For our first day in Tuscany, we decided to stay close to home and visit some of the small scenic towns. Pienza, renowned for their pecorino (sheep) cheese and small town charm was about 15 minutes from our “home” for the week, Lucignanello Bandini.
We followed the ridge roads and admired the view along the way of the Tuscan countryside. Most of the crops had been already harvested and the fields were plowed awaiting their next sowing.
The main gate into Pienza
Just inside the gate was an artist who specialized in watercolors and etched-type drawings. I picked out a lovely drawing and Monica and Denise picked out their favorites.
There are lots of fine linen shops in Pienza
A sampling of pecorino cheeses. We bought several to snack on back at the casa.
Side streets lead to panoramic views
The main piazza features their civic building and several churches
I love the iron rings on the building walls that were probably hitching rings for horses in the past but serve well for fido today.
Next stop was Montepulciano, and we stopped at a pull-off on the side of the road to get a shot of it in the distance.
The main gate into Montepulciano – it’s amazing they drive inside these ancient cities!
Wally waiting patiently on the church steps for us women to catch up from our shopping.
A mosaic artist at work
Monica bought this gorgeous hand made address book in one of the shops. The paper was marble dyed by the proprietor and the girl tending the shop was applying the leather binding – a perfect “locally made” reminder to take home!
They were covering the Piazza Grande with sand, and had antique wagons scattered around the piazza. We found out the next day that they were preparing for a television series filming that featured Dustin Hoffman and Richard Madden in “Medici: Masters of Florence“.
Just down the hill from Piazza Grande is the famous Cantine Contucci wine cellars, a winery that has been producing since before the Renaissance (1008). Learn more about their history on their website: http://www.contucci.it/en/
This was one of our destinations in Montepulciano, so the girls could sample the Cantina’s famous “Vino Nobile” wine.
Adamo Pallecchi, the celler master was in the same spot he was two years previously when we visited, standing in the doorway to greet guests.
We greeted him and he happily posed for pictures before sending us into the cellars for our tour. He later joined us for our wine tasting, guiding us through their selections. Denise ordered a case to be sent home so we’ll have to go visit her when it arrives…
Into the cellar…
Time for an espresso…
On the opposite side of the Piazza Grande from Contucci is a courtyard with a panoramic view and public restrooms.
Just down the way we noticed a sign for a wine cellar and took the steps downward into the cellars to explore. It was the de’Ricci Cantine Storiche, and their cellar was impressive! There was no charge to tour the cellars, but if you want to sample the wines there is a fee. It is deducted if you make a purchase, which we did, buying a bottle for the evening. The soaring ceilings in the cellar are really impressive, and it also features an Etruscan well. Learn more about the cantine and history at: http://www.dericci.it/
Dusk was coming, so it was time to head back to our village to rest and get ready for my birthday celebration dinner.
Goodbye for now lovely Montepulciano!
The girls had picked me a lovely bouquet of flowers for my birthday, and when we arrived back at the apartment we had a toast with our bottle of wine from Lucignanello Bandini.
We rested a bit and then got ready for our dinner in San Giovanni d’Asso at La Loconda del Castello. Located in the castle built in the 1500s, the restaurant offers an upscale elegant dinner. Our hostess had called ahead to make reservations for us. We took pictures a few days later during the day so you can see what the castle looks like. http://www.lalocandadelcastello.com/
Here’s the Castle of San Giovanni d’Asso from below the town
And this is from inside the town from the parking area below the restaurant.
On the right side of the castle is the truffle museum, Museo del Tarfufe, however they were closed when we visited. http://museotartufo.museisenesi.org/
Inside La Locanda del Castello… it’s time for my birthday dinner – Sept 30th!
We ordered a fried sampler tempura to begin with that had different sauces
I think I had the pappardelle with boar ragout – it was delicious!
A rich tasty soup
Denise ordered the ravioli and it was divine
Our charming host Massimo brought out my birthday dessert – I had learned last year that you do NOT attempt to blow it out!
And then he treated us to a wonderful bottle of Italian bubbly…
Another fabulous birthday spent in Italy!
Next up is the Arezzo Antique Fair…