Under the Tuscan Sun
Trip Start Feb 05, 2010
121Trip End Feb 17, 2010
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Our kind and generous hosts, Tracey and John left this piece of heaven near Cortona, to return to the real world of work and home in the UK last night. Thank heavens the weather played along to ease their parting with a downpour, thunder and lightning. The house just isn’t the same without them. Apart from Graham and I rattling around in this two storey, 4 bedroom 'farmhouse’ with tennis court, swimming pool and a fabulous kitchen, John and Tracey provided great conversation, tips about where to go and guided us around the buzzy town of Cortona where we will return for dinner tonight.
Last night we sat down with a piece of paper each and sketched out what we could do in the last 10 days of being over here
Siena, San Gimignano and Arezzo are likely to take up another portion of what is left.
Today we took John’s advice to visit a trio of towns in the vicinity. Graham is the driving force behind us getting around which is why he is upstairs having a snooze now. We wended our way from here to Montalcino, stopping at San Quinco d’Orcia on the way. At Montacino we took a guided tour of some gardens via the observations of the writer Isabella Dusi in her book ‘Vanilla Beans and Brodo’. We got about half way through before the heat stopped us. We retreated to the terrace of a wine bar and nibbled bruschetta and panzanella- with local wines, of course.
Writing of food has made me hungry and so I put together a plate of leftovers from yesterday’s lunch- asparagus and parmesan from the Cortona Saturday markets anointed with olive oil from the last vintage of our host’s olive grove. The vegetable peeler I just found did a marvelous job of curling shards of parmesan- wish I had seen it as I was preparing lunch yesterday
Saturday, as you can tell, was market day in Cortona and it was so exciting to shop with a purpose- making Sunday lunch. We bought buffalo mozzarella, 3 year old parmesan which the stallholder insisted we taste beforehand, and compared it to the younger one on offer. Fresh ricotta also, to accompany the caramelized upside down peach and apricot pancake which is a signature summer dessert in our house. The local butcher did a neat line in boned and rolled chicken legs which had been reasoned with rosemary and sage and a little bit of garlic. I cooked these with some small artichokes, quartered and sautéed with garlic and rosemary and the whole lot deglazed with a little white wine.
We ate dinner at a great little restaurant on Saturday night, taking two escalators to get to the right entrance of Cortona after parking our car. The weather was a little unpredictable so we relinquished our table on the terrace for one inside the old, low vaulted brick room. Here we feasted on a first course of local fresh porcini mushrooms, served simply grilled over a wood fire and drizzled with oil.
After dinner we could hear the sounds of a festival in progress. This is a once a year event where the locals are the actors in a costume play celebrating the marriage of a lord of Cortona to his bride from Siena in the year 1397. So Tracey and I hot-footed it down to the square and got moved toward the front in time to see the flag tossing. Instead of my verbal explanation, refer to the movie ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’.
That night, when we got back to Villa Wareham we stood in the garden marvelling at the clear sky and all the stars. No red planet here as there was at Monteix, but there was something that awoke my inner child.
I’ve never seen one before and it brought back memories of the Disney portrayal of Tinkerbell- this was the real thing! All I could do was clap, it was such a delightful surprise. Her light flicked on and off and you had to watch to see where she would appear next. Except that she was a he, apparently.
If you are interested, take a look at this:
Mum used to have a short poem about fireflies- wish I could remember it. Something along the line of
Exides in their backsides?
No matter, it was a magic end to a magic day.