Friday, July 16, 2010

Italy Trip Day 11 - S'Antimo & Ciacci Piccolomi Tour

This was a very busy day for us, we had booked ourselves with minutes to spare. Probably shouldn't do that again. We headed off to the S'Antimo abby near Sant'Angelo in Colle to hear the monks do their gregorian chants. It's an impressive and gorgeous structure (pictured left), and the monks' singing is something you just don't get to hear every day! But we barely made it in time, thanks to some unfortunate GPS misdirections (fortunately only happened once or twice)! After the prayer service, we rushed off to lunch at il Leccio, where the service was pleasant but sluggish (everything is cooked to order, so it's not their fault that we happened to be in a hurry), so we had to scarf down our lunch of liver crostini, spaghetti with tomato and pancetta sauce (very, very good) and gnocchi with pomodoro sauce (sweet and rich, but not enough time to enjoy it!), and two glasses of Brunello.

We then rushed to our tasting appointment at Ciacci Piccolomini d'Aragona, a winery specializing in Brunello. We were a few minutes late, but some others were even later than us, so after about 10 minutes, the guide started the tour without them. The facilities and grounds were beautiful, and much smaller and less commercial than Poggio Antico. The wine tasting was done at a long table, where we got to relax and munch on crackers while trying 4 different wines. The wines were all excellent and reasonably priced, so we bought another case here and had it shipped home (both cases of wine and the box of ceramics from Montepulciano made it back to the US in excellent shape about a week and a half after we returned).

We were pretty frazzled after all the rushing around we did, so after the tasting, we went back to La Bandita and enjoyed some more time on our patio listening to the tranquility and the occasional far-off sheep's bell. Too soon though, it was time for our drive back down the hill to Pienza for our dinner reservation at Da Fiorella, another one of the best restaurants of the trip.

The restaurant itself is very casual, as is the food and its presentation, but the dishes we ordered were outstanding, and the service from the two brothers who owned the restaurant was warm and friendly. One brother recommended a local wine, a blend, that was very good and reasonably priced. We ordered the pici with meat sauce (excellent, pictured above), ravioli with butter sauce (also excellent), sliced beef (very tender, and crucially not too dry), and thinly sliced pork with a mustard cream sauce (just delicious). We ended with a vanilla panna cotta with strawberries, which was just perfect (pictured on the right). This is definitely a place we would go back to on our next trip to Tuscany.

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