The great truffle hunt

You know the song….The Long and Winding Road, I know where the idea came from. The road to Pettino was about a ten-mile long, windy, often one-lane road up a mountain. Mike sat white-knuckled as I drove slowly and carefully to our destination. But when we got to the top, what a view!    
     We met Mac, originally from Australia, but now a twenty plus resident of Italy. He came backpacking through Italy in his twenties, met a shepherd in a field and walked six hours down the hill with him and the sheep. He met the shepherds daughter. Now they have two children and live around the corner from his father-in-law, the shepherd.

Mac loaded us in his car and drove a little farther up the mountain. Luca drove the other three visitors and the dogs. Yup, dogs. If you want to hunt for truffles in Italy you must have a dog. No pigs allowed. The dogs can not only sniff out the truffles, but they retrieve them. Pigs, on the other hand, sniff them out and eat them up! You can’t try to find them alone, either. You must have a dog. 

       
So we grabbed hiking sticks and headed up, getting a head start on the dogs. So when we reached a good height, the dogs were released and immediately found truffles about ten feet from the car! So we hustled down in time to see the harvested truffles. No problem, there were more. For every truffle the pooches find, there’s a dog treat waiting for them.  After an hour, they had sniffed out about several black summer truffles.  

   Back in the pasture, we drank Proseco, ate scrambled eggs with truffles and sausage and played with the dogs who were supposed to be watching the sheep.   

     Back in Pettino, Mac’s mother-in-law Giuseppina made tagliatelle for lunch.    

    More wine, more food and and excellent time. 

  

Fun at Fontanaro

Staying at Fontanaro Organic Farm has been very relaxing.  Link: Fontanaro

Today, we had so much fun cooking with Lucia.   

 Mike made chocolate almond cake under Lucia’s guidance. It was delicious, and gluten-free! 

We made pasta for ricotta and parsley ravioli, tortellini and spaghetti. We also made a ragout for tagliatelle and a sauce of anchovies, capers, garlic and tomatoes for the spaghetti.

While the pasta rested we did an olive oil tasting. What we are used to in the US is not olive oil like Lucia and her family produces. I was surprised how different the tastes were. Then we rubbed tomatoes on bread, put olive oil and sea salt on the bread, and popped them in our mouths. Heaven!


Lucia demonstrated spaghetti cutting on the chitarra, a wooden instrument invented around 1800 in this part of Italy. It is called chitarra because it looks like a guitar with the strings.

  

    

  

Lucia opened a bottle of ten year old special wine, Vin Santo. The name literally translates to Saint Wine. The wine, made from Malvasia grapes, dates back to the Middle Ages. There are many stories about how the wine got its name, but it has a long history of being associated with the church and being a favorite wine of priests. The wine is made from Malvasia grapes. After eating we would pick the grapes to be made into this wine.  

     
After we were totally stuffed we went to the vineyard to cut the remaining grapes.    

  

 These white grapes, along with some previously picked red ones, were then hung to dry until about February. They will then be pressed and put into barrels for a long aging. Vin Santo.


 

 

 

Broken tooth…Italian dentist here I come!

Well, I started the trip on antibiotics. No drinking for thirteen days. The worst is over. Until last night when my tooth decided to crumble away. Oh no. So I asked my wonderful landlady if she had a suggestion.  It is Saturday. What kind of chance do I have. As it turns out, my Irish luck continues. Lucia tells me her dentist office will take me and she will escort me there. So Mike and I follow her about fifteen miles to the dentist. The assistant stabilizes what is left of my tooth after removing the loose part. And for this Saturday appointment charges me fifty euro. Too bad I can’t stay and have the crown done. What a deal! 

  

Arrivederci Greve…Ciao Paciano!

We say goodbye to Greve. It has been a great location. Day trips to Siena, Panzano, Radda…  


We head to our next stay in another Agritourismo, Fontanaro.  The last one was delightful, but the roads to get there were less than great. These roads too, took some care to traverse. What we have learned is that the roads seem very scary when you first drive them, but you get used to them quickly. By the end if the week, they seem like no big deal. When we arrived….a little bit of heaven. 

  One of our two patios.          Hector Oh Bacco. He is a delightful rascal. We have to be careful to close the gate when we drive in because Bacco has been visiting his boxer girlfriend in town.  True love in the dog world.

They have a garden we can pick from and 2500 olive trees! I made soup today from the garden with the delicious, tomatoes, eggplants, leeks and peppers.

 

Driving in Italy

The driving isn’t as bad as I expected, but there are lots of turns, curves and roundabouts. The biggest problem is trying to figure out parking. We were doing pretty well until the other day when we found this parking ticket on the car.

 I totally missed the no parking on Monday from 8-9 AM for street cleaning. Ugh. 28 euros if you pay right away, or 41 if you wait. Live and learn.

We have been on lots of small roads with lots of twists and turns.


Some signs are easy to understand.

    No parking…ever, I guess.
   Don’t go there. Cameras are watching. If you go down that path you will probably get a ticket assigned by camera.

 Dangerous shoulders…about every road!   

   Don’t enter.

 Restricted access.

   Restaurant somewhere close. Ha.


Voltera…for all you Twilight fans

Being a middle school librarian, I had to read all the Twilight books. Not my favorite genre, so I skimmed pretty quickly through them. Oddly enough, I find myself at a second location where the movies were filmed.

Mike and I vacationed several years ago in the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state. We stayed overnight in LaPush, on a Native American reservation. The next year I was reading the first installment of the Twilight series, and to my surprise, it took place in LaPush and Forks, both very small towns we had visited.

Now, here we are in Volterra, home to the Volturi, a coven of rich and powerful vampires. However, the film was shot in Montelulciano, one of our next stops. Volterra is a beautiful walled city. The day we were there, a market was in one of the squares. All sorts of people were out, eating and talking. Sweets, balloons, cotton candy…

    The meat is quite a sight!

  Fruits, nuts, olives…..  The view from the tower  Etruscan digs  It must be close to harvest time.   What a view!

The Chianti Villages

   
 I am in love with life!  The villages are so lovely. Up in the hills overlooking the valleys, you can see where you are headed.      

  The second day after arriving in Greve, we headed down the road, just a bit, to Panzanno. They were having a wine festival. For only 13 euros, you buy a little cloth wine glass holder, hang it around your neck and taste wine. You can stay all day if you want. The local merchants tell you about their wine, some you can buy there, others at the wineries.

  
A local band performed. Their playlist was totally American tunes: Star Wars, Grease, Saturday Night  Fever. Too hilarious.

We ate a delicious lunch under a fig tree arbor.    

   
   

Under the Tuscan Sun

It’s just like I thought. Oh my, the scenery is unbelievable. We checked into our wonderful apartment in Greve in Chianti.  How delightful! 

  

 
Our apartment is the yellow one directly behind the statue.
        Our wonderful terrace!
 
  
Our apartment is directly above the butcher shop.

 

 

 We went to the store for staples….yes, that is one euro, thirty-three for 100 ml of red wine. I am in heaven!