Tuscany

Aloha, Buongiorno and Bonjour,

Colette LaFleur once more reporting on the ever-expanding adventures of The Hawaiian Princess and The Wonder Puppy (THPaTWP). This is one of two extremely interesting adventures for Our Princess. We are not camping, we have caught a flight from Florida to Milan, Italy and caught the trains to Tuscany.

Monterchi is in the Providence of Arezzo
We stayed in Monterchi
Medieval Monterchi

Monterchi is a medieval town originally built with strong walls to keep invaders out. In 1352, the first earthquake to partially destroy the town hit and the last was in 1917. Walking around the old portion of the city, you can see where damage was and how the town has continued to survive after hundreds of years.

We stayed in the new part of Monterchi that has been built along the road that leads to Arezzo. ‘New’ being a relative term, our lodging was built in the 16th century. Our apartments were in an old mill. There were four apartments and ours was La Stalla. The walls were 18 inches thick of hand-hewn stone.

The former mill, it’s 500 years old.
Our Apartment.

Here is the website of our bed & breakfast. It was fabulous. http://cantodeglialberti.com/

The People

The trip was organized by our dear friend, Chef Michelle Reeves-Gioviti from The Fat Tuscan in Gainesville, Florida.

Our Fearless Leader
Eight of us, four couples, made up the party. We all became friends with Michelle while taking her excellent cooking classes.
Students and chef-instructors, friends all
Chef Valentina, Michelle’s cousin, Earl and Rosellen
Jack and Justin, newly engaged on the trip. We cannot be happier for these wonderful guys!
Our Princess, Nina, Costanza and Chef Sara. All cooking was done in Sara’s basement.
Roberto, driver-extraordinaire, translator and historian is the fellow beside Michelle. Robbie, in blue is Nina’s mother.
Chef Andrea and Chef Franca, patriarch and matriarch of the clan and two of the most dear people we’ve ever known. They had just celebrated their 43rd anniversary before we arrived.
Antonio, the manager of the B&B and the best truffle dog ever, Patty, pronounced PAH-tay. Antonio is holding an extremely large white truffle. Molto denaro.
Here we are in a cafe in Cortona. The food was excellent and so were the multiple bottles of wine. The fellow in the upper right corner is Marco, Sara’s husband. He helped haul the crazy Americans around Tuscany.
Chef Franca getting ready to start the evening’s cooking.

The Food

There were so much wonderful food cooked and consumed completely and with much appreciation. Here’s a look at what we had.

Crusty bread with tomato
Caprese done right.
Beef stew.
Melanzane – fried eggplant.
Fruit and marscapone with raspberry compote.
Pouring hot palenta onto a wooden board to cool.
Palenta with mushrooms
Palenta with sauce
Fresh black truffles dug up the same day. The aroma is magnificent, the flavor divine. The metal tool slices the truffle very thinly.
This was the most decedent thing our Humble Servant ate, fried eggs with fresh black truffles
Chef Franca gave the ultimate pasta making class. The pasta was unbelievably good, so much better then pasta in the U.S.
Chef Franca and Chef Andrea bar-b-que’d one night. Steak, sausage and thick-cut bacon. It was all so marvelous. The grill Andrea used is wood-fired and coals are pulled under the meat. Many in the group have been trying to find where to buy these.
The night chestnuts were roasted, Michelle enjoyed her fill.
Bruschetta
Vin Santo, made by Andrea. Forty years old and smooth. We dipped biscotti into it. Delicious.
Lady fingers smeared with Nutela and marscapone, dipped into espresso and then rolled in coconut flakes. Tiramisu.
Before and during meals, let there be wine. The Italian wine was gentle to our stomachs, and easy on the head. It was so smooth, it flowed. After dinner comes the grappa and lemoncelo. Both are potent after dinner drinks.
No meal is complete without an espresso or a cappuccino.

The Places

Milan

All of us either entered Italy or exited through Milan airport and took the train to/from Milan Central Train Station. The trains in Europe are the most efficient way to travel around the continent. The station in the center of Milan is massive with 24 platforms with trains entering and exiting constantly. People crowd the waiting area checking schedules and finding what platform to hurry to so they can make their connections.

Milano Centrale Train Station
The train from Malpensa Airport bring passengers into the center of Milan
The high-speed trains can exceed 220 miles per hour.

The building housing the train station is exquisite.

The architecture is spectacular. The object on the right is a sculpture of a giant apple. The vehicle in the lower left corner is a military transport and each of the soldiers were armed with automatic weapons.

Monterchi

We traveled around Tuscany, which is more beautiful then any of us imagined. It was October and the weather was uncommonly warm. That suited a group of crazy Americans from Florida. The mornings were cool, mist filled the valleys and painted all the world with diamonds. As I mentioned in the beginning, we stayed in Monterchi, in a 500 year old bed & breakfast. Here is the name of the resort, please check out their website, but don’t be too jealous of us.

Monterchi
Here’s the website: http://cantodeglialberti.com/en/
An early morning view from our front door. Perfect to have a cappuccino and enjoy this view.
This is the valley without the mist. The rows of trees near the top of the first hill is an olive grove.

