Food and Travel: Under the Tuscan sun and rain
Apr 16, 2014 | 1240 views | 0 0 comments | 122 122 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Courtesy of Micheal McCollum
Courtesy of Micheal McCollum
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Our first stop after leaving San Gimignano was the medieval town of Montepulciano to the south. The walled fortress-like town featured shops and restaurants open in the daytime, but they rolled up the sidewalk at night. Just kidding; there is no sidewalk.

As this is a medieval town, there are only small cobblestone streets. As a note of interest, there are public wash rooms, with no public toilet paper. Bring your own; you will thank me later.

We walked the length of the town, downhill thank goodness, and returned to our hotel by shuttle bus filled with locals coming back from shopping in the lower part of town. A tourist, busy photographing some quaint artifact, was too close to the street, and the bus mirror missed him by inches. This delighted the passengers to no end. Everyone had a good laugh on that one.

Adjacent to one of the town squares (Piazza Grande) is the winery Contucci (contucci.it). They feature free tours of the barrel rooms and tasting of their local wines. Most wineries I have been to in California charge a fee to taste, and give you a thimbleful of each wine, and you may or may not buy one bottle. The world famous Adamo (head wine man on the property featured in magazines and on PBS, as well as a Rick Steves program on the area) has a different take on this.

He gives you half a glass, and if you are not drinking it fast enough, he encourages you to drink faster, as there are many more bottles to taste. As a result, you leave smiling a lot, and with four or five bottles in hand. As the tasting room was next to the hotel Meuble il Riccio (ilriccio.net) and there was no driving involved, we totally enjoyed what we remembered of our experience. And the wine was great!

The next day we drove through the countryside, enjoying the view, when we happened on the town of Pienza. In Rick Steves’ guide, it was described as a tourist-orientated (trap) medieval village. Parking again was sketchy at best, and while looking for a spot, we passed right through the place with the non-help of a navigational device manufactured by Satan, installed by the rental agency. (My wife, Carrie, has many pet names for the GPS, none of which can be printed in a family paper.) This modern inconvenience can make you cry.

I kept driving for about a half-mile when we came across a scene that begged to be photographed.

It was a small Tuscan home, with the skinny Tuscan trees in front, with a small Tuscan unpaved road leading up to the house. This was as pretty as a postcard! After photographing from a few different angles, we drove back to Pienza, found a parking spot and started to explore the town.

At one shop, I noticed a rack with postcards from the area. There, on two cards, was MY little Tuscan home. Not enough to be as pretty as a postcard, it was as pretty as TWO postcards! (I will add that there was a little Photoshop help on those cards, and as art, that made the scene extra attractive. Take note that the power line is still in my photo.)

Night of terror!

On our last night in Montepulciano, the wind and rain really picked up. In fact, it picked up part of the hotel and slammed it on our wall throughout the night. In the wee hours of the morning, when I heard the final crescendo with a sonic boom-like crash, I knew that finally the wind had won!

The next morning I looked out our window to see a 20-foot section of substantial rain gutter lay dead in the garden. Good! I had a nap that afternoon to make up for quality time spent awake.

Carrie slept through the apocalypse, but I think she could sleep in an active battlefield. All the years of conditioning by my snoring had paid off. She should thank me later. All in all, a great time in Montepulciano and this part of Tuscany, and being under the Tuscan sun and rain

Michael McCollum, gratis food and travel columnist for the Irrigator, is a writer and photographer living in Patterson. He can be reached at splatnews@yahoo.com, or on the web at http://recipesfortravel.com.
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