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Siena (all)

ITALY | Monday, 8 April 2013 | Views [402]

On our second full day in Siena we had checked the weather, and because it was supposed to be nice we booked a wine tour. Our driver/tour guide Franco picked us up at our hotel and proceeded to wind his way through the centre of town and out the other side where we would pick up another couple. They were staying in a castle outside the city walls. Their names were Kate and Cord, from Los Angeles, and they were a lot of fun.

Franco was very informative and accommodating, and he took us up through vineyards on dirt roads so we could get a good view, and so he could pull over and show us the vines. At this time of year there are no grapes and the vines are cut down to a single stalk bent in the middle, and attached to a wire. In between the rows of vines Fava beans are planted to prevent erosion of the soil. The views from these fields were spectacular, like from a cheesy postcard you buy when you visit Tuscany, except when you actually see that Tuscany does, in fact, look like a postcard, it is hard to say it’s cheesy.

Franco took us to an old Monastery out in the middle of nowhere, where his parents had been married. It is still in use today. The frescoes at this monastery were in perfect condition, and they lined all the walls of the covered walkway around the courtyard. There was also a giant white statue at the entrance that someone Franco knew had carved.

I should mention that Franco’s driving was horrible. It made us all sick, and it was made worse when someone asked him a question. I think he had trouble speaking in English while trying to navigate the windy, and hilly roads of the countryside. Cord kept asking him things, and we all kept giving him dirty looks because Franco’s driving was just so terrible. It was a lot of break, gas, break, gas, break, gas, etc. I thought mom was going to hurl, but then Cord kindly offered her the front seat, and there were no more questions asked of Franco (while he was driving at least).

Our tour took us to the Montalcino region of Tuscany, where the signature wine is the Brunello. We opted for a different wine than Chianti, just to try something new. Brunello is not new however, and our first winery had been in the family for several generations. The owner of the winery started when he was 18, and hasn’t stopped. When we were there, he had just got off a plane from a sales tour of North America. This wine, called Collemattoni, could soon be available in the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, though likely not for the price we paid. When I told him how much I thought it would be worth in the hotel restaurant, he just sighed and shook his head. He charges 10 Euros per bottle. It seems that everywhere in Tuscany has an amazing view, and this winery was no different; a stunning view of the patchwork valley in full sunlight.

From here we drove to a church built by Charlemagne (my ancestor), sitting in the middle of fields and fields of olive trees and vineyards. It looked as though the church was holding down a quilt, blowing in the breeze. The church itself was quite simple inside, but the stone it was built with glowed in the sunlight. Franco demonstrated by putting his cellphone up to it, because it was too late for the sun to come inside. Just from the phone’s light though, you could imagine how amazing it would be to see the whole church lit from within, a pink-golden glow. Franco drove us up the hill from the church to someone’s driveway where he said we would see an amazing view. He was right. We only hoped he knew the person whose driveway our rather large van was now blocking.

We had lunch in a small town, at a family run restaurant with delicious homemade pasta. Franco took us in the back to watch the woman make the noodles. It took her about a minute to stretch, boil, and sauce a plate of pasta for us all to try. It was so good. At the end of the meal Cord had some Grappa, and Kate warned that she now took no responsibility for his actions. He was fine, and they were really great company for the whole tour. In fact, we discovered our mutual love for the movie “French Kiss” and quoted lines from the movie the whole drive back to Siena. Franco thought it was great, albeit a little confusing.

The second winery we visited was called Capanna, and the owner of this winery was the kindest looking man any of us had every seen. He looked like the type of person you could just go up and hug. While Franco took us through the winery, the owner just leaned on the wall and smiled from ear to ear with a twinkle in his eye. I wish we could have talked to him directly instead of getting a broken translation from Franco. The wine at this winery was better than the last one, had won several awards, and was featured in a few magazines. The place itself was beautiful, with a comfortably dishevelled old house and vineyards dropping down into the valley. It was another example of the Tuscan lifestyle that we all know from movies and TV, but which turns out to be the truth.

Before heading back to Siena, we stopped in a small town to look at the view, as the town sat perched on a hilltop overlooking the green valley. Because it was evening, the sun cast long shadows on the couples walking along the wall, and the valley looked sleepy under a haze of wood smoke. It was a great end to a really fun day.

Like I said before, the drive home was hysterical. We were laughing til we cried, and Kate was just so excited to meet other people who knew lines from French Kiss as well. We were equally excited, as we had not met anyone outside family who knew the movie either. Cord said that Kate and mom and I must be soul mates. We exchanged emails, and perhaps we will reconnect someday in the future.

 

Siena day 3

 

This day was our “let’s keep this trip in perspective” day. In other words, we didn’t do much, and what we did do, wasn’t great. First of all, it rained. Second, we visited the civic museum which was ok, somewhat interesting, but not nearly as interesting as other sights we’ve seen. Third, I couldn’t find a birthday present that I’d wanted to get since we left Vancouver, the place that had them was closed every time we went past. Fourth, we had a really disgusting dinner of cheap bready pizza and soft drinks. By the time we got home we were both tired and cranky. Then I realized that this was our perspective day. We have been seeing amazing things, doing amazing things, and eating amazing things since we started this trip, and as such perhaps our appreciation for these things had started to wane. This day woke us up to the fact that we are on an amazing trip, and that we should be excited about the things we are doing because we will likely never do them again.

With this realization, we decided to stay in for the rest of the night, order wine and watch movies on mom’s iPhone. That’s what we did!

Tags: brunello, montelcino, siena, wine tour

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