More love of the Val d’Orcia, Italy – this special region of Toscana that is definitely a favorite.
Yesterday I drove to Sant’ Antimo, a church and abbey that dates back to the late 1100’s. It began to decay in the 15th century, but restoration began in the 1870’s. It’s a stunning place, simply decorated, yet in a picturesque valley just 10km south of Montalcino. Admission is free. When I entered there was a man playing the clarinet (I think it was the clarinet – I have to admit I didn’t look too closely as I was too in awe of the church). The music was beautiful. As I walked around the church, taking it all in – the music, the morning light streaming through the windows, the spirituality of the church – I wondered what it might have been like in the 1200’s. Different, yet the same. I left feeling very tranquil and filled with peace.
But it was on to Montalcino, one of the fortessed hill towns surrounded by vineyards growing Sangiovese grapes for the world renowned Brunello. Montalcino is more than wine though. It is a small town that, when you get off the main pedestrian lanes, is quite authentic. It’s a place to wander about and see the Italians living every day life. And yes, it is a great place to try some very, very good wine. There are numerous wine shops where you can try different wines from different vineyards. Brunello is an exceptional wine, aged for a total of 5 years – 3 in the barrel. Made from 100% Sangiovese it’s a complex, earthy wine. I always feel like I’m tasting the dirt that the grapevines grew in when I drink this wine. It’s what I love about it!
Having been to Montalcino before, in 2008, I wanted to revisit some places I had been. So, I found the shop where I tried numerous wines with my Irish friends back in 2008. It was still there. This time, I restrained myself and bought just one bottle from a small producer, instead of the 6 I bought 6 years earlier. And, maybe more importantly, I found one of the restaurants we ate at. Taverna del Grappolo Blu sits off the main pedestrian street. Cozy and warm, with a book of wine (seriously, the wine list is a f—— book!), the food was as good as I remembered. Luciano, who flirted with me and I with him (hey, I’m in Italy!), brought me a wonderful plate of crostini for the starter then a fabulous pasta with mushrooms and truffle oil. Yum! A half bottle of Col d’Orcia 2009 Brunello accompanied the meal. And, I had New York to my left and California to my right for conversation. It was fun catching up with some Americans as I haven’t been around too many where I am currently staying. The food, the atmosphere, the wine, the company and Luciano made it a special, long lunch – the first one for me on this Italian adventure. Luciano was trying to get me to come back to dinner! Who is he kidding. I’m having a glass of wine for dinner sans food! I’m still stuffed!! Oh, and I think Luciano gave me a discount. My bill should have been more. More Italian love!! We do love Italy!!!