A Travellerspoint blog

September 11th - 15th

Work

sunny 37 °C

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Over the next five days or so I worked on clearing a trench down the side of the house which is about a metre wide and from 300mm deep to 1 metre deep and about 10 metres long. I also cut down several trees with the chainsaw and continued working on the retaining wall. I also spent a lot more time using the tractors. On Wednesday Barbara and I took Ugo to the train station in Chuisi as he was headed to Rome to begin his next tour and I needed to get to know the route as I was to take Barbara to the same station on Saturday morning. I had decided to relax over the past 2 or 3 weeks and just spend the afternoons reading as I had plenty of free time. However that was about to change!

Posted by classique 05:52 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

September 10th

Making Pici

sunny 31 °C

After working on the retaining wall for a few hours the Australian ladies arrived and I headed in to get changed. Fifteen minutes later I was at the dining room table watching and assisting in a Pici cooking lesson. Pici is a thick, hand rolled pasta, like a fat spaghetti which originates from the Tuscan region. Firstly we mixed the ingredients, flour, salt, eggs and water, together. Then, as the mixture got to hard to mix with a wooden spoon or whisk we lifted the dough out of the mixing bowl and put it down on a floury chopping board and continued to fold more flour into the dough. Once it was thick enough we rolled it out till it was about 4 or 5 millimeters thick, lathered it in oil and then left it for about 15 minutes. A good amount of time to pour another glass of wine and pick away at some spicy boar sausage, olive oil, bread and a selection of cheeses. After about 15 minutes we cut the dough into strips about 1 cm wide and began to roll them by hand into what looked like a thick spaghetti. As we rolled the pici we dipped it into polenta to stop the pici strips sticking to each other.
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Once all the strips had been rolled which took about half an hour between us, we boiled some water with salt in it, as salty water has a higher boiling point, and dumped all of the pici in. At the same time, Barbara made a nice sauce of garlic, onion and tomatoes, chopped up and roasted a whole rabbit, half a chicken and a tray of unbelievably delicious roasted potatoes. Just before the pici was completely cooked we pulled it off the fire, drained the water off and poured over a little bit of olive oil to add flavour and stop it sticking. The heat still in the pici continues to cook the pasta to perfection after the water has been drained. We placed some sauce on our plates, then some pici then some more sauce. This coupled with the roasted spuds, roast rabbit and chicken and an amazing glass of red wine really topped the day off nicely. After lunch I swapped photos with the ladies before they were whisked away to a local terracotta museum.

Posted by classique 03:54 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

September 9th

Montefolonico to Montepulciano

sunny 33 °C

Today we were blessed with fine weather and nice tempatures. I awoke to the chirping of birds, had a bite of breakfast and headed out with Ugo to pick up the ladies from Pienza. As we were in for a craker of a day we decided to do the 2 hour hike from Montefolonico to Montepulciano. We arrived into Pienza early so we sat for a cafe late and waited. There had been a fire outside of Pienza the night before so there was some great views to be had.
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After some time the ladies arrived and we headed off to Montefolonico. There didn't really seem to be much to see at Montefolonico so we parked up and hit the pavement. About 2 kilometres later we swapped the paved road for a dirt one and continued the walk past vinyards, farms and delequint houses.

We stoped along the way to pick and eat the black berries and grapes that were on offer along the road side. and occasionally away from the roadside.
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There were magnificent views along the 2 hour walk which my camera, once again, cannot do justice to!
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We walked into Montepulciano at about midday and climbed all the way to the markets. When we got there we left Ugo and headed around the markets looking at the variety of different stalls. We stopped off at a fish van which was selling whole deep fried white bait, prawns and crab meat. The crab meat was by far the best! The white bait needed a bit of salt and maybe, just maybe, to be de scaled. The vendors were beginning to disband so we headed back to Ugo. We caught the local bus to almost the top of Montepulciano and headed into the Gettavicci cellars. After having a wander around including a look at an old etruscan tomb we headed back upstairs and out into the sunshine once again to enjoy a wine tasting. As some of us had forgotten it was a wine tasting and had not yet had lunch we filled out glasses pretty full before being reminded that there was another 6 or so to come. We had a cheese and meat plater with the tasting which really went down well.
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Halfway through the tasting, just as i was beginnig to feel a little light headed, Ugo asked if I could help with driving the cars to and from Montefolonico back to Montepulciano. I shelved the rest of my wine, downed the ham, bread with olive oil and cheeses followed by a chaser of water before heading out. Once we had swapped the vehicles we headed back to Montepulciano and waited for the ladies as the walked back down from the top checking out all the shoes and handbags along the way.
We then headed off to a manor which had been used to hide Jews during WWII and also checked out the family graveyard.
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Posted by classique 12:36 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

