Travel with the DonElee Report now! See where you can go!

Posts from the ‘Uncategorized’ category

2023 Italy Day 15

Trequanda, Apr 4

Today we wake, much refreshed from yesterday’s illness scare! What we both thought might be another Covid scare, it turns out we think we had a short bout of food poisoning from some bad ground beef (that we watched being ground just for us!). So we’re back in good shape and we have breakfast and head off in search of adventure! We find Pienza and tour a little bit of the city and end up in Montalcino for a wine tasting and tour that came with our current lodging. Another old winery and we are very amazed at what we see in their cellars. Fattoria dei Barbi!

The doorways are barely large enough for a human to fit through and I have to ask our guide, Irene, how they got wine barrels in the cellar that are 8-10 feet wide and as tall? She tells me they assembled the barrels in place! Over 100 of them! We then all go into the restaurant and taste some of their wines. Good in their own right but not California wine by a long stretch!

Our tour guide, Irene, is one of the most personable we have met. In the wine cellars, she takes us into a set of rooms that store wines as old as 100 plus years! We ask her if she will open one and she smiles at us. Not to be done but hey, it was worth the ask!

We drive on and find ourselves in the heart of town in Montalcino. we tour the Duomo we find there and acquire more ceiling photos, LOL. As we step out, we see a couple of people walking down a path from what looks like a castle and I ask them what is up there. “I don’t know, I am from Montelcino!” Hey wait, we are IN Montelcino! Oh well, shaking my head, we walk on. The Tramontana winds make it feel extremely cold here! We drive away again and soon find ourselves in Siena. Another interesting old little town! We find yet another place to have a wine tasting and we indulge again! Caffe di Fondesco!

So we find our way back to our Villa after driving through the Orcia Valley and take a couple hour nap. Then, a little after 7PM, we head out in search of dinner. Have I mentioned that in Italy, restaurants close at 3PM and open back up after 7PM for no one goes out to dinner before that! We find a place called “Piccolo” and we both have a seafood pasta dish that is fantastic and cooked perfectly! We are the only patrons in the restaurant and the owner comes and chats with us about life in general and the conversation is fun!

Then we drive back to our Villa, get a roaring fire going (remember the heating system isn’t working!) and relax for the night with a bottle of good Italian wine!

Good night!

2023 Italy Day 14

Trequando, Monday Apr 3

Today we get up leisurely and make breakfast. Then we head out to check out Pienza, a half hour away. We get there and easily find a place to park. We are only a block from the Duomo and we easily find our way there and walk around, going inside for a few photos! Every Duomo in Italy has it’s own charm and this one is no different.

We walk around the piazzas that we find and this is an old world charm! But for some reason, I am exhausted on my feet and we opt to go back to our villa and I sleep for most of the day! Elee is feeling under the weather also and we both take a leisure day.

Later in the afternoon, we are both feeling a bit better and we seek out a small restaurant down a small dirt road that we have spotted in our travels and we decide to check it out! It is called, “FicoPazzo” which translates to ‘Crazy Fig’!

We order a tasting menu that includes bruscetta, handmade spaghetti, Roast Rabbit and a panchetta dessert! It is all wonderful especially when you toss in a couple glasses of Italian wine! So we make it back to our villa and will make it an early night!

2023 Italy Day 13

Trequanda, Sunday, Apr 2

We are in leisure mode now so we wake up when we wake up. Our villa is freezing cold and the heater appears not to be working. So we brave the elements and get our day going. Elee makes breakfast consisting of scrambled eggs! First egg breakfast in Italy! And the coffee we bought in a grocery store last night turns out to be really good cooked in a percolator in the kitchen! Throw a banana in and breakfast is complete!

We eventually get dressed and take a walk around the resort, our cameras busily grabbing photos of the local flowers and plants and they purr happily! Elee whips up some open face sandwiches out of ingredients we bought yesterday and all is good!

We head out and find some wine tasting places. First is “Cantina Contucci” in Montepulciano. Back in the old part of the city that was originally built in the 4th or 3rd century BC (yes, I said BC!), the buildings are medieval and fantastic according to our camera lenses! But don’t believe them, look at the photos for yourself! Okay, so my cameras were right! And you didn’t believe them! Shame on you, LOL

We walk into Cantina Contucci and it is busy. The sommelier sees we have just arrived and steps off to the side and invites us to visit the wine cellar and points the way! We walk into the cellar and my camera snaps at me for not letting it loose! This is fantastic! We first see bottles covered in 1/4 to 1/2 inch of accumulated dust! Wine barrels that are 10 feet tall by 10 feet wide and stacked to fill every crevice of the caves! Literally hundreds of barrels that must each hold 2000 gallons each! And it appears they must have been built in place for there’s no way they would fit through the passageways! And they are all in current use!

