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Posts from the ‘Montepulciano’ category

Color Your World: 120 Days of Crayola; Timberwolf Walkways

 

Timberwolfish Walkway in Montepulciano, Italy

Timberwolfish Walkway in Montepulciano, Italy

 

Timberwolfish Walkway in Montepulciano, Italy

Timberwolfish Walkway in Montepulciano, Italy

 

Timberwolfish Walkway in Montepulciano, Italy

Timberwolfish Walkway in Montepulciano, Italy

 

Timberwolfish Walkway in Montepulciano, Italy

Timberwolfish Walkway in Montepulciano, Italy

 

Timberwolfish Walkway in Montepulciano, Italy

Timberwolfish Walkway in Montepulciano, Italy

Day 102 of the 120 Days of Crayola is here! Today’s color is Timberwolf, a gray, brown, tanish color to be sure! These unique walkways were found in Montepuciano, Italy. Montepulciano is a hilltown and these are the shortcuts through the village, from the top of the village down to the lower village. Or you could take the road which circles the village, which is much longer! A little steep you think? At least there is a handrail! This is where I attended Il Sasso, the Italian Language School, one of the most memorable times I spent in Italy!  For a short post about my experience at Il Sasso, look HERE!

Timberwolf is known as Old Man Granite Gray, the color for New Hampshire in the “State Crayon Collection.”

This post is just one of many in the Color Your World: 120 Days of Crayola Challenge

Check out some of the other 150+ challenge participants, it’s amazing what we have done with the Crayola colors!

 

 

Color Your World: 120 Days of Crayola; Midnight Blue

Hand Painted Italian Plate

Ceramiche Sberna Handmade Italian Plate

 Prussian Blue has been in the Crayola Collection since 1903, so it was one of the first colors. In 1958 the name was changed to Midnight Blue. In the “Halloween Crayon” series it was known as Midnight Gloom!   Halloween Crayons?  Who knew?

This is my hand made “Dipinto a Mano” plate from Italy. I went to Italian language school in Montepulciano, Italy and walked by a tiny shop filled with exquisite ceramics and pottery at least 4 times a day. Finally, before I left, I went in and with my newly practised Italian, bought several pieces of the ceramics. I had it all shipped home since I was heading elsewhere in Italy and could not have carried it around with me. It would have been Midnight Gloom and more, if the pieces had arrived broken! As it was, they arrived safe and sound and are the pride of my dining room! I love all the colors on it, but especially the very dark blue!

“Dipinto a Mano” ceramics are made in Deruta, a small town in the heart of Umbria, and world known for its production of fine ceramic art and pottery. The craft was established there in the Middle Ages, but was renown during the Renaissance. Today hand crafted ceramics is still the primary work of the citizens of Deruta. Francesco Sberna, a master craftsman opened his workshop in 1959 and is now the most important ceramic producer of the town. The Ceramiche Sberna, which I own, were created with forms and designs inspired by local tradition with detailed research into color and pattern. I have never seen another pattern like mine!

Here are more pictures taken in the town of Montepulciano.

Here is more about the language school, Il Sasso.

This post is just one of many in the Color Your World: 120 Days of Crayola Challenge! Enjoy!

 

 

Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge: Roads

My favorite road in the world!  The road to La Foce, home of Iris Orego and her beautiful house and gardens outside Montepulciano, Italy ! Enjoy!

