25 July 2009

La Dulce Vita

At Home in Colle Ciupi

While the villa is officially in Monteriggioni, it is just a kilometer from a family hamlet called Colle Ciupi. "Colle" is Italian for hill, and Ciupi is apparently a family name, as we saw several mailboxes labeled "Ciupi". We made the quick commute from the villa and found a tiny collection of homes built around an even tinier church. This place obviously doesn't get much tourist traffic; we were greeted by a pair of locals with machetes attached to their belts. They were surprisingly not unfriendly in their buongiornos, and were not aggressive or offensive at all. The machetes never left the belts.

We walked around the village, admired their church and gardens, snapped some photos, and then headed to the Coop in town (Monteriggioni) for dinner provisions. We're firin' up the grill again tonight!

A bit about the Coop... Coop is a chain of markets (note the lack of "super" prefix) scattered throughout Tuscany (and maybe elsewhere; we've only been in Tuscany). They are small, but are packed with a plethora of produce, meats, cheeses, exotic [for us Americans] soft drinks, liquor, wine, and fantastic Tuscan treats -- fresh olives and marinated artichokes. There are only four aisles, but every square centimeter of space is used for maximum marketing. One of the final items from which to choose is a grocery bag. If you didn't bring your own sacks, you can select however many you need before you get to the cash register -- .10 Euro. No pity for the unfortunate tourist who doesn't pack canvas bags. (Julie did!) I *love* this kind of market -- easy in, easy out, easy going, easy on the planet.

Dinner included pork sausage (casings still connecting the links), seasoned turkey breast filets, grilled zucchini slices (these zuccs were spherical, about the size of oranges), green beans, and a few other sides.

La Dulce Vita

Today is our last full day at the villa. We decided to do a scenic drive through Chianti and visit Chianti Sculpture Park near Pievasciata. (Google it.) I programmed Eliza for the town, and we were off. At one point however, when she, in her programmed English accent, told us to turn left, we jumped the gun by about 20 meters and ended up at a former monastery which is now part of the University of Siena. What a fortunate fumble! The formerly sacred site was surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, and the place was the definition of bucolic. (I have never written that word, so you know it must be a special place.) Inside the former monastic walls, the grounds were impeccably planted and pruned, with infinite floral and vegetable gardens. There was some sort of US [not "of America"] faculty conference convened, and they were apparently taking a smoke break. I trust that those cigarettes were sacred. (Isn't it interesting that to get from sacred to scared, you just swap 2 letters?) We consulted with Eliza, made the quick trip to the sculpture park, and began the art tour.

If you are ever in Chianti, don't miss this place. It is far enough off the beaten path so that tour buses don't bother. It is secluded, serene, and sensational. As you arrive at the private park, you are greeted by the first sculpture -- a queue of plaster people waiting to buy tickets at a box office. Our collective initial reaction was "Whoa! Where did they come from?", which was followed by laughter and a sigh of relief when we realized what the artist had done to us. We completed the loop of sculptures, many of which were interactive, and left the park with two carloads with smiles.

We had passed through the tiny town of Pievasciata on our way to the park and noticed the "My Way" wine bar and art gallery, so we returned there for a delightful light lunch of cheeses, melon, cured pig meats, beef carpaccio, olives, bread, and wine. *This* is la dulce vita.

After returning to the villa, we sat on the patio discussing our travels. Several questions arose about various aspects of our adventures, and nobody could come up with good answers for many of them. Finally, Sonny summed things up: "This is Italy; there's no time for practicality."

Tomorrow, we're headed to Rome...

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