Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lo-Tiv-Ro Tour Day 12

Today, we start back at the Piazza del Popola. I thought I would change the direction of the lion fountain picture and take one from behind this time. Actually, I took this picture because as I was sitting there waiting for everybody to arrive I noticed that those sculpture didn't forget a thing...sadly my Leo no longer was what this leo has:
Can YOU tell what I'm referring to?

After everybody arrived, we headed off to explore Tuscany. We first stopped in a medieval hill town called Montepulciano.

The bell is rung by "Punch" who later became part of a puppet duet called Punch and Judy.

Picture of the Communal Palace:
The church, Santa Maria delle Grazia.
This is a car-free town, for the most part as residents are allowed vehicles, but as you can tell by the streets, there isn't a lot of room....
After our tour of the town and some instruction in medieval and Renaissance architecture, we headed to the Abbazia di Sant Antimo. It is here that we heard Gregorian monks chanting. This was definitely a magical moment and something that I would love to travel back and experience again. Since I was with a tour group, I was not able to explore in the fashion that I would like and at my own speed; I just got a taste of the good stuff and want more.

We were not allowed to take pictures inside the church, so I tried to get one from outside. It is a small church, compared to the huge basilicas that I've been seeing through the recent days, but it was still gorgeous. As we sat and listened to the monks the windows above and to the sides of the alter looked out over the rolling hills of Tuscany and well, I don't have words for it.

We left the Abbey and headed to the winery Poggio Il Castellare where we were treated to lunch and a wine tasting.
A shot of the patio and the view from the winery:
We ate at this long table shaded by canopies.
Our first course (and my favorite course) consisted of the following plate. We had chickpeas, bruschetta pomodoro (with tomato and basil), bruschetta with fava beans, pecorino cheese and prosciutto, and the regional dish called Panzanella, which is a salad made of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, basil, and bread. Since the Tuscan people do not cook with a lot of salt, their bread does not have salt on it. To provide that extra kick of flavor, you drizzle olive oil over everything. I thought I wasn't going to enjoy this, but that food was so wonderful it brought tears to my eyes.
Our next course was pasta and then some biscotti for dessert, obviously the next two rounds were not worthy of picture taking. The meal was accompanied by four different wines, none of which was purchased by me, but I did enjoy them all.
Inside the cellar:
View from the winery:
Our last stop of the day was to go to Pienza, another wonderful walled town in the hills of Tuscany. There was one primary street that circled the village inside the walls and where there were no less than 5 cheese shops. The whole town smells of pecorino cheese. I wandered around the village and picked up a couple of pieces of pottery and some jewelry. I also purchased some aged basalmic to bring home and try on my next salad.

Again, this town is ancient, well 6 centuries ancient, and has not expanded outside its original wall. It is another place where I would have liked to spend a much greater amount of time just soaking up the culture and the landscape and finding cool doors to take pictures of:

Definitely a place that I would like to return to and I'm so very happy that I made the decision to take this trip and spend one of my last remaining days in the country. 


SAngRiA Smiles said...

This is my kind of Italian day!

LOL at what Leo is missing :)

Jay said...

Love the pics...again!!! Can't wait to see ALL of them and to hear your descriptions! Reading about the chanting etc. I think you found one of your "Aha" moments!

Jane said...

Biscotti and wine. Could life be better