Saturday, April 21, 2012


Montepulciano – Day 20 – Wednesday

Marita and I were supposed to go to Pienza this afternoon, but the school schedule changed and it was hailing something fierce, anyway.  I went out for pizza with Eli and Illiana from my class.  They are traveling for a year.  They have already been to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and have been in Italy since the middle of March.  I am so jealous.

We ordered a couple of different pizzas to share and a split of Vino Nobile.  The first bottle was corked.  They brought us a second bottle.  It was off, also.  We settled for a half carafe of house red.  Eli was skeptical at first, but it grew on him as the wine at Fiorella’s has grown on me.  The wine in this region is really very good.

After lunch, I went home and passed a quiet afternoon at home, studying.  Fiorella made homemade tagliatelle with sausage and cheese and grilled sausages.  It was a very savory dinner for a cold, wet day.  I went to sleep content.

Montepulciano to Pienza – Day 21 – Thursday

Vineyard Next to the Car Park
I came home after class and waited for Marita to finish with her private lesson.  We had plans to take a drive to Pienza.  Fortunately, it held off raining long enough for Marita and me to make the trip.  Savannah had taken me on the same drive after my first day of class, but this time I was the one showing Marita the sights and directing which way to go.  Funny how much difference 2.5 weeks can make.  I was completely disoriented that first day and had no idea where I was going.

Marita with Cheese
We arrived in Pienza after a pleasant drive through the gorgeous countryside and found a parking lot next to a vineyard just outside of town.  We walked up into the town and along the main street towards the central plaza.  The smell of cheese was overwhelming.  Nearly every shop in Pienza sells pecorino.  Pienza is famous for its cheese.  Every shop window displayed mountains of cheese attractively arranged.  I had missed my opportunity to buy a porchetta panino at the market in the morning, so ducked into one of the several shops offering porchetta and bought myself a sandwich for later consumption.
Peccorino in Pienza
Cheese & Wine Shop in Pienza

Piccolomini Palace, Pienza
The town now called Pienza was originally named Corsignano.  Pope Pius II was born there and decided the remodel the town in the Renaissance fashion during the 1400s.  The town was renamed in his honor.  While small, Pienza is lovely, having benefitted from unusually cohesive urban planning.  The Duomo and the Piccolomini family palace (Pius was a Piccolomini.) front on the central square.  The Duomo was particularly interesting because the apse is visibly sinking.  The floor slopes downward, walls are cracking and walking behind the altar is a bit like walking into a funhouse.  The Piccolomini Palace is a lovely piece of architecture.  We didn’t tour the inside, but did step into the courtyard, which was reminiscent of a Roman peristyle home.

Bar in Pienza
We wanted to stop somewhere for a late lunch, but had trouble finding someplace open that served food made without wheat, since Marita has an allergy to gluten.  We finally settled for a bar on the way back to the car park.  The kitchen was closed at that hour, so we had gelato and a macchiato and Marita bought a bag of potato chips.  I had presciently munched a pear and some cheese when I got home, so this was not too much of a disappointment for me.  Italian gelato is never a disappointment.  I had tiramisu and vanilla flavors.  The bar had tables outside under a magnificent wisteria arbor.  The sun had peeked out for a bit, so we sat outside and enjoyed the ambiance.

View from Pienza
We drove on to San Quirico D’ Orcia, but I was unable to show Marita much of the town because we could not find a place to park the rather large car she had rented.  We did, however, enjoy the drive through the beautiful hills.  Returning to Montepulciano about 7:00, we finally determined how to get the car pointed in the right direction and found a place to park.  I had plans to meet some friends for a drink, but the bar was closed when I got there and I was unable to locate them.  I tried several nearby places and then just went home to dinner.

Dinner was leftover tagliatelle and roast beef.  The roast beef was rare and tender and generally wonderful like everything else Fiorella has ever cooked for me.  Marita had bought a bottle of wine for Fiorella in Pienza and we agreed to have dinner together the following evening, since it would be our last evening all together.

Montepulciano – Day 22 – Friday

Friday was Knut’s last day, but the rest of us are staying on.  We might have some new additions next week.  We had an interesting discussion on healthcare.  In Italy, Norway and Holland, they have national healthcare.  It seems that it is free and pretty good, but you have to wait a long time for an appointment.  I pay more for health insurance than I pay for my mortgage and still have to pay for my drugs and wait four months for an appointment.  I’d be willing to trade any day.

It started to rain just as class was finished.  I had date for lunch with Fiorella.  She made me bruschetta, prosciutto and zucchini with arugula (which they perversely call rocket here) and parmesan, along with a nice salad with feta cheese.  I had a little wine with lunch, did some hand laundry, tried to study and ended up taking a nap.

Fiorella woke me for dinner.  We had a little dinner party with Marita and shared the nice bottle of Chianti she had brought.  Fiorella made risotto with zucchini and crispy roasted chicken.  We had the usual salad spread and cheese and strawberries after dinner.  There was some peccorino with spicy peppers that was really tasty and also some spicy pepper jam.  After dinner, I packed for my trip to Assisi, checked all my reservations and read a P.D. James mystery until much too late.

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