#1 Italy/Croatia, Sept. 15, 2009

Dear Everybody,

Beautiful Tuscany in September. I have been here in Partina since Sept. 3rd and am loving it as always. After I arrived at the Rome airport, I took three trains and a bus to get to Partina, which is about three hours north of Rome, straight east of Florence. Once in Partina, I have access to Roberto’s Fiat, which makes getting around very easy. I had a week to myself and then a friend of mine that I knew in college arrived. We’ve been sightseeing, eating, cooking, eating, drinking, eating, and talking!

Saturday we visited Arezzo, checking out the churches with their lovely 13th century to 16th century artworks. What a plethora of treasures. We visited the Guido Monaco square, with a big statue of him surveying the traffic, as well as the house where he lived that has a plaque, showing his contribution in the 1000s—inventing the writing of the musical notes of the scale—do re mi fa so la ti do. Lunch was on the beautiful piazza, under the Georgio Vasari-designed portales with perfect temperature. The gnocchi with porcini mushrooms and truffles was especially good, along with a bottle of Chianti Classico.



The day before we climbed around the three floors in 13th century Poppi Castle, and ate a big lunch in my favorite restaurant, Il Casentino. A huge antipasta plate, wonderful ravioli (spinach and ricotta) topped with butter and fresh sage leaves accompanied by some good Tuscan red wine left us feeling like very lucky people.





My first Sunday here before Donna arrived, I cooked dinner for Roberto’s two sisters’ families. We had bruschetta, pasta with porcini mushrooms and roast rabbit. We also picked and ate figs from the tree in the backyard. Did I say I’m enjoying the food??

This Sunday Donna and I drove through a very scenic part of Tuscany, stopping to visit La Verna, a monastery where St. Francis of Assisi had been a central figure in the 1300s. Next to the parking lot at a foodstand, we invested a few euros in one black truffle, which we will sparingly shave onto pasta. We drove on to Michelangelo’s birthplace, a town now called Caprese Michelangelo.




Each morning I get a little exercise by walking through Partina, up, up around the castle and then on up to Freggina, a tiny town perched high above the valley where one can look down on Partina with its 16th century church and its castle. I can also see Soci and Bibbiena, the two towns next to Partina from there. What a view! On the way back passing the Bar Sport, people are already congregating to have their favorite morning coffee while next door the grocery store proprietor calls “Buon giorno” to me as he carries in boxes of melons and other provisions from the truck parked outside, just as the churchbell rings letting me know it’s 7:30.

Yesterday we drove on a narrow twisting mountain road through a beautiful pine forest on up to Camaldoli, a monastery founded in 1012 by Saint Romuald, who renounced his rich lifestyle to live up here, high in the mountains. It’s cool here now, and I think the winters must have been a challenge. We visited his cell, the 16th century church and the antique pharmacy (1543) where the monks still sell products that they make such as soap, lotions, pine cough drops, jars of honey, and liqueurs.

Today we visited Stia, a lovely village in which we enjoyed just walking around, looking at the della Robbia artworks and other beauties in the churches. One church had some interesting, probably recycled Roman columns whose tops had carved images obviously from a couple of millinia ago. We thought they were outstanding but we could find no mention of them specifically in any guidebooks. For lunch we sat in an outdoor trattoria on the Piazza Tanucci overlooking an ancient fountain with water coming out of a lion’s mouth.

How lucky I am to be able to visit Tuscany, staying in my son-in-law’s house and interacting with his family in this beautiful little town. It’s always a pleasure!


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