The Road to La Foce, Italy

The Road to La Foce, Italy

Montepulciano Revisited

Our Apartment, San't Antonio

Our Apartment, San’t Antonio

We are back in Montepulciano, making it our base camp for exploring the surrounding hill towns of Tuscany. After renting a car in Florence and driving to San Gimignano, now here we are on Saturday evening getting settled in at Sant’ Antonio, the restored apartments on the grounds of an old monastery, in the hills around the village of Montepulciano. Late afternoon is spent meeting other guests from all over the world, who will also be spending a week here in Tuscany exploring. After our brief introduction to each other, the local maps were passed out, and we all decided to head out to the grocery store in Montepulciano before the store closes at 6pm.  The store is not open on Sundays, so we must get in and get out if we want anything to eat or cook while we are at Sant’ Antonio.  It was a mad dash to the grocery store! Parking is limited, and the store very busy, so we parked in the church parking lot and walked down to the store. A hint in the grocery store; we had to put one euro in the grocery cart to use it in the store and when we brought it back in we got the euro back. Also, do not touch the fruit or vegetables without putting on the plastic gloves that are provided! We were warned by our hosts about this!  Although, when I shopped in the smaller shops up the hill in Montepulcinao, this did not seem to be the case. In the smaller shops the attendant was quick to help me with my selections.

We explored the hill towns during the day, all the guests going in different directions in their cars.  It was fun to sit on the veranda in the evenings and over a glass of wine and nibbles find out where everyone went during the day and what they liked about the places they went to. Our neighbors to the left of us were German and Spanish.  Our neighbors to the right Canadian, and in the family apartment a group, who came here every year from Hawaii.  There were other guests in apartments here as well, so we were a large group of 25 or so. On one evening, during the week, we all came together to share an evening meal, prepared and served by our hosts, in the large meeting room on the premises.  There was also a pool here in case you didn’t want to do a thing but relax. The other option is staying in the village of Montepulciano itself. Sant’ Antonio now offers apartments in town as well.

Another time I stayed in the Politian Apartments, when I came to Montepulciano to study Italian at the Il Sasso Language School.  At that time, I didn’t have a car.  The Politian Apartment was in the village.  It was a huge two bedroom apartment with all the amenities, (washer, dryer, microwave, big stove and oven) and tastefully decorated with antiques. There was a beautiful walled garden that I enjoyed sitting in to do my homework. The owners were on the premises and more than helpful.  There were other guests staying in other apartments, but I was up early and off to school so didn’t get to know them. We all seemed to have different agendas as they only stayed a few days and then were gone and replaced by new guests. The shops and restaurants are plentiful and the locals very friendly. Parking is LIMITED and outside of the village.  The streets are pedestrian-only, but a tiny, tiny bus goes through town from the bottom of the hill to the tippy top. It only stops at the bottom of the village, (the entrance), a designated place in the middle, and the very top of the village. If you stay in the village be prepared to haul your luggage up, up, up the hill at some point!  Pack light! For more highlights of Montipulciano see past blog posts about the Politian Apartments and the Il Sasso Language School. These are some reflections if you want to make Montepulciano your home base for visiting Tuscany.

Next we are off to the hill towns!

For More information about Sant’ Antonio Apartments see: http://www.santantonio.it

For more information about Politian Apartments see: http://www.politian.com

How to Make Friends When Traveling

Christmas Lights are Everywhere

Christmas Lights are Everywhere

Reflecting on our trip to Paris, I must tell you it was one of our best vacations, although it was not our first time there.  I think there are several explanations why we had such an enjoyable time. Because it wasn’t our first visit, we could focus on things that we had missed on previous stays. We were, for the most part, out of the tourist mode and more into the relaxing/really get to know you mode. We rented an apartment, we shopped locally in our neighborhood and ate most of our meals in restaurants in the neighborhood too. There were not many Americans, if any, to be found in the places we liked best. The French people were most polite, helpful and actually acted like they enjoyed us as much as we were enjoying them. This was especially noticeable in the restaurants. The key to starting off on the right foot, for me, is trying to fit in. I start with the language.  Knowing some words in their language can go a long way. Trying to carry on a conversation in their language takes you even further. Learning words to be polite, like please, thank you, and your welcome should be the bare bone basics in any language.  Where is, also comes in very helpful along with the word for bathroom. Ha! Another good reminder: things are not going to be the same way as I am accustomed to in my home, in a different country.  Isn’t that the reason I travel? If my new surroundings were not going to be different, I might as well stay at home.  So be prepared for different.  Look for new ways of doing things.  Try new foods. Go with the flow, but be prepared. I study every day on Duolingo, sometimes for as little as an hour sometimes more.  It is a free App and internet sight, that is fun, and can be studied with as little or as much time as you want to take for it. I am on my 110th day studying French and before that I studied Italian on Duolingo, after I came back from Italy where I took a full immersion language course at Il Sasso. I didn’t want to lose my skills. Through Duolingo I have met friends, asked a bazillion questions to French speakers and others, learned something about their culture and translated articles. It has been so valuable to me. So to me this was a stepping stone that made my time more enjoyable on my vacation. I think it also made a huge difference to the people I interacted with. With that said, here are my four favorite eating spots in Paris during our stay this time. Practice those language skills!

