Italy 2009, Hilltowns

We picked up our car in Florence and headed out to one of our favorite Italian hilltowns: Pienza. We thought we’d missed our exit off the A-1, then it turned out we didn’t. No, wait. Are you sure? What does that sign mean? You mean the little yellow bumps? That’s a rest stop. Are you sure? I don’t know, try this exit. But it doesn’t say Pienza. But it says Montepulciano. We have to aim there first. Oh, right. Here we go.

The town hall or something in Montepulciano, where we stopped for lunch. We had bruschetta pomodoro (below), and…

Tuscan beans with tomato, and…

Gnocchi with olives and tomatoes and zucchini, or corgette, as they call it around here. There is olive oil drizzled on just about everything here. It’s like the Elixir of Life, I’m convinced.

In every hilltown there are a series of piazzas, or squares. Most have the Duomo, or similar, the town hall, and for the tourists and the local economy: gift shops. Amazingly, we only see one. In Cortona, where we were yesterday afternoon, they had quite a few more, and today we head to Volterra. I’ve already clued Dave in to the fact that I hope to do some more souvenir shopping. Maybe.

Right at the base of Montepulicano is this sweet little church, San Biagio, designed by Sangallo and is a perfectly proportioned circle within a square.

This is one of our favorite little roadside scenes, midway between Pienza and Montalcino.

We were on our way to St. Antimo, an abbey nearby, to hear Vespers, sung (prayed) in Gregorian Chant. It was simple, tonal, the silences in between the prayers causing us to listen more intently. And it was only 20 minutes long–a perfectly compact church service.

St. Antimo, exterior.

Elizabeth, in Cortona with her hat.

Dave, carrying around the tote bag, free from his conference (a real deal and perfect for us on this trip).

Breakfast in Piccolo La Valle, Pienza.

We stopped at a Coop store outside Cortona to pick up lunch. This lemon-peach cookie is what a Twinkie wants to be when it grows up: tender, flavorful sponge cake with a creamy filling and crunchy sugar crystals on the outside.

Hilltowns are filled with narrow passageways, rich color and sometimes, steps.

This group of trees is on a main highway. I tried to photograph it, but we had to go back and forth three times to get it right. I kept getting things like signs…

…in the way. But success!

Dave and Elizabeth, outstanding in their fields.

The view from our balcony this morning, our last day here. We’ve enjoyed this trip and will return home tomorrow, at least our bodies will. Because of jetlag, look for our brains to return sometime Sunday.


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