By the time our camera lenses are satiated, we arrive back in the tasting room. The people that were here have gone and we are two of only a half dozen people left. So she focuses on us and another sommelier takes on the rest of the patrons. We taste four of their finest wines and I am underwhelmed. Their prices range from 15 Euros to 50 Euros per bottle. Understand that 1 Euro is approximately $1.20. Won’t be buying from any wineries soon, but we’ll keep tasting!

So we move on and find a couple of wine rooms that are closed. We finally find one that we call and it is open and we locate it in an industrial part of town, “Vecchia Cantina”. Gabriel is the sommelier and he treats us to tastings of 4 of his best wines. At least one of them I would love to take home and lay down in my wine room, but this trip we are traveling light with just carry on bags and we won’t be able to take any on the plane. The one that shows promise is still young and the wines we are buying we will drink here. So it defeats the purpose of trying to bring his wine home! Sorry Gabriel, we wish you well!

A storm has taken over the skies for an hour or two and we find a store with a couple more sundries we need while the storm passes. We go back to our Villa where Elee cooks some egg noodles we have bought in the grocery store. She does another fabulous job on dinner and we settle down to eat and enjoy the fire I have lit in the fireplace!

We stopped into a small store that I described yesterday where a local lady translated for us. Both she and the proprietor talked me out of purchasing some expensive wines and I picked up a couple at 15 Euros. I’m drinking one of them right now and it is quite nice!

Well, in closing, since Elee cooked, it is my job to clean the kitchen, so Ciao for now!

2023 Italy Day 12

Montepulciano & Trequanda, Sat., Apr 1

We awaken in Firenze (Florence) and pack up our stuff to move on. It’s a 10 minute walk to the car and we get there with no issues. We head onto the highway and make a stop at a now common sight, the AutoGrille. And as we have been finding out, they carry really good coffee, pastries, sandwiches and more! So we have what is becoming a staple breakfast for us, coffee and a ham and cheese sandwich on really good bread! I’d love to find a place to have a good omelette but that appears to be way too American for this country!

We head on and leave the Autostrade (highway) intentionally as the highways are a good way to get from point A to point B but not to see the countryside! And today’s journey is just over an hour by Autostrade. So we leave that road and tell our GPS to avoid toll roads. We are now driving in the Italian countryside and the pleasant factor of the trip skyrockets!

We find ourselves driving through Montepulciano, a famous area of Tuscany. We have been recommended to visit a couple of wine tasting locations by Lucrezia in Tuscan Taste in Firenze. So we navigate to the La Dolce Vita and it takes us up narrow winding roads among throngs of tourists walking in the middle of the roads! And the roads are only wide enough for a car and a half! Very picturesque buildings a thousand plus years old! Once inside, we drop the name of the lady in Firenze and the owner caters to us personally! He tells us a story of someone who came to see him named Peter. Peter Mondavi. Yes, that Mondavi! About how Peter came in search of his store!

So he gives us tastings of 7 of the wines he sells and we settle on a glass each to relax with after the tasting. The red wines were so good that Elee settles on a glass of red, Brunello di Montalcino! It is very good! The tasting turns out to be very upper class and makes a real dent in our wallet! The owner tells us that if we order 2 or more cases, he will ship it for free! A case is 12 bottles and his most inexpensive wine is 49 Euros ($57)! We take a hard pass!

So we resume our journey through this old medieval town and take what photos we can while driving. Then we navigate to our final destination for the night, in Trequanda, another 20 minutes away. We are staying at Cignello Wine Resort, that will be our home for the next 5 days. We’ll finally get a respite form our hectic schedule to this point. We have a 2 bedroom, 2 bath suite on a ranch. We kick back for a while and then head into the next town over, Sinalunga, where we find grocery stores to get sundries and a restaurant to get dinner.

At the Wine Resort we have a 2 bedroom apartment all to ourselves for the next 5 days! Quite spacious and comfy! And it comes with a view! We find out the bad news later on when we discover the heating system isn’t working! But the staff brings us a space heater and plenty of wood for the fireplace!

We find a place to park near the top of a hill that comprises the town of Sinalunga and as we are checking out the parking spaces because they are marked like Italian handicapped spots, we come up next to a person getting out of a car. “Scussi?” we ask. “Do you speak English?”

“Yes”, she answers.

“Is it okay to park here? these look like handicap spaces!”

“Oh, we don’t pay attention to that!” She responds and we all chuckle.

This lady is very friendly and personable and we ask her if there are any grocery stores nearby. She tells us there is a small one a block away and much larger ones down the bottom of the hill. She then tells us she knows the proprietor of the small shop and would be glad to go with us and translate for us. (Her English is very good and she tells us she has lived in the States and in the UK) This lady is a wonderful and good person. We get some fantastic sliced meats and cheeses along with breads for sandwiches and wine. So we are good to go.

We drive on and weave our way back down the hill and come across one of the larger grocery stores and stop in. We have noticed that there are no basic sundries in our Villa. (Such as spices, condiments, Paper Towels, etc.) So we spend more money and get a few basics.

