It’s the final day – a little foggy and rainy as we take off to explore Pienza, about a two hour drive south of the Chianti region. I was co-pilot and navigator. It was a drizzly day, but that did not dampen the Happy Travelers’ spirits one bit.
The topography, as we drove away from the Chianti region and into the outskirts of Pienza, was totally different. We had become accustomed to the twisty, hilly, small roads, dodging bicyclists and fighting car sickness. These roads were a little straighter, wider and almost interstate-like. The curves in the roads had a more languid flow. Fields plowed under on both sides of the road were rolling, but not as extreme as olive groves and grape vines on hills we had been seeing. What was grown in those fields?…it was the constant question of conversation and banter as we drove through unknown territory. We thought sunflowers, maybe tomatoes…we just didn’t know. Finally, after seeing a postcard in a store in Pienza, we thought it must be wheat. Of course… many artisan breads are made here daily and served along with the fantastic olive oils.
Archway into the city-Pienza
Pienza is nestled in the hills of Tuscany – another Renaissance walled city. A little leather and scarf shopping was on my agenda today – squeezing in the last of the trinkets while worrying about that 50 pound limit of the suitcase.
As soon as we landed and came out of the first shop, it started to rain. That made it the perfect time to have lunch. I tried the gnocchi while others tried the white lasagna. The pastas are made fresh each day at the restaurant. It was delicious and of course, the wine was wonderful. The gnocchi were like little soft pillows of earthy flavor, served with a nice red sauce. We had to try the fresh homemade desserts as well – hazelnut, lemon and sour cherry ice creams and a beautiful bowl of Tartufo Affogato-Vanilla ice cream with coffee.
Trattoria Latte di Luna in Pienza
More walking was required after this lunch…
I was seeking balance that day – slowing down, enjoying the last of what had been, so far, a perfect trip. I tried to not over-indulge in food, wine, or shopping and to take pictures of lots of different things-not just meat-which had become a major part of my imagery. Pienza is known for its delicious Pecorino cheeses. All of the cheese was beautifully displayed in each shop.
Cheese and Meat
Cheese and Wine
Meat and Cheese
Cheese and.. Less Meat
As we left Pienza and got closer to our villa, I had thoughts of starting the packing process. But wait…one more stop – Gaiole in Chianti. We stopped to explore and shop…shop for what?… I just couldn’t image! “Overloaded” was the word going through my head.
Gaiole in Chianti
“Comfortable Stone”-Art/Comfortable shoes-Me
We rushed back to the villa to do a little organizing, packing and dress for “The Last Supper.”
Ricardo, Ristorante Badia a Coltibuono
Well, that’s a little dramatic, ‘The Last Supper’ but… it could have been a sad night had we not had the wine to keep us happy and a delightful waiter named Ricardo to help us enjoy our dinner. Of course…there was a special wine with each course served. My pictures did not turn out that well, due to lighting. Some of the dishes we tried were….
Zucca arrostita con aglio e rosmarino, finferli saltati e mousse di pecorino – Pumpkin roasted with garlic and rosemary, sauteed chanterelle mushrooms and sheep cheese mousse – it was delicate in flavor and delicious!
Passata di cavolfiore con pancetta corccante el olio alla vaniglia – Cauliflower veloute’ soup with crispy bacon and vanilla flavoured oil – –
Yum…soup with bacon on top and the vanilla gave it a wonderful twist!
Others had: Roasted duck slightly glazed with hazelnuts and honey, sauteed cabbage and Roasted lamb leg with licorice sauce, steamed broccoli with lemon and oil.
I had…veal cheek braised in sangiovese grapes, roasted potato and endive. OK, so I had already eaten wild boar and roasted rabbit, why not some veal cheek? This was a trip for experimenting with food and wine.
Home Made Desserts
Fresh figs and lemon tart
Cheese cake with red currant sauteed with port
It was an extremely fine dining experience and a wonderful way to end our trip. The Happy Travelers had come full circle. We started our first night at the Abbey attending Mass and returned for our last night to eat in the Ristorante. I savored Italy – the land of la dolce vita. We all relaxed and it gave us time to see the important things that were always close at hand – a home-cooked meal, a glass of wine, and the company of friends and family.
It was a long trip home with sore throat setting in. Jetliner food was served and there was wine to wash it down. I had been spoiled after a week of fine food and wine. All in all, it was a fabulous trip–one that I will always remember. I miss my Happy Travelers, but know that we will get together again soon.
FYI-Did you know that red wine may improve the sex lives of Tuscan women? An interesting article I read recently of a study done in Florence states that the two glass-a-day women drinkers scored higher and were, on average, older then the other two groups; age does tend to be associated with a declining sex drive. So there, this was a trip beneficial to my health also!
Thank you Tuscan Mammas and thank you happy traveler friends!