Tuesday November 21, 2017
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Tuesday November 21, 2017
Posted: Aug 10, 2015

Italy diary: The final entries

Travel Talk

Days 9, 10, 11 

OK, now we’re settling in here. We’re on our second round of visits to our favorite restaurants. We’re eating dinner as late as 9 p.m., just like real Italians. We’re taking our morning walks earlier, because temperatures are reaching into the middle and upper 90s. Our shaded deck, and the nearby pool, have become our sanctuary.

For the record, on Day 9 we ate all our meals on the deck outside our apartment. On Day 10 we returned to our favorite restaurant, La Bottega in Volpaia, for another fabulous feast. On Day 11, we took our friends Rocko and Robyn Graziano of Readfield, Maine, to La Cantinetta di Rignana.

Did I tell you that Rocko and Robyn arrived here a few days ago? Linda and I helped them plan their trip, and we are delighted that they are having such a great time. They remind us of ourselves on our first two trips to Tuscany. They want to see it all!

One day, they drove for three hours to see Castellini, St. Gimignano and Volterra, and then returned to dine in a nearby town. When they asked what we’d done, well, that was the day we stayed right here.

One day they drove to Sicily for market day there. However, the next day, they joined us for a three-hour lunch at La Cantinetta di Rignana. Yes, we got them to slow down.

But this morning, as we prepared to move on for a three-day visit to Arezzo, they were off on a major all-day trip to three cities in southern Tuscany. And I have to tell you, with the temperature exceeding 100 degrees, they are a whole lot more ambitious than we are.

After our first two trips to Tuscany, we’d seen most of the walled hill towns on our list, the magnificent churches, the touristy cities, the markets and more, and we began to relax. Italy is all about relaxing now, for us. And we love to explore the small gravel roads all over the province of Chianti. I don’t think we’ll ever get to all of them.

Day 12 – Arezzo

It’s always a sad day when we leave Il Santo, but we enjoyed a long visit with Allesandro this morning and talked about everything from his plans for the apartments to his family, as well as our plans to return.

We like to visit at least one other part of Tuscany on these trips to Italy and had tried, at the last minute, to book a trip to Cinque Terra, recommended by several friends, but we couldn’t even find a hotel room at that late date. So we decided to return to B&B Poggio del Drago, about 15 minutes outside of Arezzo in eastern Tuscany.

We stayed here two years ago and loved it. And we also loved the less-touristy, less-visited eastern part of Tuscany. On that trip, our host at the B&B, Emmanuel Conti, recommended a small family restaurant in Arezzo, and we ate there twice. We also drove up into the high mountains and forests to visit the sacred monastery at La Verna. And we visited the amazing walled city of Anghiari.

This time, we took the slower roads from Greve to Arezzo instead of the busy A1 and arrived at 12:30 p.m., pleased to find that our room was ready. We drove up the road a couple of miles for a good lunch at a small restaurant, Roxy Bar, in Ponticino. This was the hottest day so far and the cool pool was wonderful.

In the evening, we returned to that favorite restaurant in Arezzo, Antic Osteria l’Agamia, for dinner. This is what you might call a “Hole in the Wall,” although there is another dining room upstairs. But we love the downstairs crowded room where we get a good look at all the dishes coming out of the kitchen. The staff is friendly, even though they are very busy.

travel talk eat

We enjoyed a bottle of their house chianti (just 5 euro). They actually store it in big bottles next door, and pour it into bottles without labels for their restaurant guests. With the house wine, rather than wine glasses, you get a tiny glass for wine and a bit larger glass for water. “I like wine,” exclaimed Linda. “There’s no way I am going to use the smaller glass for wine!” And she didn’t, nor did I.

I had Pappardelle with wild boar sauce (OK, my sixth time for this dish). Linda is having difficulty understanding how I could fly all the way to Italy to have the same pasta dish every day, plus a large cup of Gelato. If you ever get a chance to try pasta with wild boar sauce and Italian gelato, you may want to join my exclusive club.

travel talk final1

Linda enjoyed Pappardelle with mushrooms. We also shared a salad. When I asked our server for the bill, he simply said, “25.” And I was happy to give him the 25 euros. We had a nice exchange with the lady who owns the restaurant with her husband, as we exited, because she speaks a bit of English. We just let her know that we love her restaurant and have now eaten there three times. And we will certainly be back.

Days 13-14 

It’s Saturday and the temperature for the next 3 days will top 100 degrees, so we decided to head to the mountain forests.

Every morning at B&B Poggio del Drago begins with a gorgeous table of breakfast food, shared by all the guests. We love communal meals like this because we get to know other guests. Here this weekend are tourists from England, the Netherlands, and Germany. Most speak English, but our host, Emanuele Cioni, does not. So one of the guests interprets our remarks and questions for Manuel.

After a one-hour drive, we arrived at Camaldoli, a monastery with a stunningly beautiful church – probably the most beautiful church we’ve ever visited – in the midst of a huge national forest, where the shade and a nice breeze was cool and refreshing.

travel talk final 2

We hiked for more than an hour, then returned to the monastery and village where four restaurants offer outside shaded seating. We lingered, enjoyed lunch, then visited the church a second time before heading back to our B&B for pool time.

About 8 p.m. we headed in to Arezzo. We didn’t realize it but Saturday night is a big event there. Some major roads were closed to traffic to allow diners from adjacent restaurants to eat in the streets, enjoying live music. The restaurant we had chosen was packed, so we tried our second choice, a pizza place, and they had no table for us either. You could hardly walk down the streets, they were so crowded with people.

So we returned to our favorite restaurant, Osteria l’Agania, where the lady owner recognized and welcomed us. We were amazingly lucky to get a table there. We enjoyed another wonderful dinner, sharing each course, and again spent only 25 euro. We were dining at 10 p.m. when it occurred to us that we are now fully on Italian time.

After breakfast on Sunday, we drove to a magnificent monastery at Chiusi La Verna, again high in the mountains and surrounded by the national forest. We’d visited here two years ago and loved it. The monastery is very large and includes a beautiful church and many private areas for worship and reflection. We brought a picnic which we enjoyed at a cool spot in the forest, then sat for about an hour reading.

Before we left the monastery, I decided to do something special. My mom was our church organist and choir director and a very religious person. She was born and raised in Lubec, Maine, and I carry a rock from West Quoddy Head Light, where my great-grandfather was the keeper for 34 years, to remember mom and that beautiful place.

Knowing mom would have loved the monastery and church here, I placed my Lubec rock inside an opening in the ancient rock wall – so a small piece of mom will be there forever.

That night we tried a restaurant recommended by Manual about 20 minutes from the B&B, Osteria Dei Vignaioli. As Linda examined her menu, she opened it to me and said, “Someone had a bad spill.” She was looking at a photo of wine being poured down the page into a wine glass!

The eggplant casserole with mozzarella cheese and fresh truffles was amazing, and the primi of Gnocchi sprinkled with parmesan cheese and baked in an oven with taleggio cheese and truffle cream was, we both agreed, the best gnocchi dish we’ve ever had. “It’s macaroni and cheese for foodies,” declared Linda. No wonder I loved it!

Home

Our favorite Italian bird, the Hoopoe, flew by us as we exited the driveway of our B&B, perhaps wishing us a safe trip home.

travel talk Hoopoe

We arrived at the Florence airport with nary a scratch on the car, a significant victory for me.

The 23-hour trip home was exhausting, although the wine and wonderful food on Swiss Air was helpful. And we spent some of the trip home talking about our next trip to Tuscany!

 

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