Photograph of shop keeper in Italy

Italy: A Love Story, Day Seven

April Williams Destination, Travel 0 Comments

Today comes with a warning of sorts, so here it is:  this posting contains a lot of photos.  As much as we were in love with Florence, we felt the same about Montepulciano.  It is everything you imagine and hope the depths of Tuscany to be.  Located in the southern part of Tuscany, it is one of the many walled, hillside cities scattered amongst the countryside.  We were really looking forward to our day wondering around the small city.  We were planning some serious wine tasting and a day full of food.  That’s what Tuscany is all about, right?

After a leisurely breakfast at Le Caggiole we made our way to the walled part of town.  As I mentioned the city is built on a hill so you literally walk up a hill until you are at the top of the city and then walk down.  Montepulciano is full of artists shops, wine shops and food shops.  There was so much to simply look at and take in.  Vince and I were amazed by the amount of churches within this small town, and all of them Catholic.  We probably encountered about 10 and each one totally different.  Here are a few things we encountered on our way up the hill…

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This was the absolute coolest shoe store I’d ever been in and as you can imagine the shoes were beautifully made and ridiculously expensive.  I saw a sign on my way out that I wasn’t supposed to take photos, oops.

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Here are a few of the artists we encountered, I especially loved the work by this particular pottery artist.  I wish I would have gotten something from her, but I will have to pick something up next time I’m there.

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A few more cool things…

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This is where someone lived…

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And this was their view!

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So, a little factoid about Italy that we had been told and definitely noticed, there are loads of cats wandering around everywhere.  It’s rather endearing and when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere, even here…

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A beautiful garden we found….

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And here’s the top of the town…

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This may look a little familiar as this square was made popular in the movie (and book) Under The Tuscan Sun, it is the location where the flag throwing festival is held and was shot.

We decided to have lunch here, sigh.

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After our usual lunch of pasta and wine (could there be a better lunch?), we made our way back down the hill and found a few more things along the way…

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We stumbled into this wine, cheese and salami shop only to discover that they were keeping an ancient Etruscan city underneath…

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As much as we wanted to hang around the town a bit more we had a wonderful cooking lesson planned with Giacomo and his wife, Cristiana, the owners of Le Caggiole that we had been looking forward to our whole trip.  We couldn’t wait!

At four o’ clock sharp we were in the kitchen ready for our lesson.  Vince and I both love to cook so we were really looking forward to learning all the secrets to Tuscan cooking.  First things first, good cooking always starts with a good glass of wine which Giacomo was very particular about.

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He informed us that all wine in Italy must contain sulfites (or sulfeetees, as Giacomo pronounced it, something that we were instantly endeared to) and something that he was not fond of.  Because of this he made his own wine that he didn’t sell but were from the grapes that were almost a thousand years old on his property.  Yes, I said one thousand years.  That is how old his farm is that has been passed down through his family.  Mind boggling.  Giacomo was very adamant about finding only the best ingredients for his food.  He felt that in order to have good food you must have simple, well made ingredients and the best way to do that was to make sure you personally knew all the farmers and producers of your food.  If asked he could tell you where his eggs, cheese, fruits and vegetables came from if they didn’t come from his own farm.  Because of that philosophy I knew we were going to be making some good food.  We started out making the pasta for our potato tortelli which we would be eating for dinner.

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Giacomo informed us that the parmesan cheese came from the region of Parma where his wife Cristiana was from and his in laws would bring down huge rounds of parmesan whenever they came.  He said that unless the cheese was stamped with parmigiano reggiano on the side all the way around it wasn’t the real deal and we shouldn’t settle for anything less.  I have to say that after our first little taste, we were sold and have not been fooled since.

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After we were finished with the tortelli our next lesson was in tiramisu.  Cristiana and Giacomo would want me to make sure that you knew that the tiramisu we made that day was not intended for dinner that night, tiramisu was meant to soak and marinate so they had made some the day before for dinner and the one we were making was for the next night.  Now who doesn’t want that right now?

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Of course, there was a bit of wine left after our lesson that we took out to enjoy on the patio before dinner…

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At dinner that night we had the privilege of sitting with another Italian young couple, Ana and Alberto.  We had a wonderful dinner, thanks to our lesson, and had wonderful conversation.  I have to say every bite was spectacular and I could understand why Giacomo was so adamant about his food.

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You could truly taste the difference and Vince and I have made a few changes since we’ve been home.  Thanks to Giacomo we have increased our food budget, bought a pasta machine and built a raised bed out back for growing some vegetables.  Italy has changed us.  The motto at Le Caggiole is, “Take your time, enjoy your life.”  Now that is something I can buy off on.

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