Moon over Toscana 2011


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9.27 - Tuesday - See See Siena


“Ok are we lost again, I don’t think this is the way.”
“No, I took another way that I remember from Google Maps.”
“So how do you expect me to navigate if the directions are wrong?”
“They and you are not wrong, I just remember this way.”

And he promptly makes a wrong turn and its back to girare-u’s... only one.  He finds the Parcheggio near the Stadium across from the Basilica San Domineco without another incident, slides into a spot right up front and they hustle across the street to meet Costanza Riccardi, who is just as cute as her name, waiting at the Basilica, where our tour of Siena starts.

The highlight of the Basilica is that it was the worship spot of St Catherine of Sienna, where the nave that she prayed in has been preserved to this day with relics of hers including her thumb and head [Eeewwwwww].  Trying to play it smart, Chucky decides to record her spiel on his aging Treo and it all went pretty well… [He later synced the phone with his Outlook to add an address and… it overwrote the recording… so much for technology… use the links for the lowdown on the Basilica and St Catherine.

Amongst the other hightights of Siena, Costanza filled us in on the Palio di Siena the Famous Horse Race around the Piazza del Campo where the Seventeen Contrade [city neighborhoods originally battalions for the city's defense) vie for the trophy: a painted banner, or Palio bearing an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Each contrade is named after an animal or symbol and each with its own long history and complicated set of heraldic and semi-mythological associations. The winning Contrada gets to hang their banners throughout their neighborhood signaling their victory, this year was the Contrada Goose..

We were late arriving due to construction on the Autostrada and only have 3 hours with Costanza since we have reservations at Castello Verrazzano at noon so we hustled thorough several cotrada as she kept a running dialogue on the history of Siena and many great side stories leading us through Piazza del Campo and ending at the Cathedral of Siena, the Duomo dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. Siena prospered as a city-state, becoming a major centre of money lending and an important player in the wool trade and is still a major banking power today.  Use the links to get more info, which really save space and time here.

We took longer with Costanza than we expected and getting out of Siena and finding the way to Greti in Chianti, home to Castello di Verrazzano was another exercise in girare-u’s which had us running late. Founded in the 14th century the estate was the birth place in 1485 of Giovanni da Verrazzano, celebrated navigator and discoverer of the bay of New York and the majority of the east coast of America. The Verrazzano Narrows  bridge in New York was named after him in 1964.  The Castle is a late-Renaissance settlement built around a tower of the XI century. The historic cellar still preserves its wines and is a place of attraction for visitors of which we were a late twosome. 

We had phoned ahead to alert them we were having trouble getting out of Siena, and were met by the owner himself Luigi Cappellini, of the family that brought the estate back from ruin in 1958, who set us up with some complementary wine and asked us to catch up with the tour  already in the cellars, at lunch, arranging for a later tour for us. Really warm and wonderful people.  Lunch was exceptional, hosted by the very charismatic Gino Rosi who kept us in stitches with his quaint side remarks and humor.  Our outstanding meal started with antipasti de salumi, prosciutto di Parma, Tangy Copa, crustini with e.v.o.o and roasted peppers, then a great penne tossed in a wild boar ragu, followed by a tasty roast pork with cannellini beans, arugula and fresh pomodori.  Next was an outstanding Parmigiano Reggiano, a delightful Vino Santo and killer Grappa, topped off with Fresh brewed ILLY cafe and a creamy Panne Cote. During the meal we were treated to a Bianco di Toscana, a wonderful I.G.T [a step above table wine], a crisp Chianti Classico  D.O.C  2009 and a marvelous Chianti Classico Reserva D.O.C.G. 2008 that set the bar for the rest of the wines we would be enjoying on  this trip.
We had a very convivial table including three youngsters from New Zealand, currently living in London, who were staying at the estates Agriturismo apartments.  She worked in a wine shop and the two boys were in the restaurant business.

Our tour was delightful conducted by one of the owners cousins, which was too engthy to go into here suffice it to say Lots of  Kegs of  new Wine, with lots of OLD wine and on and on…

Since it was going on 5:30 by the time we finished, we decided to visit San Gimignano on another trip and headed back to Il Pianaccio for another drive up the mountain for a late bite with the Giannuzzi’s.

Tomorrow, FIRENZE… CAN'T WAIT!!!  we'll see the Ufizzi and lots of other stuff. - feet don't fail me now...

 Ciao 4 Now
Uncle Chuck & The still reeling from all that great wine,  Dragon Lady
Loving REALLY fine Tuscan Wine, Aged Cheese & Great Crusty Bread

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