Thursday, April 19, 2012


Montepulciano – Day 18 – Monday

Monday was the start of a new session at Il Sasso.  I walked to school with my new housemate, Marita, but we are not in the same class.  Since she is from Finland, we converse in Italian.  She knows more grammar than I do, but I am the motor mouth.  Sometimes I talk myself into a corner, but generally I do pretty well.  For some reason, I find Italian very comfortable.  By the time I get home, I may have forgotten English if I don’t run across some English speaking travel companions.  It is starting to sink in that I am going to leave Montepulciano soon.  I am excited and eager to see other iconic sights in Italy, but loath to leave Tuscany where it seems I must have lived in another life.

There were lots of new faces at the school and it took us most of the first day to sort out who belonged in which class.  We ended up with five students in our class.  All three Americans are in our class, although one of the “Americans” is actually from Argentina.  We also have a gentleman from Norway named Knut and one from Holland named Age (A-kay.)  The other two Americans are Illiana and Eli from San Diego.  The three of us also speak Spanish and are constantly confused.  Eli and Illiana are travelling in Europe for several months.  They have been in Italy for a month already and will stay for a few more weeks after this session ends.  Then they go to France to study French for a month or so and are thinking of going to England.   We have the same two teachers, Costanza and Roberta, that I had last session.  It’s a good group.

Dining Room Table
After school, I came home and had lunch with Fiorella.  We had a simple lunch of crackers (suspiciously like matzo), prosciutto, cheese, fruit and salad (with wine, of course.)  The weather was lousy, so I stayed in and worked on my blog all afternoon.  I got a chance to take some more pictures of the interior of Fiorella's house.  Fiorella doesn't like having her picture taken, but I'll try to get one before I leave.

Living Room and Stairs to Nowhere
La Cucina
For dinner, we had leftover gnocchi (even better the second day) and grilled chicken with spinach and assorted salad and cheeses.  I attribute my success in speaking Italian to taking my meals with Fiorella.  Marita is not dining with us and Fiorella and I both felt bad about that.  If I had a gluten allergy as she does, I might also have declined to take meals with an Italian family, thinking that there would be pasta every night.  As it turns out, Tuscans are total carnivores.  There is usually pasta, but there are always enough meat, vegetables, salad and cheese to make a good meal.

Tuscany is not, however, a good place to eat bread.  In ancient times, salt was very expensive in Tuscany.  Traditional Tuscan bread does not contain salt.  It is kind of dry and tasteless.  Today, the meat in Tuscany is very salty and flavorful to make up for the bland bread.  In other parts of Italy, the bread is tastier, but the meat is plainer.  This makes a sort of sense, but all three of us Americans are dying for a piece of sourdough.  Illiana has even gone so far as to seek out yeast to bake her own bread.

Montepulciano – Day 19 – Tuesday

I must be very easily entertained because learning the imperfect tense this morning totally made my day.  Each morning, we have a break from 10:15 to 10:45.  Many of us repair to the nearest café for cappuccino.  The proprietor’s name is Alessandro and he knows my order by heart.  I go to see his smiling face as much as I do for the coffee.  Since it is usually cold, the warm coffee is comforting.  I stick to decaf, but many students (and sometimes teachers) go there for a jolt to keep them awake through the second lesson.
I had plans to eat lunch with Fiorella again.  I came home to find the table laden with yummy delicacies: bruschetta with unbelievable Sicilian tomatoes, zucchini with parmesan cheese, frittata with spinach, prosciutto, fruit, salad and wine.  I have become very fond of the practice of lingering over fruit, wine and cheese at the end of meals.

Temple of San Biagio

The weather was improved enough to risk a walk.  Fiorella has not felt very well and hasn’t been able to walk the dog much, so I borrowed him and took him on a walk to the Temple of San Biagio.  San Biagio is outside the city walls, below the town.  We walked down a steep dirt road, past an interesting walled cemetery and down a driveway lined with cypresses.  The cypresses were planted to honor local soldiers killed in the First World War.  Fiorella’s dog was very happy with this arrangement.  He had a great time sniffing, marking territory, scratching in the dirt and greeting other dogs.  When we got to the church, I wanted to bask in the welcome sun for a few minutes, but he barked at me until I got up and led him around the church so he could explore.

I had visited the exterior of San Biagio during my first week here, but didn’t have time to see the inside.  With the dog in tow, I still couldn’t go inside, but I did get to stick my head in the door.  It’s a pretty domed church built of white travertine.  The dome of San Biagio inspired the architect Bramante to design St. Peter’s in Rome.

We took a different, but equally steep, route back up the hill.  The route wound through pretty houses with lots of flowers and through a couple of archways on the back side of Montepulciano until we finally intersected the main street through town and made our way back up the house.  The dog was dragging on the way back, so I had an excuse to walk slowly and enjoy the view over the valley.  I didn’t have any homework, so the dog and I both took a nap upon our return.

Marita joined us at the dinner table last night and it was very festive with the three of us.  We had white Arborio rice and chicken stewed with peppers, home fries, a couple of different salads, strawberries and brie.  We lingered at the table until 9:30 or so.  I barely had time to chat with Scott before it was time for bed.

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