The first town we visited was Monterchi. Since we were staying there and it was, ‘just up the path’, we walked.

The path was bordered by many wonderful plants. Ricky the dog joined us for this trip.
View from the path of Monterchi. It’s only just over there.
Green grapes on the vine
Tobacco
Earl sampling the purple grapes
Here’s a plant we’d love to know what it is.
Olives
Chestnut
A cool place to relax as we walked
We stopped to enjoy a statue of Hercules
Leaving the path, we began climbing the first of many stairs
Enter Monterchi by the Old Gateway
Our Princess and Chef Michelle in the Porta Vecchia
A street view
Earl on the street
Rosellen exploring this medieval town
Every town needs a clock tower
A great view of the valley
The view of the valley from Michelle’s aunt’s condo. The grey line in the background is the path we walked from our B&B.
After a simple walk, them stairs and through the streets of this gem of a town, it’s time for lunch, with plenty of vino.

Cortona

Cortona
Cortona in the heart of Tuscany

If you have seen the film, Under the Tuscan Sun, you have seen Cortona. It is a vast and beautiful portion of Tuscany that is also steeped in history. It is a medieval town, built with steep walls to protect the citizens from invaders. This part of Italy is Umbria. Through this valley, the Roman general, Hannibal, with 100,000 men and 37 elephants marched on their way to cross the Alps in the 3rd century B.C.

Today, Cortona is a vibrant small city with much history, art, beauty, warm and friendly people, great food, delicious wine, flowers and stunning vistas. Madame could see herself, with her humble servant, living here.

A typical street in Cortona. Narrow, with the shops and apartments opening up to the street.
Here it is 10:30 am and patrons are enjoying a cappuccino and pastry or their first glass of wine.
The piazza was starting to fill up with visitors.
This young man was singing American songs for tips. The only problem he had was he didn’t know all the words. He improvised or mumbled on the parts he did not know. He still was earning a nice number of Euros for his efforts.
This is the view from the wall of the valley of Umbria.
This spectacular cemetery as seen from the wall. This cemetery is over 500 years old. By law in Italy, all cemeteries must be surrounded by a wall.
This beautiful, and dramatic, statue was near the wall overlooking the cemetery and across the street from a spectacular church.
This was one of the most beautiful churches we saw in Tuscany. If the object in the center aisle looks like a casket, it is. The mourners didn’t seem to mind the tourists.
There were eleven confessionals surrounding the church.
What would a medieval church be without a bell tower calling the faithful to mass.
The stunning Tree of Life by Andrea Roggi.
This sign was in front of a children’s shop. The Little Rascals are still popular in Tuscany.
Our Princess enjoying a sunny day in Cortona.

Anghiari

Anghiari is a 13th century fortress city. Beautiful, mysterious, quaint and still exciting.

Anghiari is considered one of the “most beautiful towns in Italy”. We all agreed. The town is surrounded by high walls built in the 13th century and sits overlooking the Tiber Valley. It is a most walkable towns in Italy, with many small and secretive tunnels, hidden wells and many, many steps. Wear good shoes and be prepared for beautiful surroundings and plenty of exercise.

The steep stone walls kept invaders at bay.
Inside the walls, a vibrant town grew and prospered.
The upper windows are from the many apartments throughout the city. We all wanted one.
Rosellen in her Gator Gear strolling along the wall.
Many of the streets are small, curving and steep. This is typical thoroughfare.
Along the above street was this gorgeous front porch garden. Colors filled nooks and crannies everywhere.
Here our princess and Him stand in front of an apartment that over looked the wall into the valley. Breathtaking!
How wonderful would it be to walk out very day and have this at your front door.
These two apartments faced the First Church of Anghiari. The door is left open so the cat can easily come and go.
This tiny church only held a handful of parishioners. They still spared nothing to exquisitely honor the saints.
This sign outside the First Church of Anghiari. It predates 1105 A.D.
This is the side of a four-story house that was barely 12 feet wide. No space was left unused.
Here we are standing in the street looking up. It goes quite a way and it’s steep. Just up the sidewalk is the first convent of Anghiari. It is about the size of a modest American bedroom.
This view is looking down the hill. As you can see, the road extends well into the valley. This is typically as wide as most roads in Anghiari were.
This is a well used for centuries and still contains potable water. It was hidden in this wall so it would not be found by invaders.

Arezzo

Arezzo is the capital of the providence and also the nearest train station to our bed & breakfast. It is a delightful mix of modern and medieval, as was everywhere we visited.

The trains ran hourly to Milano. My suggestion is to take the slow train, with its twelve stops. You get so much better view of the countryside and the small towns and meet the most interesting people.
An Arezzo street. This lady easily climbs the many stairs after a lifetime of medieval living.

Citerna

Citerna is another medieval town that sits on the large hill above our bed & breakfast. We visited there briefly after spending hours in Anghiari. We were tired, but would have had time to visit longer.

Addio per ora

The week flew by all too quickly and we had to say good bye for now. All of us have vowed to return to Tuscany and Italy. It is so beautiful.

As the four couples each went in different directions, our Princess and her entourage headed once again to the Milano Centrale Train Station with tickets to Switzerland. Check in soon for this next adventure.

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