Sunday, July 11, 2010

Italy Trip Day 5 - Monticchiello & Montepulciano

After our last breakfast at I Capricci di Merion, the sun finally came out and we toured the grounds taking pictures. We then packed up and said goodbye to the great staff. We would definitely stay here in the future, and recommend it as a good base for exploring northern Umbria.

Our next stop was the very small hill town of Monticchiello, near Montepulciano. We had about 1/2 hour to kill before our lunch reservations at La Porta, so we spent it exploring the one-horse town. The view from this area is magnificent, and to us it probably seemed even more beautiful than normal as the sun was holding on, and it was a lovely warm day. Plus, since it had been raining for about two weeks by this point, all the rolling hills in the valley below were covered in bright green grasses. It was stunning (picture of the view above). We showed up at lunch, and before we got out the words "we have a reservation" (in Italian, since we had been studying Italian for 9 months before the trip, and we, well Steve really, was very keen on using his Italian whenever he could), the hostess/owner said, in English, "yes, you are from La Locanda di San Francesco". This was true, as the owner of the inn we were staying at next had made that reservation, but it was funny that they picked up on who we were (and where we were staying!) just on sight. We were immediately shown a very nice table on the terrace overlooking that great valley view. The menu was simple, but had so many delicious sounding dishes, it was difficult to chose. We ended up picking the cured meats and cheese platter, then I had the pici with wild hare sauce and Steve had a pasta with beef and almond sauce, which he loved. We washed this down with a 500ml carafe of house red, proud of ourselves that we actually drank less than a whole bottle for lunch!

Our home for the next 4 nights was the hill town of Montepulciano. One of the things that drew me to La Locanda di San Francesco was that it was actually inside the walled city, and that you could drive your car right up to the inn. This proved to be both a good and a bad thing. It was good that we were able to get so close to the inn with the car, as we had a lot of luggage, but it was bad (at first) since it was a little confusing figuring out how to enter the town and navigate the narrow crowded streets. But once we did it the first one or two times, it was pretty easy. Watch out for pedestrians!

As soon as we pulled up to the Piazza di San Francesco, Luca came running out to greet us and help carry our luggage up to our room. I really can't say enough about Luca and Cinzia, the owners of the locanda. They were so helpful both before we arrived with making at least 5 different reservations for lunches and dinners, and once we arrived with suggestions on things to do, maps, etc. Plus the inn itself and the wine bar they run in the same building were beautiful and in such an amazing location (picture above right). I would stay here again in a heartbeat. We were lucky enough to snag Room 4, with stunning views out the bathroom window facing west over the piazza and valley below (picture of our view above left), and to the east, with some rooftops and more green hills beyond. The room itself was designed perfectly, with a beautiful king bed, armchair, armoire and desk with an internet-connected all-in-one computer. A wooden spiral staircase led up to a tiny reading room with a daybed and a sitting chair by a window overlooking the eastern view. The highlight of the room, after our showerless bathroom in Tuoro, was the massively large bathroom here. The glass-walled shower sported a state-of-the-art rainshower head, and the counter was ten feet long with two huge sinks, with an ancient-looking brick arch overhead. I love that bathroom.

After unloading our luggage we went to explore the town. We were right next to Piazza Grande (see picture to right), where they filmed some scenes from the second Twilight movie, New Moon. I think that explained the increase in teenagers and young college kids we saw during our stay, not to mention the many t-shirts and baseball caps for sale, all bearing some kind of homemade Twilight-inspired artwork! We spent several hours walking through the town, then down the hill and back up, scouting out the restaurants we already had reservations for in the coming days, and looking at shops to start on gift ideas for the folks back home. Montepulciano is loaded with gift shops! By the time we got back to the inn, we were out on our feet, and very excited to relax at the wine bar. We were offered complimentary glasses of wine and snacks as a welcome gift from Cinzia and Luca, which we enjoyed while watching the sunset.

We then got ready for dinner, and drove the short distance down the hill to La Grotta, a true standout among our many restaurant experiences, and the first tasting menu of the trip. The menu consisted of an eggplant torte with bacon (delicious), liver crostini (the first of many, many liver crostini of the trip), tomato bread soup (amazing, picture to left), pigeon ravioli (also wonderful), beef filet (perfectly cooked, but by this time, we were perfectly stuffed!), and a trio of dessert (I honestly can't remember what they were, but I remember they were good). We also enjoyed our first bottle of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

No comments:

Post a Comment