Camille, right around the corner from our apartment in Paris, was the closest and had the most delicious traditional french food and pastries. It was packed with locals at all hours. I would highly recommend it. Like any great Parisian food spot the tables were small, very close together and you had to move the table or climb over other guests to get to the table.  A great conversation starter!

Les Philosophes, was the restaurant wine bar, coveted by locals and especially young people. Located on a very busy walking lane, the people watching was excellent.  Sitting outside under the big umbrella heaters, enjoying a wine and salad for hours, made me feel like I was part of the neighborhood. Everyone talked with everyone! We spent one enjoyable evening in conversation with a couple from Hong Kong.

Les Philosophes

Les Philosophes

Sorza Restaurant and Bar, on Saint Louis-en-L‘ile, was one of the most romantic and charming spots with a fabulous selection of food. We had the best pasta dishes here, but what set it apart from the other restaurants was the sorbet! The best I have ever eaten!  The lime was so fresh and fruity with bits of lime peel. Other flavors were raved about too.  I crave that sorbet now that I am at home!

King Falafel Palace in the Jewish Quarter, is an Israeli restaurant famous for their falafels.  There were long long long lines daily just to get a carry out. I had never tasted a falafel and had never even heard of one, but I couldn’t wait to try it. One evening we got into the tiny tiny restaurant and were seated under the Israeli flag draped on the wall. I had the biggest pita sandwich ever! I am not sure what the contents were, but it was meat and sausages with fresh vegetables and some kind of sauce, all plumped and over flowing in that pita. It was delicious and well worth the wait. Also I had the best pomme frites in all of Paris I am sure! I sat and watched a server/helper slice pitas, hundreds of pitas. Each individual pita  was slit open with a box cutter and stacked to be prepared for the falafels. That was his only job and he had a hard time keeping up!

The Falafel

The Falafel

Finally, as one of my blogger friends pointed out, http://www.delightfullyitaly.com, it is also good to know hand gestures ( a form of communication) and what they might mean in another country.  I think you will find this video most helpful when planning to visit Italy. Something to be aware of before you make that hand sign!

For more interest see:
Duolingo, Language Studies, http://www.duolingo.com
Il Sasso, Premier Italian Language School, Montepulciano, Italy.  http://www.ilsasso.com
Camille, 24 Rue de Francs-Bourgeois, Paris, France.  See TripAdvisor
Les Philosophes, 28 rue Vieille du Temple, Paris, France.  See TripAdvisor
Sorza Restaurant and Bar, 51 Rue Saint Louis-en-L’ile, Paris, France, http://www.sorza.fr
King Falafel Palace, Specialités Israéliennes, 26 Rue des Rosiers, Paris, France, See TripAdvisor.

Il Sasso A Day at School

Acquacheta, an Awesome Eating Experience!

Acquacheta, an Awesome Eating Experience!

