This week we have visited the Tuscan countryside towns of Siena, Buonconvento, San Quirico D’ Orcia, Montepulciano and Viterbo. We picked up a rental car in Florence and began driving towards Siena. It is very interesting to drive in Italy. Immediately after we pulled out of the impossible tiny spot onto the ridiculously narrow road we were passed on both sides by motorcycles. Greg is the calm, passive driver needed to avoid an international incident in this country. Many times during our drive he would merely take a deep breath and continue driving, while I was yelling at the driver that cut us off or monitoring the pedestrians who stepped in front of the car. Because I am a bad driver we never considered the option of me driving in Italy. I was the navigator, reading the Google Map directions and telling Greg what was coming next. We did amazing well on the highways and the country roads. When we attempted to locate sites in Siena, a beautiful city about fifteen minutes from our AirBnB, we ended up listening to the voice on the Google Maps and driving in circles time after time. When we looked up from the cellphone we realized that there were signs clearly posted telling us where to go.
In Siena we visited the Santa Maria Assunta Cathedral in the center of the old city. Because we are chronically early we arrived prior to the ticket seller. We enjoyed our new daily habit of enjoying a cappuccino before getting in a very short line for the tickets. The cathedral was spectacular and the fact that we could enjoy it without massive crowds made it even more special for us.
In Siena we were lucky enough to be take a private cooking class featuring Tuscan cuisine at La Scuola di Cucina di Lella. The school was located in the center of Siena and included a four course hands on cooking class and a fabulous lunch with vino afterwards. It has alway been a dream of mine to learn to make pasta. We began with a hearty soup, vegetables, pici (a thick spaghetti like pasta), a pecorino cheese sauce, grilled steak with dressing, and almond biscotti with sweet wine for dessert. Lella and her chef/translator Fredrico were knowledgable, patient, complimentary and just a pleasure to be with.
We spent three glorious days outside of Siena at an Airbnb. The cottage was situated on a hill outside of the city with magnificent views of the countryside and the town of Siena. This cottage also came with a lovely garden, hammock and table and chairs to enjoy the solitude and beauty of the countryside.
We left Siena for Viterbo a town about 120 kilometers away. Along the way, we stopped at a few little hamlets to enjoy the countryside and unique towns. We purchased some wine and olive oil and just took our time and enjoyed the journey. Our last stop prior to Viterbo was Montepulciano, a town sitting atop a mountain with spectacular views and world renowned wine. I had reserved a wine tasting and light lunch at Cucina de Ricci. We were given a tour of the wine cellar, that went back to Etruscan times and then were treated to a fabulous lunch and even tastier wines.