Well, when we last left you we were in Portofino. Although we hated to leave Portofino, it was time to move on to our next villa in Greti, Italy. Greti is an even smaller village than St. Leon sur-Vezere. The population of Greti is 357. It is 2.5 kilometers from Greve in Chianti and is under its jurisdiction. Both are in the province of Florence, Tuscany, Italy. The only photo I have of Greti is the wine shop for the Castello di Verranzano, which is located at a cross-road in Greti.
Our only photo of Greti because it really does not have any commercial or retail activity. It is just a crossroads. But, at least we have a famous vineyard in our back yard. Castello di Verranzano. And, we love the size of the bottles as you can imagine from the size of the cork!!
The Castello belongs to the Verranzano Family. Verranzano was an Italian sea explorer who discovered the Bay of New York and New York later named the Verranzano Bridge after him.
Our villa is nice. It is not a Tuscan farm-house, but rather a contemporary home in a subdivision with two other similar homes, (if you can call three houses in a row a subdivision). We have three floors, 4 bedrooms and 4 baths. For one reasonable price, the villa includes a large swimming pool, not heated, and a tennis court that is only heated when Rita and I get into a dispute over a close line call. The villa has a patio where we can take our meals over looking the pool and tennis court. From our patio, we can see the Tuscan hillsides, vineyards and, occasionally, a beautiful sunset.
This is the front of our villa in Greti. We are being greeted by Litizia, a friend of the owner who helped with translations.
Large pool in back yard. The villa has three levels. Ugh! We have to walk up steps! 🙂
We are thrilled to have a tennis court so we can try to balance our calorie intake to our exercise! NNNOOOTTT!
Getting the table ready for our first “alfresco” meal on our patio overlooking our pool.
A beautiful Chianti (Tuscan) sunset from our patio in Greti.
We have been to Greve, in Chianti. That is where we do our grocery shopping. It is small, but has a town square and 76 restaurants. The population of Greve in Chianti is 15,000. In the town square, which is actually triangular, there is a statute of Verranzano in one corner.
The Italian sea explorer Giovanni Veranzzano anchors the third point on the triangular main square in Greve.
In the other corner, there is a statute that gives new meaning to the word “mooning”.
This sculpture anchors one point on the Greve triangular main square. We caught him “mooning” on this evening stroll with our gelato.
Almost every night, when we go into Greve in Chianti to buy gelato, a rich creamy ice cream which Italy is famous for, we found an operatic performance being done on the steps of St. Croce church at one end of the town square. I think every resident of Greve in Chianti was present for the outdoor, free performance, which we thought was lovely, but solely in Italian.
Opera singers from around the world serenading an audience of Italians and tourists from the steps of St. Croce at one end of Greve’s main square.
Gelato is a soft ice cream made up of at least 3.5% butterfat.
This is the way Rita and I feel after eating pasta! Of course, only she is wearing the bra right now.
The photo above of the Italian woman dressing will give you some idea of the effect that gelato has on the human form!
Shopping has been a challenge. The one grocery store is not as large as what we were used to in France. All the brands have changed as well as the way the Italians eat compared to the French. And, of course, we have to shop with an Italian dictionary since neither of us “speak” ANY Italian except for ordering gelato. First impression is that the Italians are not bread lovers like the French. The breads are limited, tasteless and hard. The bread is tasteless because it has no salt. It has no salt because the Italians consider bread to be an accompaniment to salty food like salami, pesto and lardon. The Italians even call their bread pane sciocco, which means “stupid bread”. In addition to the bread being tasteless, it can only be eaten within hours of baking or it turns as hard as stone.
Looks good, tastes bad.
Secondly, the Italians eat a lot of cold, but cooked, vegetables like eggplant, artichokes, red and green peppers. We have also not found simple things like garlic salt, crushed dry basil and mozzarella cheese.
