Sunday, April 29, 2012


Montepulciano – Day 25 – Monday

Even though it was technically the middle of a session, we had a lot of new students on Monday.  Three new people joined our class.  Martin is a very gentlemanly sort of Englishman who currently lives in Australia, but also has a house in Italy.  Maya is from Finland and Irmgard was born in Germany, but now lives in West Virginia.  We are a very diverse group.

After school, I took Martin on a brief tour of Montepulciano and we had lunch in Piazza Grande.  The sun was out and it was very pleasant, but Martin had to run off to a private lesson, so I sat and basked in the sun by myself for a bit.  I came home and did my homework and then Fiorella, Gosia and I had dinner together.  Fiorella made spaghetti carbonara and steak with arugula.  We talked for a couple of hours and then somehow got on the subject of liquor.  I broke out the absinthe.  It was a grand party.

Montepulciano – Day 26 – Tuesday

To learn a language is also to learn about the culture and values of a people.  Today we studied the future tense.  Italians live very much in the present and have a great respect for the past.  They have nine tenses to discuss the past, but only two for the future, one of which is just the simple present.  It is equally correct to say, “I do it tomorrow,” as it is to say, “I will do it tomorrow.”  However, with millennia of history to recount, there are many fine distinctions when discussing the past.

While Americans would consider it highly spontaneous to organize a dinner party giving less than a couple of weeks’ notice, Italians rarely invite anyone more than four days in advance.  Our teacher, Costanza, claims that she can see a pattern in her students’ responses to lessons about the future depending on their nationalities.  People from Spain or South America will talk about tomorrow or next week, while Germans, Scandinavians and Americans will talk about next year or even further out in the future.  I wonder if this is because we have the entire cold winter to stay indoors and plan?

Once again, Martin and I headed out for lunch.  We ran into Gosia at La Pentolaccia.  Soon, Irmgard joined us.  I had pici (a handmade pasta sort of like fat spaghetti) with a wild boar sauce.  It was sort of like pulled pork, but not as sweet.  I enjoyed it immensely.  Fiorella had recommended La Pentolaccia as a good, authentic place to eat.  Her father lives above the restaurant.  We were not disappointed.

I had wanted to go for another walk to San Biagio, but it was raining.  I came home and spent the afternoon reading.  Maybe this was a good thing, since I was starting to sneeze.  Fiorella made us a pasta with cheese and zucchini and some tasty grilled sausages.  By the time dinner was over, I was sure I was coming down with Costanza’s cold.  I went to bed early.  My nose was running incessantly and I had a hard time getting to sleep.

Montepulciano to Montefollonico – Day 27 – Wednesday

Wednesday was a national holiday celebrating Italy’s liberation from fascism and the school was closed.  Irmgard and I had plans to walk to Montefollonico, but we had agreed to meet at 10:00, so I slept in.  I definitely had a cold, but decided to walk it off.  Montefollonico is a small village about seven kilometers from Montepulciano if you take the direct route.  We didn’t.  Since both Montepulciano and Montefollonico sit on top of hills, we descended to the bottom of a valley and then climbed back up.  On the way, we passed San Biagio and I finally got to see the inside of the church.  I was attempting to follow directions in a book written in 1997, but many of the “abandoned” farmhouses have since been renovated and turned into hotels.  The directions were hard to follow.  We made the mistake of choosing the fork of the road that headed towards Montefollonico and ended up walking all the way around to the back of the hill before we reached the top.  Just as we were most confused, we encountered Age and Chris.  They were equally lost, but Chris had a working iPhone and it told us we were on a road that would lead us to Montefollonico, so we decided to stick with this longer, but surer route.

Eventually, we reached Montefollonico.  The town is very small and was seemingly deserted on the holiday.  The first restaurant we tried was full, so we went to another, more expensive one called Botta Piena which means full wine cask.  They had a very large selection of wine.  When we ordered a glass of house wine, they brought us a little crate with six different bottles from which to choose.  The food was very good and I had a glass of a Sangiovese/Merlot blend that was wonderful.  Italian wine has grown on me.  I like Sangiovese, anyway.  This had just a bit more of the fruity flavor one comes to expect in a California wine.  It was a nice change.  We both ordered lentil soup and salad.  There was a couple really enjoying themselves at the next table.  They very generously shared what was probably their second bottle of wine with us.

Montefollonico has a large restaurant with a huge terrace overlooking the valley.  It was a little chilly to have eaten out there, but we decided to stop in for dessert so as to enjoy the view.  They were closed, but were happy to sell us some ice cream confections.  We took a table and were enjoying the view and the ice cream when our friends from the restaurant appeared.  They greeted us like old friends and we chatted with them in Italian for a while.  He was Italian and his girlfriend was from Hungary.

Irmgard was determined that we not take the long route home.  We started at the edge of Montefollonico closest to Montepulciano and made our way down the hill.  We could see the road we wanted off to the right, but the main road went to the left.  We scrambled through the forest and stomped across fields and through olive orchards in an attempt to reach the road cross country, but eventually reached a creek lined with an impassable barrier of blackberry bushes.  We had to climb back up to the main road, but it was still much shorter than the way we had come.  Eventually that road met the road we had taken down from Montepulciano and we climbed back up the long hill to the city.  My cold and bad hip were catching up with me by that time and we were both pretty done in.  I’m sure we walked more than 15km, but I can’t say how far.  It was far enough.

