On to Strove/Monteriggioni
Up early, we were anxious to move on. It had been a great stay and what a wonderful place ... but ...
Packed first then down for breakfast, banana yogurt (love the yogurt in Europe, especially banana), egg dish, croissant, salumi, capuccino and o.j.
10:10 off we go. We were planning on stopping in Montecatini Terme, but Silvia at V. Princepessa said there really wasn't anything ancient to see unless we went up to M. Catini Alto, so we opted to skip it.
So off to Badia a Passignano for the abbey. Oops, it is closed for renovations. Has been for two years and will probably be for another for if it ever opens again. We understand that the few monks who reside there are doing all the work and are going very slowly and don't really want visitors. This was told to us by Matia from the osteria I will be writing about next.
We ate at the Osteria di Passignano. It is one of the Antinori restaurants. There are only 5 in the world and we are lucky enough to have one here on the Monterey Peninsula, Peppoli. I had met one of the chefs from Passignano before our trip (he was here in Pebble Beach working at Peppoli for a week and I had attended a lunch that had included a cooking class before hand.) We had already had Badia di Passignano on our 'to do' list, meeting Matia cinched our going there. The lunch we had on Tuesday October 14th, 2003 was one of the best meals of our trip.
Here goes on what we had:
We split Il Chianti-Classico (small samples of traditional Tuscan flavors), there was:
- the lightest chicken patè with vin santo, even Rob ate it and enjoyed it, and he DOESN'T do liver in any shape or form.
- porcini mushrooms, salami w/ fresh figs and small cubes of pecorino & pears in a very light olive oil w/ walnuts
- Wendy - Le Paste fresche farcite ai pecorini di 'Corzano'- a sampling of three different raviolis/pastas-light as air and had the taste of heaven
- Rob - Spaghetti con cipolline fresce, fagioli zolfini e santoreggio-spaghetti w/ fresh spring onion, beans & santoreggia cheese
- We both had the most tender THICK cut spiced veal w/ potatoes and porcini mushroom gratin for our secondi.
For the wine we decided on a different glass of wine for @ course:
- Bolgheri Vermentino 2002
- Chianti Classico Peppoli 2001
- Chianti Classico Riserva Badia a Passignano 2000
Espressi e grappa and they served a marvelous cookie platter. €129. plus €15 tip.
Pricey, but absolutely worth it. We HIGHLY recommend it and will return. We thought maybe we would return for dinner on this trip, but the menu is the same for dinner and so we will save it for another time.
I bought 2 bottles of the Badia a Pass, wine and 2 bottles of the grappa and 1 bottle of their vin santo.
After lunch of 3 hours we took ourselves off to Greve, stopped in Antica Macelleria Folorni and bought a salami w/ fennel and a bottle of spices of parsley, salt & peppers, which looked good.
[A side note we saved this salami to bring home ... Customs confiscated it and threw it out on our arrival back into JFK. I thought I would be allowed to bring back cured meats, guess not, so check before you go to see what you really can bring back with you. If we had only known we would have woofed down that salami!]
After Greve, we made our way to Volpaia - bought 3 bottles of their wine along with a wooded box which holds 2 bottles.
Stopped in Castalina in Chianti to check out Al Gallopapa. Really neat looking in a cave like setting, but the menu doesn't do it for us. Also pricey. More so than lunch, by quite a bit.
Checked into Castel Bigozzi at 6:45. Had our usual apartment #5. We have a living room/dining room/kitchentte area and a seperate bedroom with armoire and table. Full bath with one of those pocket door showers. Good water pressure! We also have a wonderful stone patio that looks out the Casole area. From the pool area you can see San Gimi in the distance.
We decided to eat dinner at Il Pozzo in Monteriggioni. We had eaten there last year and enjoyed it and it is easy and close to where we are staying. And we love being inside the walls of Monteriggioni.
We started with a plate of antipasta uno per dei with mixed Tuscan salumi, ham and crostini.
Uno per dei of picial Verde, home made 'pici' in basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, grated Parmigiano and olive oil.
Wendy - Agnello alla griglia, grilled lamb chops
Rob - Maiale di Cinta Senese al Vin Santo e Finocchietto, pork of 'Cinta Senese' in Vin santo e fennel sauce.
Wine Lilliano 2001
Had a totally lovely evening, the wife doesn't speak any English, but the husband does and they do have a web site. Retired by midnight.
Next day, up by 8, breakfast on our patio -- blood orange juice, banana yogurt, cornetto and cap.
OKAY!!! Off to Castello Pallazo di Piano. This is the castle we came across last year and for the past 12 months we have been trying to get information about it and no one has been any help. It dates back to the 12th century and is fabulous. We have asked on the message board before if anybody knew anything about it but came up with zero. But it does exist and it is there and it isn't a figment of our imagination. Thank GOD.
