Friday, July 16, 2010

Italy Trip Day 10 - San Querico d'Orcia & Bagno Vignoni

After our first breakfast at La Bandita (croissant, very good granola, sheep milk yogurt, fruit and fresh squeezed OJ), we headed down the bumpy road to San Querico d'Orcia, a small town between Pienza and Montalcino. We visited a very pretty garden and park, and explored the side streets before heading out to our next stop, Bagno Vignoni (pictured left). This town has ancient hot springs where locals used to come and bathe, including St. Catherine of Siena, the co-patron saint of Italy. We had lunch here at a little rustic place called Il Loggiato, on a side street off the main square. We sat at one of the four outdoor tables, and enjoyed a simple lunch of bruschetta with tomatoes and basil, polenta with sausage and pecorino, beef carpaccio with gorgonzola fondue, and cinta senese (roast pork, the winner of the meal), and a carafe of house red.

We then went back to Pienza and picked up some items to make dinner in our kitchen at the Pigsty. We bought fresh pappardelle pasta and a couple of jars of local wild boar sauce, stopped for some gelato (I haven't mentioned it before, but this was pretty much a daily treat for us), and went back to La Bandita to enjoy the rest of the afternoon on our patio reading. We had a pre-dinner snack (pictured right) consisting of the three different pecorino cheeses we had bought from the surly cheese shopkeeper, honey, salami and pears. Very tasty. For dinner we made the pasta and sauce we had bought in Pienza (the sauce was great, so we bought more the next day to take home with us), and a bottle of the Gattavecchi wine we carried with us from Montepulciano. We finished with biscotti and dessert wine, which was supplied free of charge from Francesca, one of La Bandita's diligent managers.

I should take a minute to sing the praises of the staff at La Bandita. They really make this place special. Francesca and Simone are a couple, and usually work different shifts, but are often in charge of making sure everything runs smoothly. Francesca was a master planner also. I gave her a list of the restaurants I wanted to try and the activities we were interested in, and in about an hour she came back with a written itinerary for the next five days, complete with reservations for every meal, a winery tour, and suggestions of other places to go that we hadn't known about. We loved her! Paula and Paulo work either with Simone or Francesca, or by themselves sometimes, and were always offering to assist us with something. Paula saw my husband go toward the little room with the washing machine with a bag of clothes, and she rushed up and took the bag from him. A short while later she returned with our clean clothes in a bag expertly folded. Now that's service!

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