It’s not that we don’t have enough entertaining experiences to write about. It’s that we don’t have the time to write about them! Here we are posting the story of a trip we took at the end of January that we’re just now writing about!
As many of you know we really enjoy wine. One of the best places to go to around here is the small hill town of Montepulciano. Not only is the wine renowned, the name of the place is just plain fun to say. Try it: Mon-teh-pull-chee-ah-no. Isn’t that satisfying? For Henry’s birthday we made a reservation for one night at a small guest house run by a woman named Gabriella, who also uses lots of exclamation marks in her emails!! We decided that winter would be the best time to go so we could have the place to ourselves (and in fact we did. When we went out for dinner we saw maybe 5 other people, including the staff at the restaurant!).
The countryside is stunning – it’s replete with vineyards and fields on rolling hills. On our way there we rounded a corner and off in the distance we saw an alluring town perched on the top of a large hill - our bus was headed straight for it. We were intrigued, and were delighted when we realized it was Montepulciano. We knew that this was a popular tourist town but we were quite surprised when we arrived at a large bus station, bigger than Arezzo’s!
After we arrived, Gabriella, our hostess, came and picked us up at the station and took us to our hotel. We chatted with her (in Italian) the whole way there. We’re still amazed that we can manage these types of conversations with relative ease! When she took us to our room she opened the window and the shutters and we were awed by the view of the countryside.
You’ll never guess the name of the guest house….Camera Bellavista(Room with a Beautiful View)!
We settled into the room quickly so we could immediately go out and explore. Being a hill town the streets are quite steep, so it’s a good thing that we stopped for lunch (and wine) to give us the energy to walk around. Montepulciano is very small so you can walk around the whole town quite easily (“easily” is a relative term here – did we mention the steep streets?).
By late afternoon we (i.e. Henry) were getting thirsty and we decided to stop at a winery that we had read about in a local guidebook. As we entered we saw several rooms filled with large barrels of wine and the man who greeted us said we were welcome to walk around.
We wandered through several rooms filled with large barrels of wine until we ended up in the tasting room where we were met by Morena. Expecting the usual, mildly disdainful sales pitch, we were surprised that Morena was delightful and enthusiastic. We spent almost 2 hours talking with her (in Italian) about wine, life in Italy, and food. As we left she recommended a couple of restaurants for dinner, adding that if she didn’t have to go home to feed her family she would happily join us. One of the places she had suggested was closed for the winter (the downside of going to Montepulciano in January) and the other place seemed to be attracting the few American tourists that were in town. Instead, we went to a place we had seen on our walk and had a perfectly enjoyable meal (with some very nice wine).
In the morning, after Henry had gone out for coffee, we walked down the hill to see a beautiful church that we had noticed when we arrived that is just outside the city walls.
It’s a lovely and imposing church, sitting in its own park-like setting. It’s one of the oldest in the area (which means it’s pretty OLD!). We weren’t in a hurry; our bus home wasn’t until early afternoon, so we lingered here for a while in the sun before heading back into town to look for lunch. The place we found was run by an elderly couple. She did the cooking and he was the waiter. He was obviously having a bad day. He gruffly took our order and practically threw the food on the table. We were somewhat relieved to see that he was like this with the other customers as well. After lunch we went to collect our bags and headed off to catch our bus, looking forward to the opportunity to visit again – there’s more wine to sample, there are more restaurants to try, and we’re curious to see the countryside in the spring.
The ride home was uneventful (thankfully). As we walked up the hill to our apartment, carrying a bottle of wine (from Morena at the cantina) and a liter of olive oil (from Gabriella at the guest house), we were happy to be back home in Arezzo.
p.s. We’ve started to use the word “home” to refer to Arezzo. After 5 months here it really does feel like home. We’ve made friends and we feel very much like a part of the town. We often run into someone we know when we are out walking around. The other day a neighbor we had never met actually mistook Gabriella for an Italian woman who lives in our building! Gabriella is still quite chuffed about that. We will be very sad to leave when the time comes. Now that we’re well past the halfway point in our stay it is hard not to think about our pending departure date.