We did find out it had been a hotel about 20 years ago with a restaurant, but has been sitting idle ever since. It originally belonged to the Giacommo Di Andrea Tolomei in 1270.
After we checked to make sure the castle was there and we weren't loopie we went to Sorvicille. We drove through, and went on to Siena. We parked outside of Porto S. Marco, walked to the Duomo and the Il Campo. Still lots of tourists and we guess about 90-95% were German.
Had a 3 o'clock lunch at Bar Il Polio.
Mezza vino rosso
Mezza aqua naturalle, which we always have at each meal even though I hadn't mentioned that earlier.
Wendy - Tortellini con zucchine
Rob - Spaghetti alla Carbonara
espressi e grappa bianca €35
By far the least of our meals taste wise, but what can one expect when eating in the center of tourism.
I had purchased a GSM phone before we left and it worked in Rome, but hadn't worked since. It did work in Siena, so we both phoned home even though it was only 7 am in California, but we needed to check in.
We didn't do much in Siena; saw the Duomo, walked the streets and had lunch in Il Campo. There really were too many people there for us so we left and returned back to Castel Bigozzi. We opened up a bottle of the Volpaia and sipped it on our stone terrace in the very nice wine glasses that Stefania lent to us. The sun was just about to go down behind the hills of Tuscany and leave the landscape a glowing shade of pink. There were a few men in the fields accompanied by their four legged friends. Off to hunt dinner no doubt.
Thanks to Dean's recommendation we dined at 'Osteria di Fonterutoli' in Castellina in Chianti (si). A drive of about 10 to 15 minutes from our place. Small place with 10 tables.
We had a bottle of their wine: Castello di Fonteruto-Chianti €18 Very good!
Antipasto uno per due - salami, ham crostini of liver, one of tomato, one of mushroom on polenta. Primi - tagliatelle al porcini (1 for 2)
Secondi - Lombatina Vitella (both of us)
Contorni - patate arrosto
espressi e grappa (of course)
The dinner was tasty and the owners were delightful. We will return next year on our annual trip to that region. We recommend everyone who is traveling in the area try it. Bought a bottle of their grappa €26 The total with the bottle of grappa was €96.
Thank you Dean
Thursday October 16th
Breakfast on our terrace. What a lovely way to start our days in the country. Another beautiful day. The air definately has a chill to it. It is mid October after all.
Today we are off to Certaldo, Montaione, Castelfiorentino and San Vivaldo.
The town of Certaldo is a wonderful hill town with the Governor's Palace (12th century) open to the public €3 pp. The views from the rampart walls goes on forever. Parking was limited outside the wall, but we parked near by at a job site. You can not park in the vilage of Certaldo Alto.
We had a delightful lunch at: 'Il Castello Certaldo Alto'
Mista - a plate of ham, salami, crostini(tomato picante, patè w/ anchovies, artichokes €10
Wendy & Rob - sottolii-mixed vegetables preserved in olive oil (I would definately skip this next time) €4
@ Rob - Ribollita-Tuscan bread soup-basically a stew it was so thick, no beans in their version. €6
Wendy - Gnocchetti ai porcini €8
Rob - Grigliata mista-mixed grill of chicken, lamb & pork, the pork was the best of the meats. €11
mezza vino rosso di casa
The service was very good, the owner waited on us and he was very kind. The room was simple, but extrememly lovely. There is a hotel attached.
The town of Certaldo Alto should be a must. Not large, but lovely. The few stores were overpriced!
After lunch we drove to Montaione & Castelfiroentino, beautiful, but didn't stop. The different churches and monuments all seem to be closed.
On to San Vivaldo - Very special place, unfortunately both the monastery and the 16th century chapels were all locked up. Still a lovely place to get out of the car and walk around. The forest setting is so calming and lovely, the many little chapels are beautiful.
Back to our place with a stop at Bar d'Orso. We picked up 4 different pecorinos and a salami and prosciutto, some sundried tomatos and artichokes. Two bags of Antonio Mattei's Mattonella. Biscottificio for vin santo. Had espressos and grappa, and shared with the two woman working that afternoon the review by Dean. They got a real chuckle from Deans' review about the toilette door and the full pig they carve meat from. We have been going to Bar d'Orso for the past two years when in the area, now three years, and have always found it bustling with local traffic and charming. Not in the normal sense of the word 'charming', but you just have to love it there. It sits at a busy T in the road. Dean has writen about and given directions to it (on slowtrav) so I won't. But if you are in the neighborhood of Monteriggioni and the highway check it out.
