Friday was vineyard day, and we visited two: One in Montalcino and the other in Montepulciano. The vineyard in Montalcino, although housed in an old estate, was quite new. The enormous oak barrels used for fermentation come from France and can hold thousands of liters of wine. Understanding the process of wine making gives one a whole new appreciation.
The second vineyard in Montepulciano was much more rustic. Same process, different style. The oak barrels are used much longer here and are scraped inside occasionally to extend the life of them. One of he cellars here dates back to 500 BC.
On Thursday… Florence. What can you say about Bella Firenze? Filled with art, architechture, ambience and culture, Florence is one of the world’s beautiful cities. I have visited Florence previously on a couple of occasions, but this is the first time I had a private tour guide, and Elisabetta was exquisite. Not only a proud Florentine, but passionate about her city, and she shared it all with us. From the moldings on the windows to the masterpieces at the Uffizi, we saw it all.
On Wednesday we had the pleasure of having a Tuscan chef, Marco, come to the villa to teach us how to cook. Because I was fighting back a slight cold, I opted not to participate and get my hands into the food, so I offered myself as the official photographer.
We learned so many tricks of the trade! On the menu was liver pate, gnocchi, roasted pork with chickory and tiramisu. The kitchen in the villa smelled absolutely fabulous, and the best part is we all got to eat what we made.
On Tuesday we celebrated the marriage of Christine Klase and Craig Taylor in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. Out of courtesy to the bride and groom, I will not be posting any photos of the wedding unless they do so. But I will tell you, it was like a movie set. And the bride was stunning.
Music by harp and viola brought Christine into the ceremony, which was officiated by Ida Zecco. We celebrated as the sun set over the vineyard, and afterwards a 3 piece band played into the night as we dined al fresco.
An evening to remember!
On Monday, Ida and I decided to take a ride to San Gimignano, a 13th century medieval, walled hill town known for its towers. Famous for its Romanesque and Gothic architecture, it is not uncommon to see art students sitting outside the Duomo to challenge their skills. The church is famous for its largely intact scheme of fresco decorations.
After a stroll around town, we decided to have lunch in the Piazza Cisterna, the main gathering spot where the ancient town well is located. I had cinghiale (my favorite dish).
Upon returning to the villa, Christine arranged to have appetizers and drinks for the girls while the fellows went off to Florence for a bachelor party. A dinner of ribs and sasauge was prepared by our chef, Laura. Every meal is better than the last one.
Tomorrow… the wedding of our friends, Christine Klase and Craig Taylor.
P.S. Ida says I drive like an Italian. (I think that’s good.)
After a great flight from Boston to Rome, we arrived a bit tired but ready for our adventure. Of course we had some laughs along the way, but then we got our Alfa Romeo and hit the road to our villa in Tuscany.
The first night we had dinner al fresco served by our chef for the week, Laura. With her assistant, Rosella, we had a great meal and shared our stories of our travels into Italy.
Since none of us had slept much, we got to bed fairly early and slept a LONG time, which was great because we had plans for a full luncheon and tour of the winery at the villa where we are staying. Ginevra, our tour guide, was very informative. When you realize that it costs $1,000 for each French oak barrel used for fermentation (and there are a gazillion of them), you can easily understand why a nice wine costs a couple of bucks.
Following our tour we had 3 courses of food and wine pairing. The proscutto, the Bolognese, the beef… spectacular!
Afterwards, we took a stoll and snapped a couple of pics. Tonight we are all sitting around the kitchen table having drinks and wine and playing cards.
More to come tomorrow. Ciao.
NOTE: Uploading photos is very slow with the Internet connection, so I will be adjusting and adding as we go along.
Getting ready for the next trip. Will be travelling through Tuscany and sipping wine along the way. Stay tuned… more to come.
I didn’t post a lot during this trip because Ida was posting every day on Facebook. But I think I should add a few more comments, because I myself like to look back occasionally and relive the trip.
So we left Alfedena on Wednesday late morning after saying goodbye to my friend, Anna, who is the concierge at the Hotel Alisma. Being the off season, we were the only people in the place, but she treated us with homemade torta for breakfast and took good care of us.
The trip to Rome takes about 2.5 hours and is an easy drive (except driving in Rome, which should be a prohibited activity on the planet Earth). Nevertheless, we unloaded the car and took a cab to the hotel, a small, nondescript place centrally located with a friendly staff. First stop was Piazza Navona for some gelato and picture taking. Who can resist a great piazza with statues and fountains?
Thursday and Friday were filled with food, wine and shopping. Because this was Rachel’s first time in Rome, she and Lindsay took off to see the big sights. Ida and I headed for the Pantheon, which coincidentally is a favorite stop for both of us. For me, it has a powerful energy as soon as I walk in. Needless to say, after our visit, we ate food and drank wine and met this lovely couple from Canada who were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.
Thursday evening we had dinner with my friend, Cristina DiPalma. She is an absolute delight and always makes my trip to Rome so memorable. We ate at Trattoria der Pallaro, a no-menu eatery. Paola is the owner/chef, and you eat what she cooks. And you’d better like it or you may end up like J. Caesar. Great fun, great food, great time!
(I’ll be adding more to this commentary. Stop back.)
Today was filled with friends and fun. We walked through the town and stopped to say hello to some old friends and make some new ones. Zia Adele (not really my aunt, but we don’t tell anybody) was our first stop, and she invited us in for a fun beverage that put us all in a happy mood. She is so kind and gracious, it always makes for a highlight of my trip. Her daughter, Amelia, happened to stop by, so it was a great reunion.
Next stop was at the home of Lorenzo and Domenica DiValerio (no relation). Fortunately, their daughter, Pilar, was visiting from Milan. Pilar speaks English, so this was an easy visit.
And then there’s Beniamino, my huggable friend. He makes every day happy.
In the evening, we had last call with Giacomo Campana, who runs the local coffee shop/bar. We made a new friend there. A woman, Giulia, heard us speaking English, so we all started chatting. If we stayed here another week, we could probably run for office.
We arrived in Alfedena on Monday afternoon after a long drive from Bologna, during which we discussed whether or not aliens might have built some the of things we were looking at to whether or not we would have Abe Lincoln or Mette Midler over for dinner. The good news is… we all got here still liking each other.
Our first stop was at Bar Audifena, which is the local stop for everything social. Whether you want a coffee, a newspaper, a gelato, a bottle of water, a drink, a card game or a play at the slot machine, you’re covered. We took adavantage of many of the offerings. Also met a new friend, Felix, the bartender. We’re just starting.