Venice has planning on my mind and after an unsuccessful attempt to find a travel agent we head back to Querceto so that I can try online one more time. I decide to try second class after determining that it really is meant to be comfortable. Success!!! The only problem that I was having was that First Class was sold out and the relevant messaging was impossible. It is an entirely paperless booking system - it seems pretty slick. The test will be when we are on the train tomorrow.

We went walking around Querceto and found the hens, donkeys, and goats. We walked along a dirt road about 2 km past Querceto to another winery - Carpineto that does have stock on the SAQ shelves. On our return we ran into our landlady, Laura, who advised us to take the bus from Panzano where there is better parking so we went off to explore that option and indeed it is  a much better choice.  We bought our bus tickets and are ready for the big adventure. Before heading back, we sat on a beautiful vine covered terrace looking down on another lovely valley and enjoyed yet an other glass of Prosecco.

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