Monday, April 16, 2012


Montepulciano – Day 14 – Thursday

Thursday is market day in Montepulciano.  The market is held in a parking lot near the bus station outside the walls.  It is no different from a swap meet anywhere in America with the exception of the fruits, vegetables and the catering truck selling delectable roast pig.  I went to the market in search of a cheap backpack to use for weekend trips, since on Sundays the only way to get home is to walk 11K from the train station.

My mouth was watering for a porchetta panino, but my friend, Linda, is leaving soon and there was a restaurant she wanted to try.  I have two more Thursdays in Montepulciano.  I’ll be back for that panino.  We tried to stop at the tourist office to buy our bus tickets to Siena, but they were closed for lunch.  We scaled the hill to the cantina that Linda wanted to try and discovered that it only served wine.  We were in the mood for something a bit more substantial, so we walked to the other end of the city and had lunch at Gattavecchi. 

Bruschetta Fantasia at Gattavechhi
Gattavecchi produces lovely wines, including a fine Vino Nobile, and has several tasting rooms about town.  This one is the largest and has a nice restaurant with outside seating looking out over the walls.  The view appears to have been carefully designed by a landscape architect.  While not exactly cheap, the prices are excellent considering the quality of the food and 4 Euros for a glass of Vino Nobile is a good deal anywhere.  Linda had taken a cooking class from the chef, Lilian, and she and her sister visited our table and brought us a complimentary taste of piping hot pasta al forno.  The pasta was appreciated, since we ate our first course outdoors, but got chased inside when the weather turned foul.  We started our meal with a bruschetta fantasy and a glass of wine.  There were four or five kinds of bruschetta served on an attactive wooden plate with small servings of a bread soup in wine glasses.  Linda also had some pici, but I had to save room for my dinner.  It was a truly Italian lunch and took about three hours.  We both commented that life is just too short not to spend part of it in Tuscany.

After lunch, we walked back down to the tourist office to buy our bus tickets to Siena for Saturday.  Then we browsed a bit in the shops on the way back up the hill.  It’s a steep hill, so it’s good to have somewhere to stop on the way up.  I came home and did some homework and surfed the internet until dinner when Fiorella made me shells with eggplant and pork loin.  Fiorella has taken up putting fruit in the salad after I put some strawberries on mine one night.  She likes it and jokes about using my recipe.  Like any wonderful cook, she is always on the lookout for new ideas.

Montepulciano – Day 15 Friday

Street Sweeper in Montepulciano
Each morning, on the way to school, I pass the street sweeper.  Between the pigeons and the cigarette smokers, the street really does need sweeping every day.  The street sweeper here is really ingenious, but also hazardous for pedestrians.  It has an articulated arm that allows the brush to reach all the way to the steps of each building on the crooked streets.  Pedestrians have to dodge it because there are no sidewalks here.  

Friday was a sad day because all the other students were leaving.  We all went out to lunch together at Trattoria Cagnano.  I am living above this restaurant, but had never been there before.  The food was pretty good.  I had a marvelous risotto with sausage and saffron and my friend Savannah and I shared an order of lamb chops.  I had heard that the lamb chops were very good.  I wasn’t too impressed.  They were the same tiny lamb chops that we got in Turkey (actual LAMB chops, not sheep chops) but were kind of dry and tasteless.  They could have used some garlic and pepper or a bit of mint sauce.  It was still a nice lunch.  We lingered and drank wine and coffee.  In Italy, no one drinks cappuccino after noon, so most of us had a macchiato instead.  There isn’t much difference between the two at Starbucks, but a macchiato here fits into an espresso cup.
Linda with Her Teachers Sara, Costanza and Roberta

I had intended to come home and take a nap, but ended up spending the afternoon online researching train schedules and such for the rest of my trip.  I had not intended to each much for dinner, but Fiorella made pasta al pesto and strips of steak sautéed with arugula.  I had to eat some.  Then, of course, I had to eat salad.  Fiorella and I hung out after dinner, drinking wine and watching TV.  It was very relaxing.  I knew that I had to get up early to meet Linda at 7:30 for our trip to Siena, so I packed my backpack before I went to bed.  I packed as little as possible because I knew that I would have to carry it back up the mountain from the train station.  Walking from the train station to Montepulciano is about the equivalent of climbing from Hwy 280 to the top of Skyline.  It’s a hike.

If it sounds to you like all I did last week was eat, you’re correct.  I hope it will not rain so much next week so that I can take more walks.  There are still places where I would like to go on foot.  Maybe Napa will be this beautiful after another five centuries of being cultivated by people who appreciate beauty.

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