Day One
I had to take a test.  After finishing one third of a page on page one, I was whisked away for the oral section of the placement testing. I could hardly speak. I was placed in the Beginners Class which was fine by me.  I was in that class for ten minutes when I was whisked off to the second floor and placed in a class with four men and one other woman.  My first thought was “I have been demoted to lower than the beginners class, ” but as it turned out there were so many beginners we were separated into two classes.  I could hardly call my classmates beginners. Two of the men knew a great deal of Italian, but wanted to be more comfortable speaking it at random, in different settings, off the cuff.  A great deal more complicated then practicing from a book. We would get plenty of practice doing that.  We had two teachers a day, each for two hour periods.   Day one we learned the alphabet and how to pronounce it.  Who knew that an A is not an A.  A would be Ahhh.  I would be EEEE. It was a wonder I could say anything in Italian. R was erra.  S was esse. We would have worksheets to do, all the while the teacher speaking and teaching in Italian.  If you did not understand something the teacher would look at you and say, do you understand?  The reply and phrase I knew very well the entire time of my studies was Non lo so.  I don’t know.  She then would try to show by writing pictures on the chalkboard or explain it over and over until you got it.  The teachers had the patience of saints and a very good sense of humor. One morning after studying the mercato and all the fruits and vegetables we could buy there, the afternoon teacher came in and in groups of two, the students went to the front of the class to do a skit.  One student was the buyer and one student was the vendor and we bought and sold practicing our hellos and how much do I owe you and everything in between.  It was fun, practical and nerve-wracking all at the same time. This was our routine everyday. With compiti almost every night.  Homework, not a lot.  Just enough to remind you to think about what you learned or would be learning the next day. So the classes consisted of work from a workbook, working with a great deal of extra printed material and speaking either in small groups or in front of the class. And of course answering the questions the teacher asked you, in Italian.  It was challenging, fun, practical and I met several new friends from all over the world and in different levels of education. Many business and governments send their employees to Il Sasso to learn or perfect their Italian skills. The second week all but two students had finished their course and Andy and I moved up to Elementary 1 Level and joined other students.  New teachers, new students and new material to learn.  We learned a great deal, there was no loitering and we moved along at a fast pace.  After the morning classes,  there were options of private tutoring or field trips.   Cooking classes, tours of the historic towns, and walks in the countryside were just some of the many choices to make your stay memorable.  In the evenings the students would meet up at the local restaurants, trattorias, osterias, enotecas and bars, so we became good friends and learned from each other. The third week I had my third set of teachers.  I liked having the rotation. The teachers were fantastic, humorous and very caring.  They wanted you to succeed and have a good time.  It was an experience I will remember for the rest of my life and keep me studying Italian. To all my Italian classmates and teachers, ciao, ciao!!!

On the next to last evening the class went to Acquacheta to dine.  A small osteria, family owned that specializes in steak served family style. Steak cut to serve.

 

 

The Owner at Acquacheta Preparing the Meat

The Owner at Acquacheta Preparing the Meat

The Owner Showing the Steak for Approval

The Owner Showing the Steak for Approval

The Steak Closeup

The Steak Closeup

If you would like more information about Il Sasso, Scuola di Italiano contact:

http://www.ilsasso.com

Via di Gracciano nel Corso 2

1-53045 Montepulciano, Italy

Facebook:  Il Sasso- Italian Language School

If you would like more information about Osteria “Acquacheta”

http://www.acquacheta.eu

Via del Teatro, 22, Montepulciano, Italy

Montepulciano, the First Day

The Pottery shop

The Pottery Shop

The Handmade Leather Shoe Shop

The Handmade Leather Shoe Shop

My Walk to School

My Walk to School

Cats Are Everywhere!

Cats Are Everywhere!

Walk to School

On Walk to School

On My Walk to School

On My Walk to School

The Town Bus only Stops at the Bottom and the Top

The Town Bus only Stops at the Bottom and the Top

My Favorite House on Hill# 2 #64

My Favorite House on Hill# 2 #64

Not My Walk To School!!!!

Not My Walk To School!!!!