Dinner tonight at Antico Ristorante Pestello. (Dean was right it is out in nowhere. Aprox 13 km from Poggibonsi, though we went via Castelina in Chianti to get there. We hate Poggibonsi, we are always getting lost there, and if we can avoid it, we do. Something about swallowing us up in their roundy-rounds and by-passes and interchanges.)
Anyway Antico Ristorante Pestello has a lovely interior, recently restored, the walls are rough hued. They were probably sand blasted to get that clean. Service was good, but a bit brusque. Bring your reading glasses for the menu.
Fettunta Toscana - crostini w/ garlic and olive oil €3.50
We shared Gnocchi Ghiotti - gnocchi w/ pecorino, basil, pinenuts, & walnuts, very yummy €6.50
Wendy - Tagliata Aceto balsa, beef filet, sliced, w/ rocket and balsamic €13
Rob - Braciola di Maiale con fagioli all'vecelletto - roasted pork cutlet w. beans in tomato sauce €11
litre vino rosso c
asa aqua frizzante
It was a lovely dinner, we ate in the front room. It appears there are two other rooms, there was an upstairs though I don't know what was there.
We did have to air our clothes out and wash our hair. This is the first time on this trip that happened. UGH! We didn't have any grappa after dinner because the drive was so long. And it was cold that night. 6 celsius
This had been a great day. Saw lots of the countryside, Certaldo was the highlight. Discovering ribollita was perfect, especially since it was not very warm today. In bed by 11:21 YIKES! We sure do seem to be going to bed early this year.
Friday October 17th
Our last full day in Tuscany. I realize so far most of my ramblings have centered around our meals. What does that say about us? Hmm I wonder ...
It is getting cold! Winter is here, forget fall. The plan is Lilliano & Volpaia, with lunch at the Botega/cafe there.
Well, plans change. Breakfast on the terrace - blood orange juce, fresh pineapple, prosciutto and salami, our own pecorino from Bar d'Orso two types Verdi & w/ peppercorns, banana yogurt and caps and cornettos.
Okay off we go South in search of hill towns and what looks like a lone castel or monestary way off, we can see it from our patio. The drive took us to:
- Frosini-a palazzo and a closed church
- Monsano- filled our water bottle from the faucet that was attached to the church in town. They are doing some renovation here
- Casole d'Elsa
- and back to Abbadio di Isola- Church closed!!!!
We saw some gorgeous countryside and Rob loved driving through the hills.
Well, so much for that. It is time for lunch ... 1pm. Okay time to go on the other side of Strove.
Checked out Lilliano, maybe lunch here ... nope, all closed up. I guess we are late in the season.
Okay how about Volpaia - a 20 minute or so drive away.
We got to Castellina in Chianti and decided what happens if Volpaia is closed. It was open on Tueday when we were there, but we were hungry and didn't want to take a chance. You would think we weren't getting enough food. Mind you we are not large people, we just love the food here. So we take every oportunity to eat.
We decided to eat at Osteria Il Tinello, we had eaten here two years ago and totally enjoyed our meal. The last time we ate on their lovely patio that looks out on the Chianti Valley, but not today. Today is a day for ribollita! The temp. today has only varied from 9C-11.5C. We were the first there, but shortly after we arrived others joined us, all locals.
The general manager, Vito Chiaviello, was the sole waiter, very nice.
Peligrino, litre of vino rosso, he poured it from a traditional Chianti bottle into a litre pitcher.
We started with antipasto Toscano - 2 slices of a large salami, 3 slices of prosciutto and 1 slice of a bolonga & pepper type salami, 2 crostini w/ patè.
Ribollita for both of us, much better than yesterdays. Todays had fagioli, black cabbage or kale, bread, carrots and didn't need salt. It was perfect. As a matter of fact everybody seemed to have ordered this. It was nice to know we ordered it before anyone else (do as the Italians do, and we did!)
Wendy - La Tagliata del Tinello - beef steak sliced thinkly served with mixed salad and slices of pecorino €14.
Rob - Lombatina di Vitella alla griglia €14.
Contorni of patate arrosto €3.50
espresso e grappa, Vito treated us to the grappa.
total bill €62.50
We highly recommend this Osteria if you are in the area.
After lunch we walked in Castelina in Chianti and froze. I checked the church out, and that was only available to me because three ladies and one young girl were cleaning the church.
We drove back through the back roads of Larnano - nothing really there though there was a botega we thought about for dinner. Great back roads and white roads. The roads here are terrific, freshly paved and maintained, the white roads (dirt) are all groomed nicely.
