Originally, the plan for this day was to head to San Giovanni d’Asso for the white truffle festival. Then Chris decided he would like to see the Church of San Pietro in Pianello, home of the UFO painting. So before we left, I contacted Isabella Dusi, author of Vanilla Beans and Brodo as well as Bel Vino (by the way she’s working on a third book now), and asked if she still gave tours. She does, but requires a donation to the church to help pay for the restoration – no brainer. So we arranged to meet her at Fiaschaterria between 9:30 and 10:00, and then figured we’d head over to San Giovanni afterwards for lunch (but if you saw previous entry about complete loss of focus, you should know at this point, I forgot to make a lunch reservation, which ended up being a good thing).
Anyway, at about 9:25, we headed up our hill, into town, and then down the hill to the garden square, hang a right and into the Piazza del Popolo (we’re pretty familiar with this route now).
We noticed a small group (of four people), sitting in the corner, chatting, but since we expected Isabella to be on her own, didn’t expect one of those people to be her (of course one was). Anyway, we went outside and had some cornetto and cappuccino all around. Shortly later, a gentleman approached us after hearing us speak English, asked if we were waiting for Isabella, said his wife knew me and said that was Isabella inside, and they would be joining us on our tour today – no problem. Oh, and as I’ve now discovered on this trip, if someone says they “know me” it’s got to be from SlowTrav. His wife turned out to be Fur Kids Mom from the SlowTrav forums, www.slowtalk.com. They had moved to Pienza in August.
We finished our breakfast and took off. Now our tour did not just consist of Pianello or the church, but Isabella does a complete program in which she gives a fabulous introduction to life in Montalcino, a bit of its history, and describes the life as a member of one of the four quatiere in town. It really was a fabulous experience as we slowly walked around town, listening and asking questions. Eventually, we did find ourselves at San Pietro, and lucky for us at the exact right moment and here’s why. You see, there are three huge paintings in the church, who’s artist escapes me now, but when I get home, I’ll let you know. One of those paintings if famous for having a UFO in it. I kid you not. So you’re saying, okay a picture of a UFO – not so strange. A picture of a UFO in a Catholic church, maybe a bit more strange. But how about a picture of a UFO in a Catholic Church and this picture was painted in the early 1600s? How about that UFO looks remarkably liked Sputnick launched by the Russians in the 1950s? How about the fact that the UFO is being held by Jesus on one side and God on the other? I kid you not!
Now here’s why we were there at the most fortuitous time. Last week, they removed those three paintings from the walls in order to begin restoration. In a few more days, visitors will probably not get to see them but not only did we get to see them, we got to see them as they were lying on their sides, on the floor, up close and personal – I’ve never been so close to any type of artwork (well, that wasn’t hanging in my parents’ house), let alone one that has such mystery behind it – pretty cool. Oh, and another strange tidbit about this painting – there are five others, done by different artists, all around Italy, all painted within 20 years of each other and they all have some sort of UFO in them (not necessarily our Sputnick clone). Isabella swears there’s even one, that when you look closely, looks like it has a window and a little face inside of it – funky!
After we finished the tour, we stopped by Bar Alle Loge, for a glass of Carparzo 2003 Brunello and some snacks and a bit more discussion – it really was a great morning that led into afternoon, as we finally departed about 2:30pm. So it was a good thing I forgot to make lunch reservations for us at San Giovanni d’Asso because we would have left this tour early.