Tuscany, Italy

Monday, October 16
Another travel day today, we are being driven to Tuscany wine lands, about 1.5 hour drive. We are just gonna take it easy. We had dinner in the regular restaurant here at the resort. Alan and Edie ordered from the 1st Mains menu; veal for Alan and ravioli for Edie. I ordered a Greek salad from Starters and the steak from the 2nd Mains menu. Alan and Edie’s dishes were small servings and came along with my salad. The Greek salad was composed of halved cherry tomatoes, English cucumber and a very tasty feta cheese. Alan and Edie finished their small dishes before my steak was served. When I saw the size of my steak I told the waiter we wanted plates and silver for Alan and Edie too. That bone-in steak was easily two inches thick and at least ten to twelve inches across at the widest part! They sliced it up and served us – and none of us could quite finish it. Holy cow!

Tuesday, October 17
Today we are doing a personalized cooking class in San Gimignano. We were picked up at resort by Daniel who told us the history of the Chianti region. DOCG is the designation of the best Chianti Classico. Even Alan participated in the cooking class. First we made a simple tiramisu and that was put into the frig until later. Next we made three bruschetta toppings; zucchini and yellow peppers, which were cooked, classic tomatoes and basil, and my favorite, cannellini beans with red onion. Lastly we made two pastas; pici which was used to make pici a peppe, and a ricotta gnocchi which was cooked with a rustic tomato sauce. Downstairs on the lawn we tried four different wines; two whites and two reds. Eventually our noodle dishes were brought down and we enjoyed them. Then the tiramisu – which was great.

Dinner tonight is at the resort’s Michelin Star restaurant. We opted for letting the chef decide our courses. We started with an amuse bouche of three bites, then prawn on lime infused with ozo. Next up was a sweet ball surrounded with a delicate crust of Parmesan, bone marrow and steak tartar, pita with a mixed cheese butter, and then noodles with orange zest and Campari powder. Each dish was just a bite, maybe three at most, so we weren’t getting full – yet. After the noodles came ravioli, Chinese rice noodles fermented mung beans, beef tongue with three sauces, and chicken liver pate with rustic bread.
Finally came dessert; the first was a light honeycomb biscuit with camomile and rosemary infused sorbet, the second was tzatziki cucumber and cucumber sorbet, a perfect finish to a perfect meal.

Wednesday, October 18
Today is a personalized tour of Siena and Mara was our guide. Edie could not join us on this tour because the town’s roads, the constant steep ups and downs just wouldn’t allow it. We met at, and visited, the Basilica Cateriniana di San Domenico, then walked to Opera Della Metropolitana.

Also known as the Sienna Cathedral, it is a medieval church dedicated from its earliest days as a Roman Catholic Marian church, and is now dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. We toured inside and I was gobsmacked by the wondrous architecture and art. The cathedral was started in 1196 and finished in 1348. It sits next to the city bishop’s residence and the old historic hospital which is now a museum. We also got to tour the crypt (basement) below the museum with ancient frescos still evident on the walls.

We learned that there are 17 separate Contrades (neighborhoods) in the town, each one named after an animal; little owl, goose, scallop, dragon, giraffe, unicorn, panther, she-wolf, tortoise, elephant, ram, caterpillar, dolphin, eagle, snail, porcupine, and rhino – which was our guide’s home neighborhood.

After the cathedral we walked to see the town square. Horse races are held here twice a year, on July 2nd, celebrating the visitation of Mary, and on August 16th, celebrating the assumption of Mary. The square is covered in dirt, sand and sod for the purpose of the races. One horse per Contrade is selected at random, and entered into the race. People from each Contrade volunteer to care for and prepare their horses for the race. The winners of the race get bragging rights until the following April. Riders ride bareback. This year the winner was just the horse because his rider fell off. The horse can still win, with, or without, its rider.

Back at the resort we heard about how Alesandro (resort’s handyman) was SO helpful with Edie. She flirted with him and he flirted back – all innocent fun.

Thursday, October 19
Today is a personalized tour of the Chianti region. Antonio is our driver/guide today. We learned that the
Etruscans were the first to settle the land here. The word Tuscany comes from the name Etruscans.

Castellina was the first little village that we visited.

Why are you going to Chianti if not to have wine? We visited the Poggio Amorelli Winery where our host Nicolo gave us a tour. We had lots and lots of wine on nearly empty stomachs. Bread, meats, pasta, cheeses – all with its own wine to try with it started coming in after our first few glasses. The meal was topped off with tiramisu and cheesecake. We had a blast.

We next visited the town of Greve and then Radda which was our last village. We walked around and bought some souvenirs, before making a stop at a cafe for some Coke Zero’s.

Then Antonio took us on a little surprise sidetrack. A nice sightseeing tour on the country (dirt) roads. We next stopped at Vertine and Alan and I walked from one end to the other and back. We learned taht frontoio is a famous olive oil presser/producer in the region.

When we returned, Edie went to her room to rest while Alan and I walked the resort’s grounds and played a little pool.