We understand that the Italians use the grocery store for their basic staples. Anything worth eating is purchased from the bakery, butcher shop or fish-monger. Since we have only been here a week, we have not located these specialty stores. It takes us awhile because of the language. Bakery is “panificio”; butcher shop is “macelleria” and fish-monger is “pescivendolo”.
We have been on one road trip since our arrival. Chianti is known for Chianti Wine. Chianti wine dates back to at least 1716. Chianti wine must contain at least 70% Sangiovese grapes. They are mostly red wines. So, we took a tour of some red wine vineyards and visited Panzano, Radda, Gaiole, Castelnuovo Berardeng, and Castillina in Chianti. It sounds like a lot of driving, but all these towns are quite close to each other usually within 10 to 15 miles. We tried red and rose wine at Castello di Radda a vineyard that just completed a $35 million expansion project near Radda. We also tasted, and bought some white and red wine, from the Volpaia Vineyards near Radda. There are hundreds of wineries and olive oil farms located in Chianti. No matter how long we are here, we would never be able to visit them all.
We bought red wine and a wonderful rose wine from this Castellini di Radda vineyard in Radda in Chianti.
We bought some red wine from this vineyard in Volpaia, near Radda in Chianti. We ran into three gals from New York on a wine tasting tour and shared some travel thoughts with them. It is always nice to run into other Americans when you are traveling abroad.
Saint Maria in Radda
A little street in Radda.
So many nice inviting doorways in this part of the world!
Panzano is an interesting little town. When we first arrived in Chianti we stayed our first night in Panzano until our villa was ready. We stayed in a tower room at La Villa Barone. Rita and I couldn’t sleep thinking about all those women locked away in tower rooms in those castles in France we visited. Panzano is dominated by Dario Cecchini, who runs a butcher shop, extraordinare. He also has two restaurants specializing in, naturally……. beef. And, he has been declared by himself to be the “best butcher in the world”, a humble title, as well as the “mad butcher of Panzano”, perhaps a more accurate title. In any event, he is a great marketer. You walk into his butcher shop and you are immediately offered wine and appetizers. In the evenings, the shoppers spill out into the pedestrian street and drink wine, eat appetizers and share travel stories while shopping for meat at the butcher shop.
Hotel Villa La Barone in Panzano where we spent our first night in Chianti locked in the Tower Room!
Villa La Barone patio and entrance to “honor” bar. We made our own drinks and and wrote it down in the “honor” bar. I think we did not lose count!
Villa La Barone pool. A nice place to cool off!
Loved the “Honor Bar” at the pool!
A view of “old” Panzano from Villa La Barone. Vineyards and olive groves everywhere.
See the little door??? This is at the top of the tower and Norm had to duck to get inside.
Great view while driving around Panzano!
Rita getting wine, appetizers and information from the “host” at the Cecchini butcher shop. They have wine and appetizers out all day for any one who chooses to drop in.
The butcher shop of Dario Cecchini in Panzano. The Italian name for butcher shop sounds much better: “Antica Macelleria Cecchini”.
Here he is…. DARIO the butcher!
Back to Greve in Chianti, the town square is lined with many shops. They sell art, products from Chianti, which include wine, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. One such shop specializes in ham and pork and takes up three storefronts. There are hundreds of hams hanging from the ceiling waiting to be purchased by carnivores.
Tiny butcher shop on Greve main square, run by a woman. She cuts the meat for her customers.
Art shop on Greve main square with beautiful frames although the one Rita liked was 2500 Euro. The owner’s daughter told us it was so expensive because her father did not want to sell it!
This is the butcher shop that covers three store fronts on the Greve main square. It has been doing so since 1806. It specializes in pork and the hanging hams you see in the photo.
This is part of the same store.
Really?? How many can he need?
A shop just off the Greve main square specializing in wines and products of Chianti including olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
In the grocery store, they require you to wear a plastic glove when fondling the fruits and vegetables while making your selection.
Rita demonstrating her compliance with local rules regarding the wearing of plastic gloves when squeezing the melons and handling other fruits and vegetables. All the fashionable women are wearing plastic gloves this season in Italy.
