Posts Tagged With: Pienza Italy

Travel Italy 2016 ~ Pienza, Spedaletto & Lunch at La Terrazza in Bagno Vignoni

Our lunch destination for the day was La Terraza in Bagno Vignoni, which was a new route for us. From Villa Mazzi in Montepulciano, our first stop was at the Ceramiche Sbarluzzi Pienza, which we had driven by several times but hadn’t stopped. I drooled over all of their terracotta and inside were gorgeous hand painted creations. http://www.sbarluzzi.com/home.php#

We love the little town of Pienza, home to the famous Pecorino cheese, and fabulous views across the countryside. There are usually artists set up along the streets, and I was in search of a Tuscan sunflower picture so we stopped off to see who was set up. See previous posts from trips to Pienza.

The artist of the day was Mirta Ellena Contini with her fabulous watercolors! She features local scenery, and does amazingly detailed work. I found my perfect sunflower watercolor, along with a lovely scene featuring poppies and some sweet bookmarks.

Here are my two watercolors I bought from Mirta, and framed in antique frames when I got home.

We made one more stop in Pienza at the Monaci Remo olive oil store to pick up a can of their local oil.

From Pienza, we drove towards Bagno Vignoni, and the scenery was so mesmerizing with the wheat and hay being rolled and square baled and piled in the fields. Of course I was snapping away with my camera as we went… so many old ancient abandoned farmhouses dot the countryside, awaiting their revival.

After making a turn, we spotted a really cool castle and business that appeared to be open to the public. It was the Spedaletto Castle, and the business was Mulino Val d’Orcia, where they make pasta and flour from their grains. We got to see the pasta being made, and were told about the history and process. They have been organic since 1992, and use the traditional stone milling process to grind the grains. Of course we bought a variety of their products!

http://www.mulinovaldorcia.it/Home/GB

Next door the castle beckoned, and we discovered it is an agriturismo, which means you can stay there! What a cool and beautiful place this was! We would definitely stay at the Agriturismo Castello di Spedaletto if we were in the area again! http://www.castellodispedaletto.it/Home/GB

Just lovely! So we’re starving now and lunch is our next stop… We arrived in Bagno Vignoni, checked out the view and hot springs area before walking into town.

La Terrazza is located next to the famous hot springs pool that is the central feature of Bagno Vignoni. You can’t swim in it today, but there are free hot springs open to the public available at the Parco dei Mulini. La Terraza was recommended by our hostess at Villa Mazzi, who had just been there a few days before for a birthday party. Here’s a walk around the village…

Time to eat! Here’s the view from their terrace. You can also dine inside. Find them on Facebook at Ristorante Enoteca la Terrazza di Bagno VignoniIMG_7212

Excellent food, service and presentation! Another lovely meal in Tuscany!

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Podere Il Casale, Pienza, Italy 2016

On one of our drives from Montepulciano, we discovered an organic farm that gives farm tours, sells their products to the public, has cooking classes, and serves lunch and dinner. Podere Il Casale is located just a few minutes outside of Pienza, down a gravel country road. You drive up a hill and park, and when you see the vista from their hilltop farm, you are floored. It is an amazing panoramic view across the Val d’Orcia (valley) towards Monte Amiata, an ancient volcano that rises to 1738 meters tall. The ancient road to Rome, Cassia, winds across the valley and past Monte Amiata. http://podereilcasale.com/en/

img_4773Sandra and Ulisse, both from Switzerland, are the driving force and founders of the organic farm, which began in 1991. They produce sheep and goat cheese, olive oil, pasta, sugo, pesto and spreads, wine and honey. We stopped by during the day to check it out, and then made reservations for dinner and farm tour on the next evening. img_4775

On our farm tour, Sandra showed us their animals – they make cheese from the goats and sheep’s milk.

She showed us their cheese-making facility and gave an overview of the process. Some of the cheese rounds are stored in tubs with the grape hulls to make “drunken” cheese, some have walnut leaves wrapped around them, and they use other additions as well. The mold on the cheese rounds is rinsed, and they continue to age from a soft mild fresh cheese to a harder, richer flavor of the aged cheese.

It was time for our dinner reservation, so we drifted back to their panoramic outdoor dining area for our sunset meal and their house red wine.

And it was delicious!

After dinner we selected a few of their wines to enjoy over the next few days. Their farm store has a great assortment of their products, and they also sell boxed wine. We highly recommend a visit to Il Podere Casale if you are in the area. Check out their website for more information!

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Italy 2015 ~ Day trip to Pienza & Montepulciano & my birthday dinner

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.

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IMG_9929The main gate into Pienza

IMG_0250Just 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.

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IMG_0252There are lots of fine linen shops in Pienza

IMG_0009A sampling of pecorino cheeses. We bought several to snack on back at the casa.

IMG_0031Side streets lead to panoramic views

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IMG_0259The main piazza features their civic building and several churches

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IMG_0274I love the iron rings on the building walls that were probably hitching rings for horses in the past but serve well for fido today.

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IMG_0290Next 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.