Montepulciano is a hill town in Tuscany in three layers.  There are three hills to walk up.  The first hill is for the tourists, the second hill and plateau is filled with fine craftsmen making pottery, jewelry, mosaics, leather products and woodcarving items all by hand as their ancestors have done for hundreds of years. Dotted between these shops are the clothing shops, great restaurants, wine shops and small grocery stores.  The buildings are huge and people live above the shops. At the end of the second hill is Santa Maria dei Servi Church, one of thirteen Catholic churches in Montepulciano. This is where Politian Palazzo is, on the former grounds of the monastery/church. The crown hill is for the Cathedral, the Fort Museum, the Town Hall, the Duomo Hotel and the Torture Museum. Il Sasso, the Italian Language school, is located between the first and second hill.  I am so glad I don’t have to walk all the way to the bottom of the hill everyday! My first introduction to the school was an evening wine social on the Sunday before school started.  There were forty to fifty students who gathered to have a drink and hors d’oeuvres.  Our hostess was an energetic woman who spoke fast and furious Italian.  Well it sounded like that to me.  The students drifted out to the terrace and I got up the nerve to ask a fellow student if she spoke English.  I think I was in such shock with everyone speaking Italian I must have looked like a deer in the headlights.  What had I gotten myself into? I loved it.  I came home so excited to start school the next day!

The Front Door of Il Sasso, Italian Language School

The Front Door of Il Sasso, Italian Language School

My Favorite House on Hill #3

My Favorite House on Hill #3

Even Cats Go to Mass Here

Even Cats Go to Mass Here

Appetizers

Appetizers

Pear Salad

Pear Salad

Torte

Torte

Dessert

Chocolate Dessert

Montepulciano

The Entrance to the Politian Palazzo

The Entrance to the Politian Palazzo

My apartment right above the Torture Museum Sign!

My Apartment from the Outside

The View from my Apartment

The View from my Apartment

The Casa Right Below my Window, Part of the Fortress Wall

The Casa Right Below my Window, Part of the Fortress Wall

Arrived!!!  Montepulciano is just as I remembered it, only now I am staying at the highest and oldest part of town between the XII century Fortress and the monastery of Santa Maria dei Servi, in the Politian Apartment.  The houses in this part of Via del Poliziano were built in the first half of 1800 on previous settlements belonging to the monastery.  This particular property was bought in 1889 by William Stuart, a British Royal Army Captain and his wife Anna Camp, who left Edinburgh in 1850 and came to live in Tuscany.  They renovated several small houses on the monastery property into a palazzo for the family and servants, including a beautiful garden. The great grandchildren of William Stuart still live in the palazzo and have divided the main building into four large apartments, preserving the original features of the building and adding modern comforts with up to date plumbing and electrical work.  The result is an extraordinary villa that makes you feel like you are living in a palace with a big shower and a fantastic kitchen, difficult things to find in the countryside of Italy.

My Bedroom Ceiling

My Bedroom Ceiling

My Bedroom Fireplace

My Bedroom Fireplace

The Sala and Kitchen

The Sala and Kitchen

The Sala Opennig to the Guardino

The Sala Opening to the Guardino

Looking Out the Sala

Looking Out the Sala

La campagna di Montepulciano

La Campagna di Montepulciano

My Giardino

My Giardino

The Guardino Outside My Door

The Guardino Outside My Door

For the decor Giacomo and Maria (sister/brother hosts) have restored the furniture, paintings, cabinets and armoires taken out of storage.  I asked Giacomo about the furnishings and paintings one day and he told me all the furnishings presently in the house were deemed “too good, we must save them,” by his mother and had been in storage for many many years.  When she passed, Giacomo decided the furnishings had stayed in storage long enough and they would be used. They even found his Great Great Grandmother’s trousseaux, tapestries, bedsteads and hand embroidered linens that had never been used. The tapestries and bedspreads were produced on a hand loom in Prato and some in the convents of Siena and Pienza.  All are made of silk, linen, cotton or hemp.  The embroideries were sown by “woman of the family,” mothers, aunts and grandmothers for the bride.  Every Saturday when Maria and Jane (Jane is Romanian and that is what she is called in English, I can’t begin to pronounce it in Romanian) clean and I do mean clean, Maria asks me to pick my sheets for the week from a selection of great great grandmother’s antique linens that are pure white, pressed and starched.  Unbelievable!!!!

