As Captain T and I peeled out of the Siena Hertz rental agency in our SmartCar, we felt as if we were wild and free, at last. Well, almost. We didn’t know exactly where we were heading, but thanks to the Hertz agent, we knew the general direction…
right, make a U turn…
straight, around the roundabout…
right, around the roundabout….
right over the bridge,
straight, around the roundabout…
and left to SR 222. towards Firenze.
T and I assumed the positions. Me, in Shotgun as the Navigator, and he as the Box Car (literally) Captain. As a team, we did pretty well in Greece, with only a few minor mix ups…but here, the driving and the navigating took a little more getting used to. Whenever we would get close to a turnoff, many times the town that we were aiming towards wasn’t shown on the sign. This meant a frenzied map consultation, as we grew nearer and nearer to the point of no return, with Captain T querying, “Which way? Which Way?...um, Navigator?” This was a bit stressful, indeed, especially when I couldn’t find the answer in time and made a fairly uneducated guess. (which was usually incorrect) In order to make an accurate decision, I learned that you need to consult the map clear ahead of any foreseen turnoffs, and find a larger town that is further in the same direction of the smaller town to which you are heading. Many times, the larger of the two would be the town depicted on the sign. It took me a day and some to figure this out, and in the meantime, we ended up completely heading the wrong direction once, twice or maybe, three times… and making a complete circle a couple times as well. Thank goodness for the wonderful scenery! After four days, I think that my navigation skills matched the skills of the Captain, who took quite a liking to hugging the curves on these windy and hilly roads.
We stayed in a place just outside Radda In Chianti, which literally opened up for the season the minute we arrived. We were the only guests, and on more than one occasion, we had dinner prepared solely for us, as well as breakfast. This was more than a welcome change from the last three places we had been and was just what we were looking for. We spent our days, zipping off in our SmartCar, checking out the Castles and Wineries, exploring the tiny hill top towns, discovering some hidden Osterias and eating our share of really good food. (and since T was driving, I was able to try some good wines as well..)
Some of the most basic food here has been our most favorite. One of my favorite things has been the Fagioli en’Olio, which is basically warmed White Beans with a drizzle of Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper. This is so basic, but it tastes so good. The bread is usually saltless, which makes sense when being served with salty cured meats, salami or toasted with shaved truffles, tomatoes, olive oil and garlic. Again, so good. And, the tomatoes are so good that just ordering ‘pomodori’ as a side dish is pure delight. They come, a pile of sweet and deep red, sliced with a drizzle of Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper. We have also had some really good Salami. The other day, I ordered a Tuscan plate and was able to sample some local meats, some Pecorino cheese, Bruschetta and Crostini Nero, a chopped liver spread atop toasted bread. I am usually one for loving most everything I consume, and I really wanted to love this…and I tried to.. but, I just couldn’t stomach it. I guess that I have never been much of an innards person. (although I did occasionally sample some good Fois Gras and Sweetbreads when working at Café Juanita..) T has had a few very memorable meals as well. A favorite has been a Penne Bolognese, with a meat sauce that was so good, I was begging for another “taste” and emitting sounds of pure bliss..
For dessert, Panna Cotta is quite big in these parts, as are the almond Macaroon cookies called Ricarelli and Amaretti, and the really hard ‘dipping’ Biscotti known as Cantuccini, which are usually served alongside a glass of Vin Santo.
I even bought a bottle of Vin Santo with that very intention in mind. I visualized us sitting on our porch in Bellagio, our next stop, with a view of Lake Como, dipping our Cantuccini into glasses of Vin Santo. This vision, unfortunately, was either left behind, by me, or stolen from us while we waited at the Florence train station. Some lucky A****** now has two nice bottles of wine with which to dip their Cantuccini, instead.
Damn that A*******.
I learned from this, two things:
While in a crowded train station lobby, looking at the departure board and waiting for the platform number to materialize next to your destination, keep your eyes on your stuff! I am just thankful that it wasn’t one of our more treasured bags. We were both so intent of finding the right platform in time before the train departed, that our focus was on the board…and not on our box of wine.
Also, at this point, we have been traveling for a little bit and have accumulated more than we need for baggage. At the time, we had 8 or 9 things that we were carrying between us. TOO MUCH. The excess was wine and food, which are wonderful things, but not worth losing something more valuable over.
Now, for the sake of cutting back our baggage, I must get back to eating up our food and drinking our remaining bottle of wine…on our veranda, looking out over Lake Como.