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IMG_0035The main gate into Montepulciano – it’s amazing they drive inside these ancient cities!

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IMG_9939Wally waiting patiently on the church steps for us women to catch up from our shopping.

IMG_0037A mosaic artist at work

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IMG_0040Monica 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!

IMG_0357They 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“.

IMG_0337Just 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.  IMG_0335

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IMG_0330Adamo Pallecchi, the celler master was in the same spot he was two years previously when we visited, standing in the doorway to greet guests.

IMG_9940We 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…

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IMG_0322Into the cellar…

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IMG_9942Time for an espresso…

IMG_0355On the opposite side of the Piazza Grande from Contucci is a courtyard with a panoramic view and public restrooms.

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IMG_0353Just 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/

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IMG_0051Dusk was coming, so it was time to head back to our village to rest and get ready for my birthday celebration dinner.

IMG_0345Goodbye for now lovely Montepulciano!

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IMG_9937The 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.

IMG_0362We 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

IMG_0073And this is from inside the town from the parking area below the restaurant.

IMG_0099On the right side of the castle is the truffle museum, Museo del Tarfufe, however they were closed when we visited. http://museotartufo.museisenesi.org/

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IMG_0105Inside La Locanda del Castello… it’s time for my birthday dinner – Sept 30th!

IMG_0368We ordered a fried sampler tempura to begin with that had different sauces

IMG_0192I think I had the pappardelle with boar ragout – it was delicious!

IMG_0374A rich tasty soup

IMG_0373Denise ordered the ravioli and it was divine

IMG_0370Our charming host Massimo brought out my birthday dessert – I had learned last year that you do NOT attempt to blow it out!

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IMG_0379And then he treated us to a wonderful bottle of Italian bubbly…

IMG_0384Another fabulous birthday spent in Italy!

IMG_0380Next up is the Arezzo Antique Fair…

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Pienza, Italy, Home to Pecorino Cheese

blog banner Siena lastOur last destination in Tuscany for the trip was Pienza, perched high atop a hill and home to delicious pecorino (sheep) cheese. I had tried to navigate us to this little town a few days before and we ended up in Siena, so I was happy we finally spied the town sign ahead. Here is a view of town as you drive up from below. Sadly, rain was moving in as you can see from the gray clouds.

Pienza from below

We found a parking spot outside the town gate and inquired where the public restrooms were before exploring.

Pienza entrance gate

You just never know what kind of toilet you’ll find in Europe, but this was our first “hole in the ground” type! I was glad I had learned early on when traveling to take my own Kleenex packets for backup “TP”.

Pienza public toilet

With that taken care of, we were ready to wander Pienza and see what this Tuscan town had to offer. The first shop we came to had lovely ceramics displays out front.

Pienza ceramics display

Pienza lemon ceramics

We wandered up the street towards the piazza…

Pienza mail street, bell tower

This lovely church resides on the piazza…

Pienza church and sitting sculpture

Pienza piazza big church

Next to it was this horse statue and this darling boy was having his photo taken…

Pienza boy on horse sculptureJust down the alley beyond the horse statue is a fabulous panoramic view of the countryside…

Pienza vert vineyard to valley view

Pienza view of countryside

We were hungry so headed back up to the piazza to look for a restaurant.

Pienza Wally, view to valley

Pienza mail street, bell tower

Pienza piazza & bell tower

Pienza Wally, clock tower

Under the arches of the above building was this interesting “compressed” statue..

Pienza horse & riders statueIt was starting to sprinkle, so we backtracked a few alleys where I had seen a restaurant sign… This lovely plump terracotta lady was hanging out in the little piazza next to the Trattoria da Fiorella.

Pienza plump lady sculpture

We dodged in the door, along with several other couples seeking shelter and food, and got the last table next to the door. Another couple sat down next to us and after overhearing each other talking “American”, introduced ourselves. They were from Napa Valley, Calif., and had a vineyard, and we enjoyed chatting over lunch about farming, food, wine and travel. (Sorry, no food pictures this time – we were enjoying ourselves too much and forgot).

Pienza Trattoria da Fiorella

After lunch the rain had stopped, and we were full and relaxed from the house red wine so began strolling through town. There were many shops filled with their local pecorino cheeses, wines and olive oils. I really like the semi-soft mild pecorino cheese.

Pienza Enoteca window, sign

Pienza pecorina and wine display

Pienza pecorino cheese, oils

Pienza sheep on barrel display

Pienza church with arched windows

There is an overlook sidewalk around the edge of the town that must be a favorite gathering area for the locals. What views!

Pienza view wall, bell tower, laundry

Pienza view over red tile roof

When we looked down, this was the car line-up.

Pienza car lineup

This is a smaller town, so doesn’t take long to explore their alleyways inside the gate. We worked our way back towards the entry gate and pointed the car towards “home” at La Mucchia Casa Vacanze for our last night.

Pienza vert street, tower view

Time to pack up from our week in Tuscany and venture south to Massa La Brense and the Amalfi Coast for a week. Stay tuned for our week in southern Italy!

Bye Bye Tuscany… We’ll be back!

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