Santa Lucia, Her Eyes are in the Cloth

Santa Lucia, Her Eyes are in the Cloth

The Master Bedroom

The Master Bedroom

The Valley Below Montepulciano

The Valley Below Montepulciano

Nearly all the paintings depict rural landscapes of Tuscany or seasides of Scotland. Except, my favorite painting in the large, large bedroom, that of Santa Lucia, painted in the late sixteenth century by Sienese artist, Domenico Beccafumi.  The ceramic vases in the villa came from local workshops (that continue to make fine pottery) and the garden restoration included re-using all the old bricks and tiles made in the late 1800’ s.  All the tiles on the floor in my apartment are original.  They are a rusty red in color, some are squared and some are brick shaped. Giacomo said the garden bricks are the same bricks as the house floor bricks, just with a glaze and fine polishing added for house-use bricks. The ceilings are fourteen feet tall and the windows are five feet tall, narrowed and shuttered.  To open the window there is a long rod/bolt affair from the top of the window to the bottom of the window. There are no screens and no bugs.  The window casings are marble. There are working fireplaces in every room!  I am sending a picture of the ceiling in my bedroom and will continue more tomorrow. Ciao!

If you are interested in the Politian Apartments, your home away from home contact:

http://www.politian.com

Via del Poliziano 34

Montepulciano Siena, Tuscany

Tel. +39 0578 716624

War in Val D’ Orcia

The Road to La Foce

The Road to La Foce

This will be my last review of books I read as part of the Travel Prep for Italy.  In 2009 my husband and I spent a week in a monastery outside of Montepulciano.  Surrounded by olive groves and grape vines this was our home base as we discovered the hill towns of Tuscany. It was ideal and everyday we jumped up and were ready to explore. At night we returned to visit with the other guests and compare notes over dinner.  Driving in Italy can be very hectic, the Italians I am sure get tired of the slow pokey tourist moving as slow as a snail so they can see everything.  One of the highlights of the week was our day trip to La Foce.  La Foce, bought in 1924, is a large estate with a sixteenth century farmhouse,  and the home of Iris Origo, an American, who with her Italian husband, Antonio, restored the  baked barren olive green landscape, neglected by soil erosion and wars between the Italian states, back to life. Fifteen years of hard work produced one central fattoria (farm), where the Origo family lived surrounded by fifty farms of one hundred acres each with each farmer sharing all produce with the owner,  but depending on the owner for a home, equipment and capital.  This was the mezzadria system of farming similar to sharecropping in the United States. Here Antonio Origo introduced modern farming techniques and managed the estate while Iris (the Marchesa) set up a school for the children and adults (eighty percent illiterate) and a hospital for their growing farmstead, eventually six thousand people in all. Then came World War II.

La Foce

La Foce

The Gardens of La Foce

The Gardens of La Foce

La Foce

La Foce

Gardens of La Foce

Gardens of La Foce

War in Val D’ Orcia, An Italian War Diary, 1943 -1944 written by Iris Origo is the story of La Foce and its inhabitants during the war and the build up to it.  It describes their life under the fascist administration of Benito Mussolini, who came into power in 1922, their move to La Foce and then their everyday life during the war,  trying to survive.  I think the most important fact for me was that Iris decided not to edit any of the pages she had written when the book was published, in 1948. Her papers were originally written  as a personal journal during her pregnancy, as a pastime, in the middle of domestic isolation and boredom. When the war came to the Val D’ Orcia, her writings became a way to concentrate and clear her mind by writing each days events as she had heard or witnessed them first hand. She left it as it was written, sometimes in scribbles, sometimes lengthy, written in the cellar, or in her children’s nursery, hiding the papers among the children’s books because she didn’t think anyone would look there and eventually burying her diary in the garden. Good or bad they did what they thought at the time was the right thing to do. Coulda, woulda, shoulda times and more.  Sometimes those decisions turned out for the best and sometimes not. She tells it all.

