On Saturday morning, we had an ungodly wake-up call at 6am after pretty much tossing the night away. Gathered our bags (had to bring them down ourselves, which meant Chris had to, in two trips), and met our driver who was taking us back to the airport. A first for me, ever, our driver was an older female, probably late 50s, early 60s and the kicker, she insisted on lifting our heavy bags. I felt so lame. The ride cost 55euro and the hotel had arranged it for us the previous day.
She dropped us at the corner of the parking garage from where we found an entrance after a bit of scurrying around that took us to elevators that took us to the fourth floor, where we found the Europcar pick-up but not the office. So, through the habit-trails that connect the parking garages, the Hilton and the terminals, into the middle section where all of the rental cars are located in a single, small room (no wonder it gets so crowded and lines trail out of it). No one was there but the employees, and we quickly arranged to get our Alfa Romeo 159.
We hiked back to the pick-up area, where they gave us the keys, and thank god the woman at the counter reminded me to ask them for a ticket to get out of the parking deck because they initially forgot to give me one or assumed she had. Anyway, off to the car to stow our bags before we went back to grab a quick espresso and meet Katy and Andy.
Now you may remember that we did a test run, based upon the info on the Auto Europe site, to figure out how much luggage each couple could bring. Well, I’m here to tell you the site is wrong (it indicated two large, and two small cases would fit – it also said that the trunk was comparable to a Toyota Camery); it’s not. Only half that (i.e., our luggage fit). So we went back into the small pick-up office, and asked for a car with a larger trunk and after briefly scolding us about the importance of ordering the proper-size car at the time we make the reservation, she gave us an Alfa Romeo wagon. I do not know if we will get charged more as this is technically an upgrade, but I will be writing AutoEurope to have them update the info on their site.
We threw our bags into the back, headed over to the terminal to get an update on Andy and Katy’s flight (it landed 20 minutes early), grab an espresso, run into our driver who was waiting for her next pick-up, and headed back to the rental car office where we had agreed to meet A&K. Of course I got antsy, and went back to the terminal (Terminal B by the way), to try to find them, but no go. We must have missed each other somehow, so Chris eventually came to retrieve me, and we were on our way.
Navigating out of the airport was easy peasy and it wasn’t long before we hit the A12. I had two alternative routes to get us to Pitigliano, one a “scenic” route that would have taken us about 2h45m and the other “less scenic” at 1h45m. I opted for the less scenic. We made a quick pit stop at an AutoGrill (first time for us all), where we learned again to pay first, then get our food (carrot muffin for Andrew – who knew they had carrot muffins here?, Cornetto con marmalleto for Katy, Pan au Chocolat for me and Bombolini for Chris), then our cappucini, less than 10euro later, and refreshed, we hit the road. Andy also picked up a huge bottle of water here, and me, well, I finally saw that “Pocket Coffee” everyone raves about and grabbed a box of those – yum.
The driving was smooth and pretty – up the A12, north of Tarquinia (if memory serves), where we turned in land, along the 312, I think, (beautiful views of Lake Bolsena from here but Chris didn’t pull over for some photo-ops) to the 74 and onto Pitigliano. It didn’t take us near as long as I had expected on those single lane roads and Katy napped only briefly as we drove.
Now arriving at Pitigliano from this direction is not as dramatic as I had expected until the very last moment. You drive through the “modern” area of town and it’s not until the very last turn when you’re on the walls that you actually see the older version. Chris has a rule too about driving through the walls, into old cities, he doesn’t but this came upon us so fast, we really had no choice, nor did I see any blue P’s for parking along our approach. Luckily though, there was a small parking area a moment after we navigated down, into town and luckier even still, a man was just pulling out. We snagged his spot, fed the box for the meter, put the ticket in the windshield and set off to explore the town.
It wasn’t long before we stumbled upon the “ghetto” or Jewish section, though no Jews remain, we found a “Jewish” bakery, where I bought some cookies, and another store that sold local kosher wines (no thank you), but where I did buy a local cake typical for Rosh Hashanah (a little late now), but I’m going to go have a small piece in a moment, with some espresso that I’m currently brewing.
An aside here, we have no Internet at the house, no Wi-Fi we can steal, so I’m typing this up on Chris’s computer, saving it to a USB key and taking the key with me as we go out. If I’m lucky, I’ll find an Internet café during the day, and just copy and paste this entry into the blog, and you all will get to read it sooner, rather than later.
Anyway, after walking through most of the town, taking many pictures of views, cats (which by the way Chris spoke to, much to the amusement of some of the other Italian tourists there), and other things, we made our way back to a restaurant for lunch.
I have the name somewhere (I think I took a picture of the sign) so I’ll fill that in later, but it’s a basic place, nothing fancy, where we ordered an assortment cinghiale salumi, and some tomato bruschetta to start. We followed that with four pastas, tagliatelle with funghi for Katy and Chris, Tagliatelle con ragu for Andrew, and Parpadelle con cinghialle for me. We washed it all down with a litre of house red that they literally, poured into our pitcher from this huge jug, and some fizzante. Four cafes later and maybe 50+euro, and though still bleary-eyed, Katy and Andy were ready to hit the road.
