Posted by: francescacoviello | September 23, 2010

Toscana.

I’m not a morning person. For those who know me well, understand the severity of that statement. Being at the station by 7:30 am was a stretch but with my cappuccino on-the-go, I survived. On two fully-loaded busses, our group of students headed south of Siena into the heart of Tuscany. Or so we thought. The agenda for the day proposed an afternoon in the town of Pienza for an olive-oil and cheese tasting, followed by lunch and wine at a nearby vineyard. Although I was feeling very sleepy during the drive, the winding roads and sharp turns prevented me from dozing. This poor girl moved to the front of the bus in hopes to cure her nausea, but instead had to make a pit stop in Chianti to relieve herself. It wasn’t the minor detour that put us an hour and a half behind the “lucky” bus, it was the fact that we were in Chianti. On a map, it seems plausible to travel in that direction. But a bus has no business climbing through the hills of wine country (unless, of course, it’s passengers are taking a tour of Chianti). That’s what the highway is for! By the time Francesco (the bus driver) navigated us in the proper direction, Francesca (our trip coordinator) was very annoyed. Especially when she noticed signs for Florence, and were only 45 minutes away after nearly 2 hours on the road! As we arrived at our destination, the other group was done with their tour and making way to the winery. Here are some pictures taken during our short visit in Pienza:

Calli and Me in front of the Palazzo Piccolomini, in the center of town.

Funny story, when I was shopping in the Hamptons a few days before departing for Italy, I met a lovely woman who owned the boutique. We had a conversation about Florence and she told me how her daughter’s best friend is also leaving for Italy to study abroad. Convinced that we would get along great, she put me on the phone with this mystery girl (Calli). We discovered that not only were we on the same flight out of JFK, but we would be attending the same school through the same program. And here we are, in Pienza! What a small world.

PienzaA typical shop in town where we had a small tasting. The shops are known for the cured meats and famous for Pecorino cheese.

An evergreen view of Tuscany’s countryside


Scenery beyond the small town of Pienza


Montepulciano – the town located at the top of the hill

Back on the bus. We traveled another 30 minutes just past Montepulciano to have lunch at a vineyard. For all you Twilight fans, this is where they filmed the scene with the Italian vampires. Personally, I’m not a twi-hard (or whatever you call it) but everyone on the tour could recognize the location and took lots of pictures in excitement.

Azienda Agricola Bindella

Finally! We made it to the vineyard. We were welcomed by a spread of olive-oil soaked bread, pecorino cheese and finocchiona. The entree was a farro salad (grains similar to barley) tossed with black & green olives, tomatoes and peppers. It hit the spot, and complimented the 3 different red wines that we sampled. I purchased a bottle of the 2008 Fossolupaio – fresh fruity and fragrant – and a bottle of Bindella olive oil to bring back home. The property was so beautiful and spread out, it gave me anxiety thinking of harvesting all those grapes!

Just making sure that the grapes are edible:)

The area of Montepulciano has been linked to winemaking since Etruscan times. Over the centuries, Vino Nobile producers have isolated a local clone of Sangiovese, called “Prugnolo Gentile” grown strictly on the hills surrounding Montepulciano. The grapes have been praised as “perfect in both winter and summer, aromatic, fleshy, never sour, not brightly colored; it is a wine fit for Noblemen.”

Sangiovese before…

…And after. In the cellar at the Azienda


After a long day of sightseeing and bus-riding, we got back onto the bus towards our temporary home for the weekend. The resort was located in the middle of a peaceful green area with a beautiful swimming pool, sauna and turkish bath. We enjoyed the view, but were not prepared for the brisk temperatures out in the country. This is where we stayed:

Resort Borgo Pian dei Mucini (Massa Marittima)

We had an early start the next day, after a relaxing evening. For some it wasn’t so relaxing – my 2 roommates who were staying in a separate room had some intruders visit them at 4 in the morning! Luckily nothing happened, they were just startled when two Italian boys (who worked at the resort) managed to unlock their door in an attempt to sneak in. I was on the phone around midnight when I saw them lurking around with open bottles of wine. They were fired the next day after the complaint was made. As soon as that mess was sorted out, we departed for Pitigliano, a town located in the hinterland of the Tuscan Maremma.

Pitigliano

The town is totally built of “tufa” (type of limestone) is inserted into the landscape with such a compactness that it is almost impossible to separate the work of the people from the one of the nature.

Pitigliano


The Ladies of Via Dell’Alloro 8

(Me, Alisa, Jessy, Jenny, Lauren and Brittany)

Mar Ligure Beach

On Sunday, we spent the afternoon at Mar Ligure, a beach town in Tuscany along the Tyrrhenian Sea. The weather was perfect, we layed in the sun for 4 hours and had a nice lunch at this cute little panino shop. The final stretch of the weekend trip was the ride back to Firenze. Everyone was sandy and sleepy, it was a really good feeling to finally get “home”. The tour was everything I had expected and more, it was a real treat to spend time in the countryside, experiencing all the beauty that Tuscany has to offer.

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