The road we took to La Foce was a two lane paved highway, surrounded by plowed olive green fields ( I have never seen a field that color before or since) bordered by the tall skinny plane trees, that everyone thinks of when they think of Italy. We zigged-zagged down that road and on the crossroads found La Foce,  a bright yellow cheery pallazzo, surrounded by beautiful gardens and a  pool flanked with lemon trees in big terra cotta pots.  We took the tour with an English speaking guide, walking through the gardens and learning about Iris Origo’s  garden design, statuary and the choice of flower variety for her garden. The estate was so beautiful, restful  and peaceful. During the tour, the guide mentioned that the marchesa had written several books. I looked them up when I returned home and was pleasantly surprised that one of her books, the War in Val D’ Orcia, was written in English. So I read the book after returning to the United States. Little did I realize, before reading the book, that the beautiful home of La Foce  and the families that lived there had seen so much hardship.

The Dirt Road

The Dirt Road

When we left La Foce, I thought I would give the Italians a break from driving an inch from my rear bumper and then speeding around me on the curves.  We took a dirt road.  I don’t think I ever saw a marking for any road except upon leaving the  North-South  A-1 corridor to and from Rome.  After you got off the A-1 you were on your own. Even with GPS in the car it was nearly a day before I realized that the beautiful sounding Italian voice was actually speaking English. English with a very heavy Italian brogue. Seena? Does  she mean the turn off for SI EN NA is this one?  See what I mean?  She pronounced cities that I was sure were not even on my map.  Anyway, the dirt road seemed like a good choice at the time and we were not that far from Montepulciano.  How bad could it be?  The juts in the narrow dirt road seemed to get deeper and deeper and larger and larger.  Sometimes I had to come to a complete stop and creep across them, the rental car bottoming out.  In the middle of nowhere we came to four or five houses and an old castle.  There was even one streetlight.  Who lived out here?  We stopped to look and to give the car a break.  When we started up again that dirt road seemed to go on and on. It was getting dark when we pulled into a farm lot.  The road had ended.  There were clothes hanging on the line and a tied up barking dog going crazy with our arrival.  The farmer (plaid shirt and everything)  came out in total disbelief that we were in his barnyard. Loudly in case we were deaf, but in rapid Italian and gestures he told me in no uncertain terms to turn around and go back.  I did.  We finally did find our way back to Montepulciano, but I want to find that road on my trip this time, because now I know after reading the book what it was.

Leading Up to the Castle

Leading Up to the Castle

I never thought of soldiers from many countries being prisoners of war in Italy. There were seventy thousand of them. Early in the war the Fascists in compliance with the Germans informed the Origos that their home would be used to house the P.O.W.s.  A high ranking official came to look the place  over and decided he would be more comfortable at the castle up the hill.  The Origo family and their tenants would be in charge of feeding them, and caring for them. The peasants kept them alive and helped them escape. General O’ Connor wrote after the war, “ I can only say the Italian peasants and others behind the lines were magnificent.  They could not have done more for us.  They hid us, escorted us, gave us money, clothes and food – all the time taking tremendous risks.  Without their help it would have been impossible for us to live and finally escape.”

Iris had the hospital, meager supplies and the only nurse. This is not to say she helped only the Allied forces, but also young Italians, who took up arms against the regime and joined partisan groups, (she hid them in her forest, fed them and reported movements of troops from either side). She also cared for wounded German soldiers stranded from their units.  Yes, she tells all about that castle and what went on there.

When Genoa and Turin were bombed and seeing heavy fighting the city dwellers begged  those people who lived in the country to take in their children.  The children would be safe, in the middle of Italy, so far away from the fighting, or so they thought.  La Foce  and Iris Origo took twenty-six children in, in addition to the two she had of her own by then. Eventually, when the American forces landed near Rome and moved north, the war came to her doorstep literally. As the war raged close to  La Foce, she walked the children to safety in the hill town of  Montepulciano, as the shelling went on all around them. The children were tied together so they would not get lost, and many of the children so accustomed to the bombing and planes thought they were playing a new game. After the war many men, from different countries, wrote her and told her they had survived the war thanks to her kindness.  I am sure the children, who for the most part were re-united with their families felt the same way.  There is a great deal to be learned of strength, determination and courage from Iris Origo.  She shares her life, simple acts of everyday life during a war, with the hope of human kindness. Her book is a must read.

