MONTEPULCIANO, Tuscany– OK the calendar says Fall. Late Fall. I checked. And the lazy November sun was punching in later and checking out earlier – every day. But! When that sun is out and about, so are we. We spend our days strolling about in short sleeves. And our nights sleeping with the windows wide open. And according to my Plant Diary, it was exactly like this last year at this same time. In Maine, the colors have run away and left us with shades of grey. But here in Umbria? Things are just starting to get their autumnal glow. When we got to Umbria on the 24th of October, I noted the left behind vines of recently harvested grapes were still rather green. The next week they went momentarily golden and now they are turning nut browns and drifting down to the still warm ground.
Almost insincere shades of lush bright green cover hillsides. And flowers mix with red vines climbing up and over walls in the village center. And there are bright blue skies overhead every day. It all puts me in high spirits maybe higher than on a summer’s day. I’m tempted to stay home and laze about. But it is just too nice. You have to be out. And coffee at “our local” is not a bad idea either so we’re off to the piazza for a soft launch into the day. So many people to meet and greet, so little time. This morning we saw at least Paulette, Susan, Mauro, Gigi, Biano, Adelmo and was that all? Light day but excellent.
Today we are blessing Montepulciano with our presence and buying a few Christmas presents while we are at it. The town is abuzz and people are in their Sunday best. Which is maybe as it should be since it is Sunday after all. Looks like there are more than a handful of End of Summer neighborhood festivals, a chestnut festival, public dinners (you can hear and smell the sizzle of sausages being grilled, mid-day bells ringing, there is accordion music in the air outside one festival. Way too many stores are open so our progress is slow as we roam up and down the steep, stone streets. We dropped in the Osteria di Borgo that Paulette spoke of in glowing terms, and it is way up at the apex of the town. The better to see your view, Montepulciano. One of a million vantage points with panoramic vistas here in this crows’ nest of a town. After awhile, incredibly, you just start to take the fabulous overlooks in Montepulciano for granted. An embarrassment of Tuscan riches? Yes, indeed.
And the best part? The crazy clock on the village tower says it is LUNCH TIME! And we are in Italy. And, and, we are eating outside. In November!
La dolce vita, in fatti.
THE GLASS IS HALF FULL . . . BUT NOT FOR LONG!
We had many things at the Osteria – including a rosé Prosecco that I really liked. But then, there really isn’t a bad Prosecco. Not in my unsophisticated way of looking at the world. I expect Prosecco to be good and it almost always is. But the cheese plate we had here and the ribollita WOW they were both real Dear Diary entries. Montepulciano is famous for its Vino Nobile but they love to Say Cheese here, too. And we had an especially nice collection on our sampler plate, and the sauces to dress them with were serious fun, too. Green, red, mahogany brown, they were representatives from all over the color wheel. The green pepper sauce you could sort out for yourself but the almost purple black one, I had to taste it several times before I caught its onion origins. There was one spicy, spicy one I really liked but really never pinpointed the principal ingredients. The ribollita soup, on the other hand – it was brilliantly obvious what it was made of. Perfect texture, not just a big old mush, which I also like just fine but this one was visually attractive with bright primary colors clearly defined the full range of the Vegetable Kingdom. Did I say it was great? Hey. Hey, get your own bowl!
HUGS AND KISSES
To hug or not to hug? Being from the Midwest, it is a curious thing to me – all this hugging. When I was growing up on the Great Plains, physical contact was pretty much limited to football practice. In my life to date, I’ve gotten along fine without an overabundance of social hugging. Well, I think I have. Who knows if I would have been a better or a worse person with more or less hugging?. Even though I’m a native of a relatively hug free environment I’m finding I’m rather OK with all the hugging going on around here. Maybe the times are changing. Is it me or are people, even in middle America and New England, huggier that they use to be? Hard to put a stake in the ground and compare. Here, in central Italy, it is really almost not all that optional. You may have noticed. You see an Italian friend, their eyes light up, their arms open wide and the next thing you know you are sure enough hugging. And there is the option when a handshake becomes, of all things, the double kiss option.
So, now look. . . if you are going to get sucked into this whirlpool of hugs and air kisses I say you may as well do it Right. Literally. See the kissee’s head? You go to the right. Your right. Airkiss. Then go left. Repeat airkiss. But it all starts to YOUR right. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t go to the right first, but it does throw everyone off a bit. So get out there and practice, practice, practice. Kiss. Kiss. XXOO
See you in Italy,