September 8th

Italian Country Side

rain 23 °C

Over these few days, Barbara arrived home from Australia and Ugo ran a tour for a couple of Australian women. On the Tuesday following the beginning of the tour they arrived in Pienza. So on Wednesday Ugo invited me to accompany them for the day. The night before we had discussed the plan which was to walk from Montefolonico to Montepulchiano, however on the mornig it began to rain. I headed out with Ugo anyway to pick up the ladys. After a quick discussion it was decided that we should push the walking tour to the Thursday and head out accross the Italian countryside to sse the different sights. After picking up the lady's from Pienza we headed to Trasimeno lake for a look around and a nice cafe latte. We then headed to Cortona and the Santa Margherita cathedral which is situated at the top of the hill that Cortona is built on. The parking lot of the Santa Margherita has amazing views and the inside, although not as big and impressive, reminded me a lot of the duomo in Sienna. The columns within the church are... well here is a picture.
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You can see in the picture what looks like a windowed casket. Santa Margherita's body is in this windowed casket on the altar which is pretty trippy. Ugo left the lady's and I to walk down to the Cortona shopping area whilst he drove down and parked the car. As we walked down the hill we passed a small mural every 20 metres or so which when walking up to the church depicted the crusifixion and resurection of Christ. We arrived into the centre of the town within 20 minutes and met up with Ugo who then took us to a resturaunt for a delightful lunch. Whilst we were dining a big shower of rain past through and thinned all the crowds out pushing us from the pathway and into a nice spot inside of the restaraunt. .
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Posted by classique 08:25 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

August 20th - September 7th

Life in Tuscany

sunny 35 °C

An American couple, Devon and Halbi, were staying with Ugo when I arrived and stayed for the following week. I pottered around doing a variety of different tasks with Ugo, from trimming the suckers off olive trees, thining the leaves around the grape clusters on the vines, to chopping down trees, clearing a trench and building a retaining wall. Generally Devon, Halbi and I would start at between 7 and 8am and work for 4 hours so we could take the afternoon, when the temperatures hit 35 celcius, off.
In the olive grove if olive trees are left to themselves they go completely wild. Shoots begin to grow from the base of the tree, from the inside of the branches and directly upwards from the foliage branches. These are called suckers and don't give any fruit. Several weeks before harvest we go around and trim these off so more energy is directed to the olives. The tree when it is trimmed right should look like a cup, i.e. the inside should be completely hollowed out so the sun can access both sides of the branches.
In the vinyard, several weeks before harvest, we go around and thin out the leaves on the vines especially around the grape clusters. This directs more energy and sunlight/heat to the grape clusters giving more flavor to the grapes.
One of the afternoons the neighbours donkey escaped and wandered up to our place. We found him taking a break from the sun under the house. We offered him apples and other treats before leading back to his home.
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On one of the days, as a treat, Ugo took Devon, Halbi and I out to a natural outdoor sulfer spring for a dip. There was a was a series of pools as water ran further down the hill. The higher pools were cool and there was one pool lower down the hill which was extremely hot. We started in the cooler pool, then afetr about half an hour we move down to the hot spot where we spent about fifteen minutes laying down before a quick cool off in the cooler pool again. On the way down the hill we passed a great white rock which had changed colour due to the sulfuric water coursing over it. As you can see by the pictures it was pretty sheltered by the trees. On the second Monday following my arrival Devon and Halbi moved on and Ugo and I began to focus more on the retaining wall.
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We headed out regularly to the local markets, one of which is in a beautiful town called Montepulchiano. I found a wonderful vendor who sold freshly marinated olives, wild boar sausage, and a variety of cheese including buffalo mozzeralla. Most of the markets sell a variety of different goods from fresh vegetables and meat, to clothing and olive harvesters. On a normal market day we spend more time looking for a parking space then we do walking around the market.

Posted by classique 12:04 Archived in Italy Comments (0)

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