We stop at several restaurants to start with and they either did not serve what we were looking for or they couldn’t accommodate us due to it being Saturday night and we didn’t make reservations! Then we come across one called Alle Volte Ristorante and it was empty! We ask them what time people come to eat and they tell us 9 or 10 PM! I guess we are just old, LOL. But we look at the menu and they offer the meal we couldn’t find in Firenze, Bisstecca Alla Fiorentine! It is a T-Bone steak sold by the kilogram, seared and raw in the middle! So we splurge and order it and it is melt in your mouth tender! Add a glass of wine each and the total meal isn’t even out of sight on the final bill!

So another bucket list item checked off, we are satiated and happy. Now to go back to our Villa and I find my cell phone is missing. The one and only GPS tool that could find the Villa today. Oh my, what to do? We use the GPS built into the Italian rental car we have and it luckily gets us close enough that we find the correct dirt road to take us there! We go inside and my cell phone is not there either. So I do my best to stay calm and Elee, my girl scout, hands me a flashlight bless her heart, and I search the path to the car and open the door and find the phone in the darkened interior! Crisis averted!

So we are in our Villa and now have 2-3 days of breakfasts, lunches and a dinner to save us from all restaurant meals! Tomorrow we will explore this area in more detail.

2023 Italy Day 11

Firenze (Florence), Friday, March 31

I get up bright and early today because I have to walk 20 minutes to the car and move it. The parking meters start at 8AM. I have info on a parking garage that we can pay by the day a lot closer to our AirBnB. I get to the car and navigate to the new address only to find the new garage full. But the helpful attendant gives me the address of another place. I get there and they take the car. This is a place where they stack cars on lifts. Interesting!

So I take the last few things out of the car and now have only a 9 minute walk to our apartment. Parking will be 30 Euros per day. I don’t know if that is a bargain but the parking meters we were at cost 24 Euros per day to keep them fed. So I get back to the apartment and find Elee up. She has been up and down all night doing laundry!

Well the good news is our laundry is all clean! So we head out and find coffee and pastries (after having one cup in the apartment) and head towards the river. We walk by the Piazza De’ Pitti (The Pitti Palace) but we don’t ever find out what it is except a very large building. We spot a water drinking fountain like ones we saw in Rome several years back. You turn on the water and block it with your hand and a fountain squirts up to drink from! We cross the river on the Ponte Vecchio, a bridge lined with shops and vendors and some very nice views! We were here 7 years ago with my mother in law in a wheelchair. Even a local poses for my camera!

It’s a much more leisurely trip this time and we treat ourselves to taking our time and enjoying the views. Our cameras are happy and in their element once again! From the Ponte Vecchio, we walk on to the Uffizi Gallery Museum and see works by Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Botticelli, and others. The famous painting, Birth of Venus is on display! We find a worker in the museum that helps us to an elevator out as the elevators seem to be restricted. Elee’s knees thank the lady profusely!

From the museum, we head towards the Duomo which is as spectacular outside as we remember! This trip we queue up to go inside, something we didn’t have time for last trip here. After about an hour queue, we go inside. It is interesting but a bit underwhelming compared to other Duomos and Basilicas we have been in but still interesting. Our cameras enjoy the trip and we leave happy. There is a bell tower here, that, for a price, I could climb the 414 steps to the top. Normally, I wouldn’t pass up the chance, but today, my feet and knees rebel and my cameras frown at them! But a curious 24 hour clock catches my camera’s attention!

On our way back to the apartment we find a wine and cheese tasting store where you choose as many wines as you like and automatically serve yourself tastings and they bring you a cheese platter of tastings to go with it. The proprietor, Lucrezia, at Tuscan Taste Wine Tasting Room takes a liking to us (might have something to do with telling her I am a winemaker) and chats with us the entire time, telling us about the wines and cheeses! We add a few more grape varietals to our hunt to join the Century Club (tasting 100 different varietals) and I think we are over 60 now! A rich person’s Alpha Romeo is just parked in the street wherever he wants to park it! Street art in the form of chalk paintings abound! Random store displays catch our cameras eyes and a fun carousel is spinning!

We head back towards the apartment and look for restaurants that serve ‘Bissteca Alla Fiorentino’, a 3 or 4 inch thick beef T-Bone, aged 45 days and cooked over charcoal. You pay by the kilogram at between 50-75 Euros per kilogram with a minimum of 1.2 kilograms! But 2 people share the meal! A very famous dish here! Unfortunately you need reservations made days in advance to get it and we didn’t make reservations. We find one place across the river that tells us we don’t need reservations but it is too far to go on our weary legs! So Elee cooks pasta in our apartment called ‘Trofi’ with a pesto sauce that we found in, wait for it, a gas station on the highway! She perfects the ‘Al Denti’ method of cooking it and it comes out marvelous!

So, being saved from going down and up our 6th floor walk up apartment on sore feet, we watch some shows on Netflix and kick back. Clean the kitchen and sit down to write this blog and the evening wanes! Good night everyone!