It has been three weeks since we have posted; and we have been very busy. The biggest event of the year in Greve is the Chianti Wine Festival. This year was the 44th year for the festival. The triangular shaped main Piazza Matteotti in Greve is closed to car traffic and booths are set up on the Piazza for approximately 50 Wineries/Vineyards that produce Chianti wine in the vicinity of Greve. You buy a wine glass for $26 and it entitles you to taste the wines of 7 Wineries/Vineyards. The festival starts on Thursday and runs until Sunday. This year the opening days were marred by rain.But, on Sunday evening there was a record crowd on hand.We went to the festival on Friday to kind of check it out and had a good time!
Then, on Saturday, Rita had friends from Ft. Wayne, Louise, Kevin, Bonnie and David stopped by Greve on a drive through Chianti. They stayed with us at the villa for 4 days and we had a nice visit and caught up on all the news from back home.
On Sunday night, we took the Ft. Wayne group to the Festival thinking that the last day would be quiet and winding down the event. When we got to the Piazza, however, we could not believe the crowds. They had sold out of the engraved wine glasses with the Chianti logo on them and were using last minute substitutes. There were so many people in the Piazza that it was difficult to walk around and taste the wines. There were marching bands, lots of people were “decked” out in their fancy clothes and everyone was having a great time. We did enjoy a lot of wine tasting though; nothing hindered us from butting in and getting our tastes!
Rita and I were able to squeeze in two private cooking classes at the villa with Elisa. We are more impressed with Elisa every time she visits us. Of course, we knew that she teaches cooking at the University in Florence and from our other classes we knew that she was very good at cooking. But, we have learned so much about the history of food, the cuisine of Italy, nuances of using different spices, herbs and techniques from Elisa. She is a real jewel and we were lucky to have her. At our lessons, we learned to make asparagus risotto, lemon crème chicken, and yellow pepper soup. We have practiced several of Elisa’s recipes on our own, and they have been very good and not that difficult to make. We can’t wait to try them out on friends, family and neighbors in Indiana.
After saying good-bye to the Ft. Wayne group who headed off to Venice, we set off on a short weekend road trip. We visited, what else, mountain top villages, medieval towns, and walled cities. Our first stop was Colle di Val D’Elsa. Today Colle is known for the production of glassware, some 15% of the world’s production, but we were there for the “centro historico”, which sits behind a wall on a mountaintop and has narrow paved streets and many old palazzos.
From Colle, we drove through St. Galgano, which is a church and old abbey. We kind of stumbled upon St. Galgano. But, we were delighted to have found it. Apparently, the Italians claim the sword in the stone story to take it from the English. Three hundred years before King Arthur, Merlin (and the English version of the sword in the stone), there was St. Galgano and his sword in the stone. When he gave up his worldly life to become a hermit, he drove his sword into a stone that was described as “parting like butter”. The sword in the stone is still there and we visited it.
From St. Galgano, we drove through Montemassi, a small village with a fort on top of a mountain,
and then onto Porto Ercole, which is a small fishing village resort on the Mediterranean Sea and spent the night.
We had a lovely visit to the harbor, a fish dinner, which has been rare, and a stroll around the boutiques with the required gelato for dessert.
Rita was able to find a T-Shirt that she liked.
On our return trip to Greve, we stopped by the Panzano wine festival, which is a smaller but equally as good wine festival as the one in Greve. I think we have now tasted about every red wine in Chianti! Chianti does produce some rose wine that is also very tasty and a tiny quantity of white wine, which has kept Rita happy.
All of the wine we have tasted is from previous year harvests. But, when we returned to Greve we found the Wineries/Vineyards beginning to start the harvest of grapes for next year’s wine. The leaves on the vines have started to turn brown, all the excess grape bunches have been cut away to fall on the ground and what remains are huge bunches of low hanging grapes on the bottom of the vines. Of course, the grapes have turned a brilliant purple or in some cases almost black. It is an exciting time here in Greve and you can feel it in the air.
We have made a couple of quick trips to Florence in the last three weeks. We love “KOKO”, a Japanese restaurant. It provides us a change of tastes from pasta and beef or pork. The Fusion Bar continues to be a great place for a cosmopolitan or two before heading off to dinner.
With our stay in Greve winding down, we revisited Lamole in the daytime to see the view. You will remember that the last time we visited Lamole for a dinner, I got lost, thanks to GPS, and Rita has not let me drive since because I raced to make our dinner reservations 45 minutes late. The daytime drive to Lamole was beautiful, and slower, we had great views to Panzano and we thought we could even make out San Gimignano in the distance some 27 kilometers or 16.777 miles away.
We also returned to Panzano yesterday, to eat at Dario’s Officina Della Bistecca. Wow!!!! He is a showman. The meal starts with appetizers in the butcher shop, blaring rock music and Dario, himself, holding court. Then, the group of about 20 plus moved upstairs to a dining room which has a wood burning grill. Once seated, the king of BEEF, starts the meal that consists of, what else, beef! There are 5 courses including beef tartare, rump steak, panzanese steak, rib-eye steak and T-bone steak. Everything, except the tartare, is grilled before your eyes. The beef was cooked as huge chunks of beef. The largest I have ever seen. As they take each course off the grill to serve, a guy comes out of the kitchen, holds the meat high over his head and chants something in Italian at the top of his lungs, I assume blessed is the king of meats, BEEF, and “TO BEEF OR NOT TO BEEF” and may all enjoy our cooking!!! Bon appetit!
The meal also included a baked potato on which you were expected to slather lardon, which I think is pure beef fat. There was plenty of red wine during the meal and grappa, 43% alcohol, to finish up the meal. We sat next to a nice guy from Texas, Ben, about 35 who quit work and is taking 45 days off to travel around Europe. When he gets done with this, he is going to do another trip to the Asia’s. He is set for life, if he wants to travel for quite awhile (as he has many years ahead of him at his young age), and has no intention of going back to work. He said he is enjoying “young retirement” and wants to do so many things, like skydiving in Lugano, (which he already did last week). Norm REALLY LOVED this, of course, and told him we were doing the same, ha ha … except we were a tad bit older, and probably not up for the skydiving!! Ben gave the steaks his TEXAS blessing, as we were greatly entertained and enjoyed the food. We also met a really nice couple from Canada that were on their honeymoon, funny thing, they told us, is…. They couldn’t decide where to go on their honeymoon; it was a hard choice, either Italy or TEXAS!!???? We assured them they chose the right place… LOL!!! After this 3-hour lunch, we could not eat again for about 8 hours.
Today is our last day in Greve. We have been content here. We have accomplished our two goals of immersing ourselves in the Italian culture and Italian food. Unlike France, we did not have a third goal of immersing ourselves in the Italian language. That has prevented us from forming personal relationships with the everyday Italians we come across in our daily lives. While it is sad, it is a reality for us.
Tomorrow, we get up early, get in the car and head north. No, we did not get our invitations to George Clooney and Amul Alamuddin’s wedding in Venice this weekend so we are heading to Milan for a few days and after Milan, it will be destinations determined by serendipity. We will continue to include you in our travels, as hotel Internet permits us to do so.
We know we will be returning to Paris on October 18 where we have rented an apartment for two weeks to say a proper good-bye to the city I (NORM) truly love and have since my first visit there over 48 years ago. And, of course, we have a date with Delta airlines to return to Indianapolis on November 1, God willing, the creek don’t rise and Rita and I get on the plane.