Gosia returned from Siena shortly after I got home and we had a dinner of shells with broccoli and cheese and grilled chicken breast.  I didn’t feel well and wasn’t very hungry, which was probably a good thing, since broccoli is not my favorite food, although this was palatable.

Montepulciano – Day 28 – Thursday

I was a bit worse for wear after our trek to Montefollonico.  My cold was making my head stuffy and I felt like I was moving slow.  I’m not sure I absorbed much Italian, but we did have fun playing a game where we had to mime Italian words.  I also had to admit that my camera was dead and not going to recharge, no matter what I tried.  This is a bad thing for the blog, since I’m sure most of you just want to look at the pictures.  I’ll have to think of some way to correct the problem eventually.

I went out to the pharmacy at the break and managed to explain my condition to the pharmacist well enough to obtain some cold tablets containing ibuprofen and pseudoephedrine.  They are a Proctor and Gamble product with a Vick’s brand that I am sure I have never seen in the United States, but they work well enough.

After class, I had lunch with Fiorella and Gosia.  Fiorella put on quite a spread.  We had bresaola (a dried, thinly sliced, salted fillet of beef) served on a bed of arugula with a side of goat cheese sprinkled with dried red pepper and herbs and bruschetta.  Of course, we also had wine.  Determined to get the best of my cold, I spent the afternoon doing laundry in preparation for my departure and sleeping.  

Dinner was tagliatelle with homemade ragout, followed by breaded, fried beef cutlets …and salad… and cheese… and wine.  I watched a little bit of TV with Fiorella and Kiriku, the dog, and went to bed early.

Montepulciano – Day 29 – Friday

It seems impossible, but I have now reached the second half of my trip.  It seems like I just got here.  How can this be?  I would love to stay in Tuscany for another month, but I will have to settle for coming back someday.  I do want to see other parts of Italy.

We had a productive day of lessons.  I felt a good deal better.  I just wish the congestion in my sinuses would pass.  It’s hard enough to listen to myself speaking Italian without having my hearing distorted by a head full of viscous slime.  I went to the bank at the break and then to the coffee bar where I have gone every day to have my last cappuccino and say goodbye.  It was hard to say goodbye to my teachers and friends from the school, but I managed to do so without shedding any tears.  It was still very sad.

This Calzone Was Bigger Than My Head
The school had tried to arrange a farewell luncheon, but my friend, Peter, and I were the only two who wanted to go.  We went anyway because, hey, we had to eat, no?  I ordered a calzone that turned out to be bigger than my head.  It was very tasty, but I didn’t even try to eat the second half.  It will taste great on the train to Rome tomorrow, I am sure.  We ate at the restaurant below the apartment where I have been living.  Today, the weather was finally warm enough to sit outside.  We had a very pleasant and relaxing lunch.

After lunch, I tried to go to the post office to buy some stamps, but learned that the post office in Montepulciano closes for the day at 1:35 pm.  I then set off down Via Gracciano to buy my train ticket at the tourist office and shopped for a few gifts along the way.  Wouldn’t you know, now that I will no longer have friends to call, I discovered a place to recharge my cellphone.  I bought a train ticket to Rome and a bus ticket to the station.  The travel agent was on a break when I arrived, so I had a nice chat in Italian with the other girl who worked there until she returned.  I managed to conduct my business in Italian, but was not able to use my Eurail pass to buy the ticket.  It didn’t really matter, because the ticket to Rome cost all of $12 and I can use the pass for another ticket later.  I will have to make some reservations when I get to the train station in Rome.  The Chiusi station is not manned on Saturdays.

I came home and started packing.  Despite having restrained myself from purchasing anything, I have still acquired a frightening amount of extra stuff.  I can leave the toiletries behind, but I have a heavy textbook and some sandals a packet of the spice mix Fiorella uses to make bruschetta that she gave me.  The backpack I bought at the market is slowly shredding, so I may have to break down and buy a purse before I leave, just to get my treasures home again.
Fiorella and Me
Gosia and Me
Fiorella, Gosia and Kiriku
Pannacotta with Strawberries
Tonight, we had the best dinner yet.  Fiorella made cannelloni stuffed with ricotta and spinach and served with a béchamel sauce.  For the second course we had pears baked with pecorino and drizzled with honey and then pannacotta (a type of whipped cream custard) with strawberries for dessert.  This felt completely decadent, since the pears and cheese seemed like dessert to me.  I had brought Fiorella a bottle of Vin Santo from Assisi and we had a taste of that, as well.  After dinner, we took some pictures with my cell phone that I will one day upload to this blog, although I can’t say when.  I don’t have service and have failed to upload them via Wi-Fi.  I leave for Rome early tomorrow.  Maybe the Wi-Fi in Rome will be faster.

No comments:

Post a Comment