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We all slept in a little later this morning – I didn’t get up until close to 8:30 and Bonnie was behind me. The plan was to be on the road to La Foce by 10:00 to arrive in time for an 11:00 guided tour and it was shaping up to be a good day weather wise.
La Foce is a large estate located close to the town of Montepulciano, in the southern Tuscan region of Val d’Orcia. The estate was originally purchased by Antonio and Iris Origo, who engaged an English architect to expand the gardens in the style of a formal British symmetrical garden. Iris described her life at La Foce in 2 autobiographical books, one of which we’ve read while at the villa: War in Val D’Orcia. The book describes everyday life in the area, while trying to survive the chaos of Fascisim, the Nazi invasion of Italy, the Italian Resistance and the eventual triumph of the Allies.
The drive to La Foce was very scenic. We arrived with time to spare and anticipating a interesting tour only to find out that the estate was closed for a private function. Very disappointed, we made the best of it and I was able to get a couple of shots of the landscape we would have seen from inside the estate. Not quite as good, but that’s OK. Next time!
We turned around and headed back in the direction we had come from toward Montepulciano. We pulled over in a parking area that provided a breathtaking view of this walled, hilltop town and the valley below. We met a Dutch couple who were in their 18th year coming back to Italy for vacation. They were kind enough to take a shot of the 4 of us with Montepulciano in the background.
Adjacent to this scenic view parking lot was the parking lot for a restaurant. By now it was around noon, so we agreed to go in for lunch: Fattoria Ristorante Pulcino. This turned out to be the best decision we could have made. Once inside, we were treated to a small glass of wine and some fresh bread. It turns out that this is a family owned business that produces its own wines, pecorino cheese, salami, honey, extra virgin olive oil and more.
One of the owner’s daughters, Angela, would lead us through to the dining room, but on the way, she gave us a wine tasting. In the process, she told us about the family, how her sisters and brothers are all involved. This woman had her sales pitch down pat.
Following that, Angela took us to table #8 and brought over a cart with samples of spreads and cheeses, all delicious.
The waitress came and we ordered lunch. We ordered 2 different pasta dishes, sautéed onions and a huge florentine steak to split. Our pasta dishes arrived and, when we were almost finished with those, the waitress bought the raw steak to the table to show us what we would be eating. Charlie and I went around to the open kitchen to get a couple of shots while our steak was being prepared.
We watched the young chef as he plated and prepared a couple of grilled steaks.
The chef, Luca, Angela’s nephew, invited us into the kitchen. Everything was being grilled over a bed of hot wood coals. He had our steak on the grill along with another equally large steak, a half chicken and a couple of sausages. He put a couple more sausages on the grill for a few minutes, cut them in half, put them on a plate for us to sample, while we waited, and poured us a glass of red wine. Very civilized!
We returned to the table and a few minutes later the steak and onions arrived.
When we had scarfed all of that down, we were served delicious biscotti with some sort of liqueur that went down very smoothly.
We were all stuffed and ready to go, but first I went out to their panoramic terrace to check out the view of Multipulciano up on the hill. A perfect place for a photo, with not trees or anything else in the way.
We also took the time to go through their small museum and wine cellar, where they age the Nobile de Montepulciano wine and its Reserves. Very interesting and despite the poor lighting, with the Lumix low light/high ISO and stabilization technology, getting a photograph was a piece of cake (a shameless Panasonic/Lumix plug for the photographers who may be reading this). The round river stone mask sculpture, il Seleno (Silenus – companion and tutor to the Greek wine god, Dionysus), in the background of the bottom photo is an Etruscan sun god they found when working on their property. They have adopted that as the symbol, or logo, of their business. When Bonnie first saw it on the posters outside the restaurant, she thought it was an angry cookie.
On the way out I picked up some Pecorino with truffles cheese, a jar of truffle spread and a jar of honey truffle spread. Angela seemed disappointed that I was buying so little and none of their Nobile wine!
We left the restaurant at 3:48, so we had been in there for just shy of 4 hours! What a great idea for a lunch stop, but now we would get to Cortona later than expected. We had planned to be there by about 4:00 to catch the festivities of their Festival of Santa Margherita. Before we arrived, each quartiere, or neighbourhood, of Cortona was represented in a procession, lead by drummers and flag bearers, that portrayed nobility, religion and workers of the time. The procession ended in the Piazza Della Repubblica. On Saturday, the Offerta dei ceri or the offering of the candles took place. Large candles were carried into the piazza and blessed by the bishop.
Surrounded by the townspeople, young and old, in their traditional costumes, the flag bearers delighted the crowds with their skills, with music coming from the drums and horns on the stairs of the Town Hall. We were able to stand on benches to see over the heads of the townspeople circling the Piazza.
After each of the quartieres was blessed, they were lead out of he Piazza followed by the Bishop and his entourage.
We made our way back to the car and to La Colonica. It had been a full, eventful, fun day….the best day yet, but then each one is the best.
We took it easy for a couple of hours, watched another episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix and called it a day.