Yet another day of fine weather, a combination of big, white fluffy clouds & blue sky. It was also another day when we didn’t break any land speed records getting ourselves on the road for more exploring the Tuscan countryside. There was no need to, since our goal was to be at the Sant’ Antimo Abbey in time to catch the 12:45 Monk show. The hour drive to Montalcino was breathtaking with a photo op at every turn.
I haven’t mentioned yet that Charlie is our full time driver. He loves driving & is in his element behind the wheel of the Fiat 500L, with the 5-speed manual transmission. He quickly got into upshifting on the straightaways, which there are few of, & downshifting for the switchback roads & the hairpins turns, so he’s thoroughly enjoying his role as chauffeur. I’m wishing I was behind the wheel of our Mini Cooper S!
I should mention that Charlie’s driving assistant is ‘Bonnie’, not my Bonnie, but the GPS lady. She’s been quite reliable, but today she was totally screwed up. We discussed changing her name when she got ‘difficult’. First she navigated us to Sant’ Antimo without incident, in lots of time to catch the 12:45 show.
The Abbey stands out amongst the olive trees & vineyards in the surrounding countryside, on the outskirts of Montalcino, It was originally a Benedictine Monastery and hostel for religious visitors, visited by Charlemagne, on his return from Rome, & was granted Abbey status in 814 AD. At the height of its power, the Abbey controlled 96 castles and 85 other churches and monasteries.
We took our seats inside the Abbey & waited with tour bus loads of people for the Monks to come out to being their prayers. It was interesting, but we weren’t overly impressed, since there were only 6 or 7 monks & the Gregorian chanting lasted only about 10 minutes. Photos couldn’t be taken during prayers, but I did manage to get a couple before & after.
After the Abbey, we drove into Montalcino, which is when the fun began with ‘Bonnie’. She had us going around roundabouts, turning into parking lots, dead ends & driving over walls & cliffs. Cheryl eventually shut her off & then we all directed Charlie. That was a big help!
Eventually, we found our way to the town centre & got a good parking spot only to find out that the parking areas marked in yellow lines are for the locals & visitors have to park in the spots outlined in blue. It was lunchtime, so we searched out the restaurant that our host, David, had recommended: Osteria di Porta al Cassero, near the Fortress. Yet another excellent lunch with pasta, bruschetta & Charlie got to have his favourite…..tripe! We shared bits of each other’s meals except, of course, for the tripe.
Montalcino is another medieval village high up on a hill, so the view over the walls & down the steep streets is magnificent. The Palouse, in eastern Washington, is great for photographers, but it sure has a long way to go to live up to it’s generous reputation as ‘The Tuscany of North America’. Again, it was a treat to wander around the streets looking in the shops, up & down the streets soaking up everything we saw & storing it in our memory banks….& media cards.
‘Bonnie’ was turned on to take us home, but the first thing she did was lead us into another dead end parking lot. It must be the altitude! It wasn’t a problem, though, because the view over the cliff was amazing, worthy of staying long enough for a photo. On the return, we also stopped at Charlie’s ‘Personal Pee Place’ for another shot of the Tuscan countryside.
Back at the villa about 5:30, preparations started for dinner. It’s funny, even though we didn’t have a big Thanksgiving turkey dinner, we still had leftovers, which turned into frittatas. We had had a very good lunch, so this was all we needed. After the clean-up & some downtime, we turned the couches into position for the 2nd of the 3 Stieg Larsen English sub-titled movies: The Girl Who Played with Fire. It was as good as the first one & we’re looking forward to watching the final episode tomorrow, likely during the day because the forecast calls for 100% chance of rain.
That’s it for today. Buona notte from Bonnie, Leif, Cheryl & Charlie