We piled back into wagon, which by the way, was packed to the gills (I believe a bag sat between K&A, and I had one at my feet), and navigated our way to the SS2 and then on to Montalcino, again not taking nearly as long as I had expected. Also, note, I was using the dot-to-dot method of navigating the entire time (basically taking note of all the towns between our start and endpoint, and then just following signs for those towns, clicking them off as we went by, as the road number signs are not all that common).
Once we hit the town (after a longer nap by our back-seat passengers), we parked in Piazza Cavour, called Allesandro and within five minutes he met us at the piazza to lead us to our house.
Ah, yes, and our first oh shit moment of the trip. Because, he really did turn onto that narrow, dirt road that runs next to the church, and down behind the walls of Montalcino, with two steep ascents to get to that house in the middle of the vineyard. Hmm… maybe I’ll just have Chris let me out at the church from now on and walk down.
Allesandro showed us around the house (though he has no idea how to use the washing machine) he showed us everything else. Then Enzo Tiezzi stopped by. Mr. Tiezzi owns the house and it’s his vineyard on which it sits and apparently, as he showed us, we really are sleeping over the wine as the cellar is in the basement of the house (when they told us the cellars were below the house, I thought they meant below it on the hill, not literally below it). Mr. Tiezzi seems sweet though the communication is minimal at best, he did invite us to stop by during the week for a bit of a taste of the wine (his office is below the house too), and he left a bottle of Rosso on the table. I gave him our passport form for the police and he hit the road shortly after Allessandro.
We unpacked the car, unpacked our bags, chilled for a few moments and then three of us decided to head into town while Katy napped. The walk up is a little steep but not too bad, though at night, well, let’s just say it’s a good thing we brought flashlights with us and that the moon is not new. We walked back down to Piazza Cavour, then took a right down via Mazzini into the Piazza del Popolo, where we bared to the left and somehow ended up in Osticcio for another plate of salumi, some pate and crostini, and three glasses of Lissini 2006 Rosso, followed by yet another round of café (which they presented to us in individual electric pots, with this cream and sugar concoction – something different), about 45 or 50euro later (ouch – can’t remember how much though), we hit the road to get to the coop before it closed.
We passed by Sciame on the way, which isn’t Sciame any more but L’agnolo and also discovered they opened a salumeria/cheese shop just down the street too with the same name. We asked the owner about their opening nights/times (they’re closed on Tuesdays) and made a note to pop in at some point to make a reservation. Oh, we also bought some Pecorino from him.
In the coop, bought two bottles of water, juice, café, cookies, cornetto, eggs and yogurt (couldn’t find the TP), and less than 10euro later, with one wrong turn, we were headed back to the house in the dark. We pretty much made a circuit of the upper half of the town.
As we arrived back in the house, we made a discovery, we couldn’t get in without a key, so a silent prayer that Katy had awoke, which she had and was just coming out of the shower. Mental note, if we go out separately, we’re going to have to hide the key somewhere.
Katy looked pretty human now, refreshed from her nap and shower but it was Andrew’s turn to crash (and Chris). Both sacked out for a short while (so why is it I’m the one recovering from surgery and the only one who hasn’t needed to nap?), then woke, showered and much to Chris’s chagrin, we headed out early for dinner.
Now don’t get me wrong, when I say early, I don’t mean at 7 or 7:30 even, I’m talking about 8:15. You see, Chris likes to eat late, and made our dinner reservation at Grappolo Blu for 9:00 but honestly on their first day, that just seemed like torture, to me, for K&A, and secondly, I’m not napping! I want to eat earlier. We’ve been having “discussions” about this and have decided to ask Isabella’s opinion this morning, when we meet with her for our tour, to see what she suggests would be an appropriate time for dinner.
Anyway, it was no problem for us to be seated at about 8:30 at Grappolo as they were expecting us and weren’t filled (oh, and as it were, when we finished there was only one other table left then too and they were done, just talking with Luciano, the owner). So for dinner, let’s see, Chris had the tagliatelle con funghi e tartufo (tartufo oil that is), which was better than that afternoon’s tagliatelle, he followed that with guanciale in brunello sauce (which they describe as beef cheeks but I always thought were pork), Katy had the conchigle with peas and prosciutto followed by a salad with apples and nuts, Andy had the ravioli followed by the rabbit in brunello sauce, and I had the sausage with cannelini beans and a side of steamed spinach. It was all good. For dessert A&K both had tiramisu gelato and Chris and I shared a lemon and pignoli tart, oh and two grappas for A&C. All this got washed down with two bottles of fizzante, a bottle of Carpazo rosso 2004, which had surprisingly mellowed, and a bottle of Carpazo brunello, 2003, which made the Rosso look like the little brother it is. I think the entire bill came to about 150euro.
We trekked through the dark, back to the house, scanned the TV for a while (only to find Italian channels – poor Andrew is going through withdrawal, but Chris seemed to enjoy the show I dubbed “Italy’s Next Top Stripper”) and then finally hit the hay.