See Rita obeying the local rules.
We understand they yell at foreigners who do not get it.
We also found a make of motorbikes known as NRG, which caught my eye since those are my initials.
Motorbike with my initials on it.
Rita and I tried our hands at making a pizza over a wood fire at the villa. I built a great fire. Rita made a great pizza. We placed it on the hearth and voila a beautiful pizza emerged. Well, we actually only got the pizza half right. The bottom was not so beautiful. See our photos. Do you think more practice is needed? Yesterday the landlord stopped by and we told him about our pizza. He took at look at our method and said something in Italian like “Dumbasses! You tried to make the pizza on the grill not in the pizza oven!” Apparently, we used the outdoor grill, which looks like a pizza oven, instead of the actual pizza oven, which is located in the lower level kitchen. (Yes, we have two kitchens. I call them “his” and “hers”). It is a nice compromise.
This is the fire I built to make a wood pizza. I later learned from our landlord that this was not a pizza oven, BUT A GRILL. I am sure he thought “dumbass” when he explained it to me.
Voila!! Our very first wood grilled pizza! How did we do?
Well, we got it half right. Does that count? Next time, we plan to use the pizza oven instead of the grill and see if we can get the bottom of the pizza to turn out like the top of the pizza.
We have only eaten out twice since we arrived in Greve. It has been a bit of a shock. There is no macaroni, spaghetti and meatballs, or baked ziti on the menus. We have not heard of a lot of the pastas and those we have heard of come with strange things on them that we do not like. Our first outing was not good at all. Our second outing at Gallo Nero was much better. We recognized the pasta and its wild boar sauce. We also had a nice salad with toasted bread, tomatoes and greens. The main course was grilled beef. (They did not recommend the fish or the “baby chicken”. We were surprised to find so much beef in Tuscany because we have not seen the first beef farm.
It is our understanding that only the Americans think there is Italian food. The Italians do not believe there is any Italian food. They think all Italian food is regional food. So, when they think of food, they think of Umbria, Tuscany, Piedmont, etc.
Last night, we made another gelato run. When we walked to the town square, there was a beautiful full moon illuminating Greve. We had to take a photo for you.
Another gelato run and another full moon over the Greve main square with St. Croce in the background and the Statue of Veranzzano faintly visible on the right.
In addition to playing tennis, we have been riding bikes. The first day I rode to Greve in Chianti and I took a spill on the main street, during rush hour, and really hurt my ego as crowds gathered to see the idiot 66 year old American without a helmet pick up his bike and ride off into the sunset…. Actually it was sunrise…busy time of the day there. Of course, it also happened when there was a bike tour of 8 riders in full bike gear, clothes, gloves and helmets riding by me at the time of the incident. I was not hurt, but my ego was bruised severely. Thankfully, I was alone on this ride and no photos exist to record my humiliation.
Yesterday we went to the town market. It is not at all like the French town markets. It was mostly clothes and shoes and kitchen items. Although we think one merchant was selling his dog,
Greve market day. Mostly clothes and non-food items.
I don’t read Italian, but I think the sign says the dog is for sale at the Greve market.
There were a few vegetable stands. Fruit is really hard to find because, unlike the French, the Italians only eat what is in season. They do not believe in shipping in fruit from other countries. One stand sold roast pig so we bought and tried it. It was delicious.
Happy roast pig at one of the few food vendors at the Greve market.
Rita tried to buy this beautiful frame, thought it would look great above her fireplace, the gal said it was $2500 Euros, she thinks…. Her dad sometimes doesn’t put prices on b/c he might NOT want to sell the item….. Way over budget anyway! LOL!!!
We hope to visit the market at Panzano today.
Over all, the first week has not been too difficult. We have struggled a bit with getting acquainted with our new house, village, language, shopping, customs and culture, but what the heck. That is why we are here!!
Such a pretty place in this little square.
Love and miss you all!
Norm and Rita