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Report 834: There's No Such Thing as Too Much...Pasta and Ceramics

By Palma from California, Fall 2005

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Page 11 of 23: Wednesdsay, September 14: Pienza/Montichiello/Montalpulciano

photo by Palma Hansen

Pienza

After breakfast, at 9:30, we drove 15K to Pienza. We were so excited to share one of our favorite towns with Jan and Les. We explored the wonderful cheese shops, sampling pecorino and fresh cinghiale along the way. Brad and I walked out to the “back wall” at the end of Via di Amore to look at the view and watch an artist painting the incredible view.

This time it was Brad who had an emotional moment of teary eyes. He was remembering our last six day stay near Pienza when our love affair with Tuscany began. He was experiencing soaking up the view, inhaling the pecorino and imagining living in this sweet slice of Tuscan heaven. We reminisced how we first decided to visit Pienza. We were in a wine bar, Cul-de-Sac, in Rome on our first trip to Italy together in 2001. We asked our Italian waiter what his favorite town in Tuscany was, and he told us he was from Pienza. He spent his break talking to us about his small hometown and it’s neighbors of Montalcino and Montipulciano. By the end of that lovely evening, we were convinced it was where we would go next as a base to explore Tuscany.

Pienza was just as we remembered it two years ago. I visited the small linen store with the embroidered poppy bags, buying several for gifts and two for myself. I returned to La Luna nel Pozzo, the beautiful ceramic shop and bought a small salt and pepper dish with tiny lemons and ceramic spoons. Finally, I bought more rice (better dig up all those risotto recipes when I get home). We had coffee/sodas until Jan was finished shopping, bought our cheese, and left Pienza at noon.

We drove the very familiar 4K road to L’Olmo, where we stayed on our last trip. We were greeted by the gracious owner, Francesca, and our friend, Ubaldo. On our 2003 visit, Ubaldo took such good care of us in so many ways. It appeared that he never slept, as we would see him clean the pool at 6a.m., serve breakfast at 8a.m., carry the luggage of arriving or departing guests, act as concierge, giving recommendations for restaurants and detailed driving directions, bring me coffee at all hours of the day, and lock the front door at 12 or 1 a.m. when all guests had returned safely for the night.

When Brad and I took an Italian class last fall at our local college, he had to choose an Italian name, as there was no translation for “Brad”. He chose “Ubaldo” because we were both so fond of Ubaldo from L’Olmo. He recognized us immediately saying, “You own an agency of marriage in the desert!” (Best translation I’ve heard of explaining a private practice of a marriage, family therapist in Italian…) He shared his news of being engaged to a woman from Los Angeles, and promised to visit us when he is in southern California this winter. Brad gave him an extra “Ubaldo” luggage tag, and I gave him pictures of us together from our last trip. Francesca then gave Jan and Les the grand tour, showing us two newly decorated garden suites, and a new pergola by the pool. We showed them our old room, and the public rooms of the house. As much as I love Amorosa, I do miss the serenity and privacy of a 7-room property and know we will return to stay at L’Olmo on a future visit. It felt like “coming home.”

We continued two kilometers up the road and were in lovely Montichiello for lunch at La Porta. We started with grilled pecorino with honey. I had pici con cacio e pepe and a glass of vino bianco. We walked around the whole tiny town, taking pictures of our favorite houses and gardens. Then we drove on to Montipulciano, arriving at three and agreeing to meet at six. Brad and I climbed the first steep hill, returning to the shop that makes custom house signs. We ordered one for our powder room (Il Bagno), one for Brad’s office (L’ufficio) and one for our front courtyard (La Bella Terazza). I also bought a small coffee pot with two matching cups in a poppy pattern for the guest room and three shawls. We climbed up and down the steep streets, finally stopping for coffee with Jan and Les at Piazza Grande. We left Montipulciano at 6:30 and were home by seven.

On our way back to our room, we joined a large group of young couples from Canada on the piazza at Amorosa for their wine party. They had been enjoying the vino for a while and were quite entertaining when we arrived and they asked us to join them. We changed into warm comfortable clothes and set up our own private picnic on the terrace of the restaurant. We had bread, a wheel of pecorino, an assortment of salami, taralli, cookies and a couple bottles of wine. We ate, drank, laughed and finally ordered coffee. Jan and Les said goodnight at 10:30, and Brad and I continued on until we finished a second bottle at 12:30. He has done all the driving so far, so tonight he was able to relax and indulge in more than the usual two-glass limit.

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