Under our Tuscan sun

Yesterday was a bit of a laborious travel day but scenic and interesting, all the same. We left Reggio after loading up the cheese and basalmic vinegar and hit the A1 again; frankly I don’t think the German autobahn holds a candle to the A1. The traffic! The entire narrow right lane is taken up with wide massive speeding trucks tearing around sharp mountain turns and through endless tunnels.That leaves one narrow lane and the center line for all the cars. It actually looks more like one of those race tracks you see on television with everyone jockeying to get one car closer to the finish line by hovering between lanes and choosing a strategic moment to make their move, darting like hummingbirds. Most cars are smallish fiat types but many are the luxurious sleek roadsters we usually only see in movies. Very few mid size cars, almost no SUVs. The police drive Maserati. Okay, that’s the road report.

We headed south of Modena, Bologna, Firenze (Florence- we will return!) and took a detour to visit with Ken and Other Vicki, our friends from Florida. They are the free spirits who spend much of their time roaming the world and when they are settled in Florida for a couple of months, Ken is the one who takes off on his tiny Vespa to ride across American and fund raise for the small school they build and support in Ecuador (many of you helped last year! Thanks again!). They have been here in Europe now for about 5 weeks wandering around, mostly in Slovenia because they heard by word of mouth (from my son, Dan-not exactly the Rick Steves of travel recommendations but hey, he’s been around with the NOMO band) that it was the best country ever. They found it exactly so and you can read a bit of Ken’s hilarious Slovenia diary here.(well, I guess you can’t- finding and pasting the link is too cumbersome for me when it’s not my computer and it’s mostly all in Italian. I’ll figure out details of posting photos and links soon.) Now they are staying in a small isolated mountain top cottage that is also owned by the people who own the olive/wine estate where we are staying for this week. We enjoyed a cozy rainy day bottle of wine, fine bread, more meat and cheese with them, exchanged stories and agreed to meet up here at Ceppetto on Thursday. Once we got off the A1 to find our place high above the small town of Monte San Savino we spent quite a bit of time lost on mountain roads. We were supposed to “at the very first stop drive through for a while very short until you are then following the signs for the Monastero Benedettino” which are plastered everywhere and point in every direction. When you finally find those good brothers,  they’ve taken a vow of silence and can’t tell you how to get the final 3 km to this place. When we did ferret out which stone wall (“follow the wall that is stone, it is sometimes the low wall and then the high wall” and my absolute favorite direction, #9, “during this way you will find a small cemetery high walls not very visible on the left and the narrow road will start climbing keep you all the way up on the right side”) we pulled into the drive of this massive estate to find one lone girl mopping the stone floor. She promptly said arrividerci.

And so, at dusk, in the cold and rain we were in our accommodations with no heat, curious and puzzling light switches, miles of just picked vineyards and a million olive trees along with some lemon and lime trees, which I subsequently put to good use after a trip back to town for gin and tonic and fire starting equipment. While we were back in town, anxious that we would never again find our way back here, we decided a nice Italian dinner in a cozy little restaurant off a side street cut through the medieval castle would calm us down and give us strength.

And since it’s all about the food: Rich dined on creamy risotto with shrimp. There were pieces of shrimp in the risotto, infused with cream and butter and wine but there was also a giant 6 inch lone crustacean perched on top, complete as it were, and as the waiter placed it in front of him we both stared for a moment and barely skipping a beat, I exclaimed, ” look! There’s his mo..” and Rich interjected “Osmolator! It’s his osmolator! Dee-dee-dee-dee!”  This trip is bringing out the carnivore in me so I had Chianti drenched beef carpaccio with melon and pinenuts. We had sides of fresh spinach and new potatoes sauteed in olive oil.

We found our way “home” with relative ease, decided to skip the wood stove for the night and just cuddle up and we slept through solidly. Rich is still sleeping and I wandered out here to our spacious kitchen with walls of glass to this view.

There is still nary another person in sight; apparently our hosts have left for a week’s holiday somewhere before olive harvesting starts in earnest next week. I’m wondering if I should be feeding the two delightful cats sitting here on the doorstep but all I have on hand is some red wine and beautiful white meringues left from a stop at a small pastry shop yesterday. And I’m having those for breakfast.

Once Rich rouses himself we will head into town and explore the “centro” which is within the original walls of the city, dating back to, I don’t know, 1400 BC. Wait, BC isn’t PC anymore; it’s BCE. Seriously, this place is not THAT old but I’ll do a little research and get back to you on that tomorrow. Ciao!

4 responses to “Under our Tuscan sun

  1. Ah, still no pictures of these wondrous feasts. *sigh* Your descriptions of the meals makes up for that however.

    It appears that instant immersion in all things Italiano is working for you. I’m jealous!

  2. Did you see any fields of sunflowers along the way.. or has that season already passed there as well? Yes, Florence… you could spend a month there and in the surrounding area and not see it all.
    Your description of the traffic makes me thankful we took the trains.

  3. Oh… I wanna be there.

  4. I hope you saw the fields of sunflowers – they were mostly gone when we were there.

    What a gorgeous view – and cats as well? Heaven!! (as is risotto)

    Looking forward to the next installment!

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