The last few days have been spent around Grassina (home) and Florence, hence no updates. There will likely be some separate general sections on life in Florence at some point.
The next few days will each have their own entry, with lots happening. We took a trip away from our “home” to Montalcino and Montepulciano, hilltops towns famous for the competing wines of Brunello di Montalcino and Nobile di Montepulciano. Both wines are made from the sangiovese grape with different rules for each. This was our opportunity to taste and compare.
Grassina – Montalcino – Montepulciano (Tuesday 22 August)
We started the day early, deciding to stop along the way for breakfast. Once past Siena, we left the main road and headed for Buonconvento, an unusual Tuscan fortress town as it sits on a plain rather than a hilltop. Le Dolcezze di Nanni pasticceria provided us with our macchiato and brioche and after a brief stroll through the centro storico, we were on our way. Next stop Montalcino….
We were fortunate to find a parking spot in a free lot outside the walls and a short walk to the Fortezza. Having both read a couple of books set in Montalcino – by Isabella Dusi, an Australian woman that made Montalcino home – we were excited to go and see the place we had read so much about. Worried we may be disappointed, it turned out even better than expected. Whilst the entry street is full of touristy wine tasting shops, the rest of the town was relatively quiet and subdued (probably helped by the fact that we were pretty early in the morning). We visited the places we had read about and others that we hadn’t, enjoyed another macchiato standing at one of the bars near the square, savoured the beauty of the place and said our goodbyes.
Out tasting of the Brunello di Montalcino was not going to be taking place at one of the tourist shops, but at Cordella Winery, south-east of Montalcino towards the little village of Torrenieri. The farmhouse stands on a hill among green vineyards and surrounded by the Tuscan hills, with the ground floor being the headquarters of the estate while at the first floor is accommodation. http://www.cordellavini.it/cordella2/
We nearly didn’t get there! Our GPS could not find the road (we discovered later it was an unnamed road according to her system). But having a general sense of where it was and with a bit of trial and error, we managed to get there. Aldo – chef, owner and our host – let us in the gate and we drove up the driveway with a huge sigh of relief!
Little did we know at that stage what awaited us and how grateful we would be that we’d found it. Having thought we’d booked a nice lunch at a winery with some tasting, we had not idea we would be in our own private room, with vistas of Montalcino, personal service and so much food and great wine! By the end of our 3 hours lunch and tour of the cellar, we were leaving like long-time friends.
The drive to Montepulciano, via Pienza, known for its Pecorino cheese, was uneventful. Even so, we didn’t want to chance it and chose to park in a paid parking lot outside the walls, rather than venture into the centre following the directions the B&B had given us. And Walter was definitely convinced this had been the right decision when later that evening, the manager helped him through the windy streets to offload our bag and park nearby.
The entry to our B&B was just off one of the main streets, and our windows overlooked all the people passing by. They also overlooked the men (and a few women) running past between 2130 and 2330 that night (and the next) pushing a barrel up the steep street. In our wisdom, we had decided to time our trip to coincide with the annual Bravio festival. On Sunday night coming, there will be a race between the town contradas (segments) where their chosen representatives will push an 80kg wine barrel along the streets and up the hills to Piazza Grande, the main square. It is extremely competitive and all the people that live in each contrada gets behind their team.
We were just enjoying (or being subjected to) the practice sessions. http://www.braviodellebotti.com/#home