We made a stop at Bar d'Orso for a caffe and took more pictures. I even photographed the button you push to access the bathrooms. We made it back to Bigozzi just in time for sunset. We decided to stay in tonight and relax and enjoy the meats and pecorinos we bought yesterday and have a bottle of the Volpaia-Chianti Classico 2001. This is a very delicious, full bodied wine that left the glass with a beautiful rich aubergine color. Maybe that isn't a good thing, but we enjoyed the bottle.
I packed at a leisurely pace and gave Rob a chance to practice his surfing the TV waves here in Italy. He wasn't having withdrawls ... but ...
We will be sorry to leave Castel Bigozzi, it has really been our best stay yet (this is our third year in a row here). But tomorrow will be a big day.
I am really glad we stayed in, we had been going, going & going. Have had terrific meals both lunch and dinner and the next two plus weeks will be busy.
Saturday October 18th
Awake in the 7 o'clock hour. Too cold to eat on our terrace so to the dining room we go. This is the first time we've eaten in it. Rob didn't know quite where everything was because I always set everything up for us. Pretty funny.
We were on the road by 9:15. Our first stop will be Montalcino via SS2. We need to get some more of the wonderful wine bottle openers we picked up 2 years ago when we were there. We went up to the fort, it just started to rain, hard. We went in, thought we would have some wine, but felt overwhelmed by the choices, so we passed. Also it was only 10:20 am.
We went up to photograph the upper levels of the fort, €3 pp. There isn't much here, but again the views are terrific, especially when it isn't raining. This is a kids wonderland to play in if you were a kid. But the latter/stairs are steep so be careful.
From here we are off to Abadia ST. Antimo. What a place. There were Gregorian Chants playing when we arrived, I don't think it was actually the monks who live there, but rather a recording which you can purchase for €20. We did. The monks do do their chants and if you are lucky enough to be there at the right time ... you would be so lucky. After the chants played, the gentleman at the front started playing his oboe. Quite charming.
After leaving St. Antimo we drove through the countryside and Val d' Orcia, listening to our new CD. Our Opel had a CD player. (I know the question has come up on the board whether rental cars have tape or CD players, ours had a CD player as it did last year, but last year we were prepared for a tape deck, this year we burned some of our Italian CD's and tenors CD's and were prepared. The radio leaves a bit to be desired in Italy.)
After we left the abbey we went through Acquapendente (a beautiful town, rather large) onto S. Lorenzo Nuova where we picked up the S-74. This took us directly to our desired destination of Pitigliano. The roads were all great, freshly paved and lots of FUN. We arrived in Pitigliano around 1:15, drove through the outer area first, took photos then hunted for a parking space. This is going to be our lunch stop.
Okay, so we ate at one of the first places we came to. But, it turned out to be terrific. Trattoria La Porta, just outside the gate. Maritime motif.
Acqua Cotta-very tasty - bread on the bottom with kale or some sort of green leafy veggie, potatoes and a perfectly poached egg on top. Seasoned just right, We both had this. €5.68
Wendi - Tagliata al Radicchio. I like the different types of Tagliata. This one, they had sautèd the radicchio in olive oil until almost carmalized. Nice and sweet. This was over two nice pieces of steak. wonderful flavors and as I write this several weeks later I can still taste the flavors.
Rob - Bistecca al Rosso di Sovana, pork w/ a hint of sage. €9.81 Rob loved his as much as I loved mine.
Wine-Vino La Bosattina terre Eteree 2001 and aqua frizzante lunch totaled €45.
After lunch we walked around town, went into a couple of churches. The town was basically closed down for siesta time. And it is raining!
Okay, we were going to go to Sovano after Pitigliano, but had decided to save it for next year. Just not enough time in a day and we still need to get to Rome at a decent hour. So down the S-74 to Albinia then to S-1. This is absolutely gorgeous country and the roads were so much fun! I am repeating myself there, sorry. We went in and out of the rain which was only a bit of a nuisance, and there was virtually no traffic and we actually stayed on schedule.
We arrived into Rome and back to the Excelsior by 6:15pm. Perfect timing. Back to our room, 527 as usual. We really like this particular room because it is on the backside of the hotel where it is much quieter than being on the Veneto and it is one of the few rooms with a patio/loggia, which makes it nice to air ones cloths out at night and also get a fresh breath of air.
The only thing bad are those blood sucking insects that seem to find their way to my body! I used a plug-in cintronella insect repellant that I bought at a pharmacy here in Rome and took with us wherever we go, I even brought it home and will use it if need be in the future with an adaptor since it has eu. plugs, but that still didn't keep them away from me. Ouch! Scratch! Slap! Scratch! Curse and mutter not nice thoughts! Keep the doors closed at night.
Now we have our Rome portion of the trip. We will be going to Ostia Antica in the morning.