Essays about life in Italy, traveling in Italy, and more
Three Weeks in Tuscany - Part 2
My last trip report ended just about a week ago. We have had a wonderful week since then and the weather has been excellent - just one day of rain on Sunday. Otherwise, sunny and warm (short sleeved t-shirts weather, but cooler in the evenings).
Sunday, September 30
Woke up in the night to rain and rain and fog the next day. We decided to do nothing. I am spending some of our off time on the computer doing email and visiting the SlowTrav message board, but I had planned to do massive amounts of writing for my planned SlowTrav book - of course I am not doing it. Instead I am reading my way through the books in this house and the books we have picked up.
At 1:30 I decide we should go out for Sunday lunch because it is Sunday! Latte di Luna in Pienza was full, so we went to the restaurant in Castelmuzio, the closest village. They have a small dining room - just 5 or 6 tables. There were two other large parties and us. Another couple arrived after us. We had a very nice lunch and it was a nice break in a bad weather day.
Monday, October 1
Another big driving day for us. Poor Steve is doing all the driving. I drove once into Pienza. It went okay, except when I had to stop on a hill and the guy behind pulled up close. We have a manual and we only drive a manual when in Europe, so I am not the best at starting on a hill and not being able to roll back. Then we had a tricky parking situation with parallel parking beside a car with a bunch of people standing beside the car. They would not move to let us pull out beside and parallel park. So I stopped the car and let Steve park it.
Another Autogrill breakfast on the Autostrada heading north this time to Arezzo. Only took an hour to get to Arezzo (we will be going there next weekend, I hope, for the antique market). From the Arezzo exit, we made our way around Arezzo and into the countryside to the north, to a farm shop where we got some great organic olive oil in 1999. La Vialla in Meliciano from the Carla Capalbo book. The farm is way out in the countryside, up against the hills. You drive in and park - lots of other cars. It is an organic farm and they have vacation rentals. And it caters to Germans. You get out of the car and all you hear is German. In the very small and dark farm shop all the products are labeled in Italian and German. The Italian staff spoke to us in German - it took a few minutes until they realized we were Americans and switched to English.
We bought eight wine bottle sized bottles of olive oil to take home with us and a few things for here - fresh vegetables, noodles, pesto, tomato sauce, two bottles of white wine. The small store was packed with three different groups - the others were Germans buying many bottles of wine and oil. They can just drive them back in their car; we will have to carry them back as hand luggage. I have a new piece of carry on luggage called an under-the-seater or some cute name like that. It is on wheels and I think will hold about 10 bottles of olive oil. I also brought a cloth shopping bag from Whole Foods that easily carries the box with six bottles of oil - we have done this before. With both of these we should be able to bring several liters back. There is an organic olive oil farm near us in Montisi and we are planning to bring back oil from there too.
To avoid the Arezzo heavy traffic and busy roads, we drove on a yellow road across the hills to Anghiari and then Sansepolcro. We have not been to Anghiari before, and did not have time to stop, but it looked like a great village. A large old section perched on the edge of a hill overlooking the Tiber Valley.
We arrived at Citta di Castello just before 1pm - exactly as we had planned (just luck - we had no idea how long the drive would be). We found Nathalie at her house. Judith was with her. Nathalie is a member of our SlowTrav message board. She moved to Citta di Castello last month. Judith is also a member of the message board (Decobabe) and moved to a borgo outside Citta di Castello a year ago. Both have moved there permanently.
They took us to their favorite local restaurant for pizza. We had great pizza and lots of fun hearing how they got from where they were living in the US to living in Italy. Nathalie and Judith met on an expat message board (AOL, I think) - they didn't know each other before moving here.
After lunch we did a nice walk around town. Citta di Castello is off the tourist trail. We had been there for the day back in 1996 when we were staying in the area, but had not been back since. The historic center is beautiful. They have five interconnecting piazzas, lots of restaurants, caffes and stores. The modern area around the city is not too large - it does not overpower the older, historic center. It is situated in the Tiber Valley with Sansepolcro (in Tuscany) to the north and Montone, Umbertide and Perugia (all in Umbria) to the south.
We drove home, stopping at the large Coop supermarket outside Sinalunga for some groceries for our Slow Travelers potluck.
Tuesday, October 2
Another day off. Well a day off for me, but Steve had to do some work. I spent the day in the garden reading and eating figs and grapes. The weather was perfect. It was too warm to sit in the sun, but the garden has lots of shaded areas. I moved my chair around to stay in the shade. Whitey the cat moved around to stay in the sun.
Tomorrow is our Slow Travelers potluck. It is a small group. Bob and Alison who run the Summers Leases agency are coming (they live near Perugia), Bill and Patty Sutherland who run the cooking classes Tuscan Women Cook and live nearby may drop in (if their car gets fixed in time), two couples from the message board (Dale from SC and his wife, Paul from Boston and his girlfriend), and Zak is planning to drop by later. We will go out in the morning to get some fresh bread and fresh pecorino!!
Final Tuscany Notes
At this point I stopped keeping the journal up to date. I have a separate page about our two SlowTrav GTGs. Here are some final notes about our three weeks in Tuscany.
I am at the weepy stage of the trip - because we are leaving soon. The time in this house has flown by - it will be three weeks just in this house when we leave Saturday. I keep wondering if I have fully appreciated how lovely the house is, how perfect the views are, how beautiful the countryside is all around here. We have not been frantically busy - but have had many full days.
At first I felt Pienza was a "Disneyland" town, but it isn't. There is a veneer of tourism on Pienza, but just dig down a bit and it is a lovely town. The caffe on the main piazza just outside the town walls is excellent and full of locals and tourists. We have been going there for coffee in the morning. The newspaper and book store on the corner is really good - English language papers and novels, lots of tourist books, magazines, books in Italian. There is a good alimentari in the old part of town and another good, but more tourist oriented, caffe on the main piazza in the historic center. There are a couple of good alimentari on the main road on either side of town - easy parking.
Yesterday we bought a stainless steel olive oil container from the hardware store on the main street and the man who sold it to us was so friendly that it just made the whole experience even better. We also bought more sheep's bells from him (we have many at home). This morning when we were walking down the street searching for a few things for the lunch, he saw and waved and said "buongiorno". A small thing, but it made us feel great.
Tomorrow we are doing the SlowTrav Perugino Trail - well, part of it - Citta della Pieve then Panicale. In Panicale we hope to see Aldo Gallo who runs the bar there and take a few pictures for the web site. We haven't been back to Panicale since we spent two weeks there in September 1999. Then we are meeting Bob and Allison from Summers Leases for lunch in Panicale - they live nearby. Friday we want to do a few last things around here - go for a walk, check out an estate nearby, maybe take some photos of the bar in Pienza that we really like (for the website).
On Saturday we drive to Rome, drop off the car and have our last six nights there. That should be a very different experience! There are many things we have not seen in Rome and we hope to get to some of them this time.
Steve caught my cold and was very sick yesterday. He is sniffling still - but did fine for the lunch. I am pretty much over the cold now. We noticed several people sniffling and coughing in Pienza. We caught an Italian cold!!
It was thrilling to meet all these people from the website. We took a nice group photo and will post it when we get home - then you can see everyone for yourselves. We will definitely do this again next time! And maybe some of you guys will organize Slow Travelers lunches!
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