Breakfast upstairs at the 4th level of the Hotel Italia has a stunning view over Lago Tresimeno and the valley looking south. The breakfast is ok too, cappuchino, warm tasty croissants, fresh fruit, cereal, tea, a cosy room that you could sit in all day. But we can’t, the Navigator insists we must move on.
The little Renault fires first start, and with only a few minor driver errors we’re heading to Pienza for the morning. The country, the creamy clay looking soil, has been ploughed up ready for winter crop planting, grapes are being picked, the recent rain has greened up the country and the pencil pines follow roads up to villas sitting on Tuscan hills. Bit hard to take really!
Pienza is our first stop, what a beautiful village, smaller than Cortona, not a big hill, it would be a nice spot to stay but closest train stop is Chiusi so you then would have to catch a bus or hire a car to get there. The markets are on, food, groceries, clothes , and wait for it, hand f….g bags, the Navigator appears nonchalant but underneath I know she finds pleasure in just looking at handbags and shoes. There is a walk around the town wall which overlooks the surrounding Tuscan countryside, just like the postcards and paintings show, but it’s real and right in front of you.
We find the little Renault and head for Montepulciano, a larger hill town not far away. The grapes are being picked in the vineyards, tractors with bins full of juicy purple ( I think) grapes heading for crushing slow traffic down a bit. A white Merc sits so close behind me I can see the whites of his eyes, I’m doing 15 k over the limit, and he’d be doing 40 to 50 k’s over when he overtakes me. Obviously the speed limit is arbitrary, a flexible think like a lot of things are on the Italian roads.
Montepulciano is busy busy busy, the car parks are full. I have to do a three point u turn at the gates to get back out of a situation I shouldn’t have been in. Eventually I get a park in carport 7, the Navigator wanted to get closer so things are tense for a short time while I recover from the stress of driving in Italy and she gets over having to walk a bit further than she planned.
Montepulciano is not a highlight but ok, some others think a little less of the place. But, it needs more time than we give it I think.
It’s lovely drive through the backroads to Cortona, we need a break before our cooking class tonight.
We are doing a Tuscan Pld Recipe cooking course then eating it with Fattoria Bistecca It’s run by Lapo and Ilaria who teach cooking and cheese production and other things. Ilaria is a force. We cook a meat ball and stuffed tomato thingy entree, a pork and panchetta main with roast veggies and doughnut biscuits and dessert wine. Delicious.
We cruise back to Cortona in 2 black Mercedes vans, like a CIA operation, alight in the Piazza for a photo shot on the Cortona town hall steps. It’s been a great night.
Tomorrow there are some heading to Sardinia, some to Croatia and we’re staying one more day then heading to Switzerland, France and the UK.
Ciao for today – Pauolo