Missing Italy



I cannot believe it’s nearly two years since I was last in Italy. The world has become a very different place. People are trying to find a way of living their “normal”.

So like everyone else travel has been all but impossible. I’m grateful my family and friends have remained well and that’s the most important thing. But sometimes it’s hard not to feel wistful.

I’ve been away for a couple of days within the UK celebrating family birthdays and have been very lucky to be treated to this…this morning I woke up to these views from my window

And then I went downstairs to have a quiet cappacino before everyone else came down. It was the nicest I’ve had in a long while….a lovely reminisce.

I hope it won’t be too long before that’s happening back in Italy but until then it will certainly do.


And so home…

Can’t quite believe how fast this week has gone.  But the car has been returned albeit filthy and scratched (oh and a small dent!) and I’m waiting to board my flight.

Only 30 minutes of delay this time.  Things are improving EasyJet!

Case is now 7 kilos heavier full of good wine, great cheese, local honey and a ton of olive oil.  That’s why a half full case is a necessity on the way out.

One thing I kept meaning to mention here were all the butterflies – farfalle .  They were everywhere.   It was very peaceful to watch them.   I only slightly freaked when one came at me and I realised it was a moth but even he/she/it was beautiful.

So until the next time wherever in Italy that may be…. ci vediamo   (We’ll be seeing each other)


Last but not least…Siena

The gateway to history ….



I didn’t want to miss going to Siena even if briefly.   I had a relaxing start to the day, packed up the car and had a final swim.

Then a goodbye to the lovely Simona.  What a fantastic host.  I will definitely return and recommend their place.  A gem.

20 km northward I arrived at Porta Romana, the gateway into Siena.  Not too long to spend here I walked in towards the Piazza del Campo.   Famous for the bi-annual Palio-  horse race – around the square it’s a must see, however full of tourists!!

It is thought that Siena was founded by two sons of Remus who took the wolf emblem so these are seen across the city.

There is also evidence all across the city of places to tether the horses.

But mostly it’s a lovely city to visit. I wish I’d had more time but you always need something to go back to


And for lunch…..well as it was my last day it had to be pizza



In search of cheese

At lunch the owner was talking about a farm just outside Montepulciano that sells its produce direct. So rather than buy in the tourist shops, off I went in search. Montepulciano is a slightly larger hillside town than Pienza and once again breathtaking when you first see it in the distance

I had a wander and then off in search of the farm.  Success!  A lovely lady helped me choose after tasting 10 day old, 3 month and 6 month and vintage (years!) varieties.  Purchases made I was off.

Monticchiello is a small town tucked away.  Ever adventurous I took the via Blanca- the white road- mostly dust and scree with an added element of danger – well the car is already scratched so whatever!

Worth a visit.  Sleepy yes but probably unbearable in high season.  A medieval charm


Hot and tired, back to the farm for a swim and chill.

Last day tomorrow.  What will I squeeze in?




Next stop Pienza

After the peace I drove to Pienza via Bagno Vignoni.  It’s one of the towns with a thermal spring…and a speed camera apparently.  Not having much luck with cars this holiday!

Onwards to Pienza…


A hilltop town famous for its cheese-amongst other things. Unlike other Tuscan cheese that produce their cheese in the round, here it is differentiated by being oval shaped!

A meander around the town


Then a perfect time to stop for lunch. A shaded courtyard at Latte Di Luna.  A plate of spaghetti but local style- pici- a thicker version that’s almost like noodles. Of course I had to have with truffles – again another great lunch.


To be honest it was unexpectedly good. When I first sat down I wasn’t filled with confidence. It’s very touristy there.

An espresso and I was off. On my way back to the car I popped into an art gallery. I was tempted as it was an English artist plus I loved the look of the paintings. Fortune would have it she was there and we started to chat. We got on to travelling solo after a certain age and if she’s reading this now… go for it!  It’s given me a lot of joy, adventures and new friends along the way.  And hopefully when I return we can have a Spritz and talk about one of your new adventures!


More Tuscan gems…

This morning I drove south of Montalcino to just outside Castelnuovo dell’Abbate where you find Abbazia Di Sant’Antimo. This Abbey, unlike yesterday’s, still has a roof and monks. Beautiful choral music song by the monks plays inside.  It was built around the 1100s although the original church was 10th century.  According to the info, it’s “by far” the most important Romanesque building in Tuscany.

As you drive up to it it is certainly impressive.


And as you would expect surrounded by stunning scenery.


Inside it’s simple, almost honest in its humility compared with so many others I’ve seen.   It’s role was in part to support pilgrims on their journey so I guess the intention was to use their wealth for that.


Although great craftsmanship was evident on the outer doors


In the grounds they grow medicinal herbs and flowers plus there is an apiary and above all that a bit of tranquility.


Montalcino…home of wine, oil and honey

A short drive on and I arrived in Montalcino.  A pretty town to wander through with enoteca every other shop selling local vineyard wines, oil and honey.  All making Brunello wine.  How you choose I have no idea.   Some offer wine tasting.  Don’t touch 2014.  Too young and acidic!   I’m told 2013 was a great year.

So wine and oil bought.

A stroll around, passed the Duomo, along the streets to the fortress.

Then it was enough   It’s very very hot at the moment so back to the farm  and a swim and read of my book.

Sat by the pool and the owner turned up with her kids and some friends and a glass of wine for me!!  No complaints here at all.


Un pranzo straordinario ( an extraordinary lunch)

After the espresso, and with new energy, I had an equally stunning drive towards Montalcino.  I detoured enroute to a hilltop town called Sant’Angelo in Calle as I’d heard about a local restaurant famed for slow food that was freshly picked from the gardens.  And it was closed! Their loss my gain as it happens as I walked across the small piazza to the Trattoria il Pozzo.

A glass of Brunello ( this one from the Brizio vineyard- there are over 240 vineyards in this area)


I started with an insalate  zucchini e pecorino ( it’s a local speciality)


Followed by gnocchi with truffle in season


The olive oil is divine- the only way to enjoy Tuscan bread Dip it!   The oil is peppery and delicious.  We are so mislead by supermarket oil- it’s nothing like pure, local, quite honestly nectar!  Not just wine for the gods…I bet they dipped in olive oil too.

You know you’ve stumbled across a great place when the locals are treated like old friends.  And the food……  the salad was fresh and tasty and the gnocchi – I died….. honestly that was a perfect last meal…..  I have never tasted gnocchi like it and the truffle…..


It’s a lovely place with stunning views



Full and happy. I moved on….

Roofless prayers…

This morning I drove through stunning forests, up and down hillsides on my way to Abbazia di  San Galgano.   The first gothic abbey to be built in Tuscany in the 13th century, it was inhabited until plague drove the monks to Siena.

The bell tower was hit in a storm and collapsed taking the roof with it. So it’s open to the elements.

The best thing about coming off season…empty car parks


A lovely stroll along a tree lined avenue towards the abbey.  Hay bales on one side that Constable would weep over and views all around.


Once there only a few people so good clear photos without rogue tourists in the background. Although I had to wait ages for one woman to move.  She was rooted to the spot.  If she’d been looking over her shoulder I’d have sworn she was a replica of Lot’s wife!  Look it up if you don’t know the reference (it’s my attempt at a biblical joke).

Beautiful place.  Very serene.  The Monks sure know how to pick a good spot.  Location location location

Stunning.   An espresso lungho in the cafe and off to the next new find…..