|We seem to be adjusting, relaxing, settling into our routine. Staying at ONE Villa, rather than packing and unpacking suitcases, is helping a lot. So we seem to be getting lost in this new world around us...
Well not really new. Today was definitely the day for old medieval towns. In the morning the kids stayed with Lorraine to paint, then play Bocce Ball. In the meantime, Irene, Jerry and I went on a walking tour of small towns and through vineyards with a guide named Nello. First we started at San Donato, an old town with a Country Chapel built in the 1200s, which was when towns in Tuscany finally stopped aggressively invading each other.
Later Franco dropped us off at another very old town, Olena, from which we hiked hilly dirt paths through a vineyard. After a bit, Nello mentioned the name of the vineyard, and it turned out to be a favorite of Irene and Jerry's. Out of 400 vineyards in the region, we were at the one they knew and loved. With that in mind, Nello offered to ask the wife/owner if we could stop in and have a taste, although they are not generally open for this. Luckily for us, she obliged and we had a wonderful introduction to the vineyard (though it greatly shortened our hike!)
The vineyard produces 200,000 bottles/year, about 80% Chianti Classico. The rest is Sangiovese, Syrah, and some Cabernet. After some increasingly hot and humid summers, they started planting Cabernet grapes at the base of the hills, as these have thicker skin and are more separated from each other, making them more heat and moisture tolerant. As we left I bought a bottle of olive oil they produce, as well as a bottle of Vin Santo, an excellent dessert wine. I chose these over traditional wine bottles for two reasons; 1) the smaller bottles will likely better tolerate the trip home and 2) both can be enjoyed for months rather than a few days.
Having lost time for the next 5km walk, Franco picked us up and drove us to meet Lorraine and the kids for lunch at a small house/bed and breakfast type where we tasted wine (not kidding) and lunched on a simple salad, hearty bread and several types of Pecorino cheese-including one cooked in a pan with a lid pressed down on it so it becomes warm and creamy with a crispy top layer. This was followed by "caffe" (espresso) and lemon sorbet.
Then after a swim at the Villa, we were off to San Gimignano a fascinating medieval town that looks right out of a movie. Built in the 1200s-1300s, it was created by stones, especially limestones, with protective gates and walls, as well as tall towers, both to protect the head families and show signs of power. About 2000 people still live within these walls! We saw elderly men who had clearly brought chairs out from their homes to chat about politics and life and the people they saw. We saw elderly women walking small dogs. We saw amazing frescos with rich vivid color that persists today since the 1300s for being painted while the foundation was still wet-so that the pigment became deeply absorbed.
Finally we dined, again Al Fresco, at an Agriturismo (farm that's allowed to host a few guests in rooms, and provide dining) that was breathtaking. Before dinner we watched the trials leading up to IL PALIO on TV, a highly anticipated horserace on bareback that will take place in Siena on Thursday. Dinner highlights included ravioli with ricotta and spinach in a tomato sauce, chicken wrapped around sausage with crispy potatoes and panna cotta for dessert.. and this was after I said I was going to eat a little lighter tonite!