Archive for the Uncategorized Category
A couple of weeks ago we ate at one of my favourite trattorie, L’Osteria in Siena. l’Osteria is located a short walk north of the Campo, Siena’s main piazza. If you follow signs to the church of San Francesco you are heading in the right direction.
L’Osteria has outside tables in the summer but it was late January and this wasn’t an option on our visit. Inside the decor is unpretentious and the menu offers some really rustic local dishes such as tripe and a stew made with tongue. For those not wishing to get too adventurous there are plenty of other things to choose.
We started with a plate of mixed antipasti shared between three people. This was a delicious selection of appertisers, cold meats, cheeses and crostini.
I followed this with a plate of trofie pasta with a sauce made from pumpkin and leek, if this is on the menu when you go I recommend trying it! My daughter had tagliatelle with ragù in bianco (meat sauce with no tomatoes added).
For secondi I had tagliata with meat from the cinta senese pig accompanied by a plate of spinach, it was excellent. The others ordered desserts which they assured me were delicious.
The bill was around €80 for three people and included antipasti, two pasta dishes, two meat dishes, two desserts and a half litre of house wine.
Afterwards we headed out for a quick stroll around Siena.
Pitigliano, A Hill Town In Tuscany
Pitigliano is a small town in southern Tuscany perched on an outcrop of volcanic rock known as tufa. We visited Pitigliano as part of a Day Out In Southern Tuscany in autumn 2015. It doesn’t take long to look around but you can extend your visit if you stop for lunch in one of the town’s many restaurants, we had an excellent meal at Hosteria dei Ceccottino.
In a country filled with beautiful small hill towns, Pitigliano is one of the finest; the town had a large Jewish community until World War II and the town still has a synagogue. The synagogue can be visited and, although it was rebuilt in the 20th century after subsidence, many original rooms still remain below. Given the town’s hill top position, there are excellent views from many points around the town. The thickly wooded hills and valleys below were inhabited by the Etruscans, who left their mark by building strange sunken roads and tombs directly into the rock. Our next and final point of interest on our day out was a visit to an Etruscan Necropolis, or “city of the dead”
Saturnia Hot Springs, Pitigliano, Etruscan Necropolis & Sunken Roads
Last autumn we went on a day trip to southern Tuscany, we packed a lot in to our day out, visiting the small town of Pitigliano, the Hot Springs At Saturnia and an Etruscan Necropolis in the Sovana Parco Archeologico. You can read more about our trip in individual blog posts by clicking on the links.
The map shows the location of the places we visited, it takes over two hours from our base on the Tuscany Umbria border but if you are staying at one of our villas near Lake Trasimeno the journey will be much shorter.
When you visit Florence as we did this week, you cannot avoid seeing the Duomo and you will almost certainly walk past it, even if it is not on your list of things to do. Cathedrals took hundreds of years to build and when the Duomo in Florence was started no one knew how they were going to build the giant dome that was planned. The solution to building the dome was found by Filippo Brunelleschi, Renaissance man and Florentine. After losing out to Ghiberti in a competition to make the Baptistry doors, he spent a few years in Rome studying how the Romans had done things. Still, no-one knew his idea would work until the dome was built, the dome is not hemispherical in shape and there is actually an inner and outer dome that were connected together with wooden supporting beams. The domes supported themselves as they went up and Brunelleschi designed many of the winches to take materials to the top – machinery that Leonardo da Vinci would have seen and no doubt studied as he grew up. If you climb to the top of the dome you actually walk between the inner and outer domes, look for the herring bone brick patterns that give the dome extra strength.
It was an overcast cold winter’s day, not the best conditions for taking outdoor photos, so I decided to concentrate on capturing a few details around the Duomo, the Bapistry and Giotto’s Bell Tower.
A couple of weeks ago we went to an excellent local trattoria called Nonna Gelsa to celebrate Emma’s birthday. Nonna Gelsa is in the village of Niccone and is run by Chiara and her family. The trattoria specialises in high quality local dishes and has a small but very good wine list chosen by Chiara (house wine is also available by the litre).