P S   I hope I find that farmer too.  I have studied Italian for two years and will be learning more in Montepulciano.  Maybe we can discuss the weather!

The converted monastery  we stayed in was:  Sant’ Antonio/The Country Resort, Via della Montagna 6/8, Montepulciano, Italy.  Web site:  http://www.santantonio.it

Pinocchio and Pizza

Montepulciano Italy

Montepulciano Italy

I would rather eat a fresh baked piece of bread than just about anything. To tell the truth, I could eat an entire loaf if left to my vices.  For Italian bread lovers there is focaccia, ciabatta, pizza. FCP. I love it all.  Italian rustic bread with olives and rosemary, bring it on.   In Florence I was first introduced to Ribollita, day old bread covered in a tuscan vegetable soup (reboiled day old soup).    Italy is famous for using day old bread/ no salt bread, in their dishes and I was curious about this. In one of the most popular places for cuisine on earth, recipes have developed from a history of malnutrition and hunger. During the war, the working class lived on what they could gain from their meager rations and gather from the land.

The cookbook, Cucina Povera, by Pamela Sheldon Johns, tells the story of Tuscan peasant cooking.  Simple dishes inspired from fresh seasonal ingredients, cooking and eating in season. It is also a history book and picture book.  Traveling throughout Italy Johns interviews older people to see how they managed during hard times. They tell heart warming stories  and share their recipes and how they cook and how their parents cooked in days gone by. The photographs capture the Tuscan countryside, the families, and the prepared dishes. Most of these men and women ate bread that was baked in the community forno (furnace/oven) once a week.  Salt, which was highly taxed, was too expensive to use in bread.  It  was needed for curing meat and making cheese, not making bread.  Bread made without salt quickly dries out, because the salt holds in the moisture. Nothing was wasted, so dishes prepared including  dried out bread were essential for survival. From these facts classic Italian recipes were born.  Panzanella anyone?  Bread salad made from day old bread, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olive oil and basil. I can not wait!

Uptown Montepulciano Italy

Uptown Montepulciano Italy

Pamela Sheldon Johns, the author of Cucina Povera, owns a bed and breakfast (I wanted to write Bread and Breakfast) called Agriturismo (Farmhouse) Poggio Etrusco and teaches cooking classes there. It is located outside Montepulciano, Italy where I am going to a language school.  I will not have a car while I am there and did not know about this place when I made my arrangements for the school, otherwise I truly would have considered staying there.  She speaks very highly of the village cobbler, Virio Neri and he speaks highly of his mother’s cooking. These are pictures of Montepulciano, where I will be living for almost a month.Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 392 Italy Sep _ Oct 2009 393

Notice the guy on the roof that looks like Pinocchio? I wonder if that is who he is?  Pinocchio can be found in full glory all around Florence. So maybe he is here too?
Carlo Collodi, the pen name of Carlo Lorenzini, was born in Florence, Italy in 1826.  He wrote   de Avventures di Pinocchio. (Italian spelling). It was published in a weekly newspaper written for children called, Il Giornale per i Bambini.  In the early versions of Pinocchio, Pinocchio was made of bread, not wood, and at the end of the story he was hung.  A little radical for a children’s fairy tale.  So the story  was re-written and Pinocchio was fashioned from a piece of wood and taken care of by the carpenter/woodcarver, Geppetto.  As we all know reading Pinocchio, all he wanted was to be a real boy and go to school. Well we know his nose grows when he lies too.  I think all Pinocchio wanted was to be a real boy and EAT bread and pizza. I am going to try to find Mr. Neri, in Montepulciano. After all, he is the carpenter of Montepulciano and he cooks.

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