A night out at Trattoria Nonna Gelsa
We shared a couple of large mixed antipasti followed by another course, most of us skipped the pasta and went straight to the secondi, or meat based dishes. We accompanied the meal with a couple of very pleasant bottles of wine from the Umbrian vineyard Conte Faina, I’d never come across this vineyard before but I’d definitely drink these wines again. To finish we ordered a selection of desserts from the wide choice on offer.
It was late November when we went and we sat inside near a warm stove, however, if you like to sit outside in the summer Nonna Gelsa has a large garden at the back of the building. Our meal for six cost around €150.
Nonna Gelsa contact details:
On Easter Sunday in April 2012 we went to the small Tuscan village of San Casciano dei Bagni. We had heard that there were free hot baths below the village that dated back to Roman times and were keen to give it a try. The baths are just over an hour’s drive from our end of the Niccone Valley but we combined our visit with dropping a friend off at Chiusi station. Upon arrival we drove past the main car park in the centre of the village, after stopping near the official thermal baths further down the main road we soon figured out that we needed to go back to the village centre. If you can find a space in the car park without blue lines around it you don’t have to buy a ticket. To get to the free baths we crossed the main road next to the car park and walked directly downhill along a minor road. It’s about five minutes’ walk downhill, as well as towels and swimming costumes, remember to take something to drink as it’s above body temperature in the baths and you soon get thirsty. At the bottom of the hill you pass a few tables and benches, barbecues and a play area, ideal for a post bath picnic. Follow the track around to the left and you come across the baths, the furthest bath is where the water comes in and is hotter. I hear that the village itself is worth a look, but the threat of a heavy downpour at the end of our visit meant that we scuttled back the car and headed for home!
In June we went to the city of Perugia to see a photography exhibition by Steve McCurry who spent some time in Umbria photographing people and places for the exhibition. The photographs are displayed in two of Perugia’s buildings, the Palazzo Penna and an old monastery, L’Ex-Fatebenefratelli. Both buildings are off the beaten track so, unless you already live in the city, you will probably discover some parts of Perugia that you have never seen before.
The photographs are displayed in backlit boxes on the floor in darkened rooms. We loved the exhibition and really enjoyed seeing many of the places we have visited in Umbria, here are a few of the photos re-photographed with my i-phone. The exhibition has now been extended into 2015 so, even if you don’t live here, you may still get to see it.
This weekend was the Città di Castello white truffle festival, an event where many truffle food producers set up stall along with other artisan food makers. The hills of the Upper Tiber Valley are rich hunting grounds for both black and white truffles and it’s not uncommon to see people out with their dogs furtively hunting for the prized tubers.
I love truffles, but the main draw for me was a wine tasting event held in the medieval town hall. I’m currently part of the way through the first level of the Association of Italian Sommeliers’ (AIS) course and was keen to practice my tasting skills on a selection of wines.
Many local wine makers attended the event as well as a producer from the regions Molise and one from Lombardy. A €5 entrance fee gets you a glass and you can walk from stall to stall sampling as many of the wines as you wish.
I was pleased to find some really good wines from the Upper Tiber Valley that I had not come across before, one from Anghiari called Podere Volterrena and a producer from Selci, just outside Città di Castello, called Bianchini who makes only 6000 bottles a year!
Events like this are a really special part of living in Italy – you can sample some excellent wines in a medieval building and meet many of the winemakers whilst doing so.
The Rocca di Pierle lies at the western end of the Niccone Valley. It is just in Tuscany and controlled the pass that lead towards Cortona and the Val di Chiana.
In danger of collapsing, the remaining tower has been supported by a scaffold surround which doesn’t add to it’s looks but makes it safer for the inhabitants of the surrounding hamlet. I took these aerial photos yesterday – a beautifully clear late October day with great views down the valley, I hope you like them!