Tuesday, June 26, 2012


June 24, 2012

Another beautiful day in Castel del Piano.  The heat wave is still on.  Our plans today include a visit to Montepulciano, Cashmere in Chianti and Greve.  We got off to a fairly early start.  I'll let the photos tell the rest of the story.

Florine and Petros in the garden of the villa, waiting for me while I went around snapping pictures.

Path to the pastures where the sheep safely graze.

All set to leave for our next adventure with our various tour books in hand.
View from the car.  The speed priority setting is pretty good for drive-by  tourists.

Sunflower fields - they look absolutely gorgeous.  There really is a slope - the photo is not crooked (my story, and I'm sticking to it).

Sunflower field with village in background

Fork in the road - I took this because I liked the clouds.

Sign telling us we were on the right track - on the Vino Nobili di Montepulciano wine route.
Another one of those confusing road signs that you have to read in like 2 seconds before someone beeps you from behind or  try to overtake you.  The drivers have no patience - they overtake other cars anywhere, even around blind corners and at intersections.
View from the parking lot at Montepulciano.  We are looking at Valdechiana, a vast valley.
Another view from the same parking lot.  Many parking lots and cemeteries have great views.
Another look down the valley from the parking lot.
First church I saw in Montepulciano.
Inside the church.
Th church has gone hi-tech.  You can get more information using the posted qrl-have smart device, will have instant information.

Entrance to the museum of torture.  We gave that one a miss.  Come to think of it, we gave most museums a wide berth. 

An entrance into Montepulciano.

Narrow street with tower at end.  We figured we were headed in the right direction for the town centre.
At the piazza with nice old buildings around it.
Buildings in the piazza
More buildings in the piazza
The Terrazza del Pallazzo Comunale (Town  Hall Terrace) which also houses the archives up on the top floor.  We went out to the terrace and took photos.

The Town Hall again.  I thought it looked like a  cut out from the angle from which I took the photo.
Standard on top of the Town Hall tower.
Looking down at the buildings from the terrace up on the Town Hall.  At least there were not too many tourists around.
More of the buildings from the terrace of the town hall.
Florine and Petros up on the terrace of the Town Hall.
View of the surrounding countryside from the terrace of the Town Hall. 
Back down in the town hall.  Irene standing beside an ancient well.
Another ancient well outside in the piazza.
Inside the cellar of the Cantina Contucci.  We tried some vino nobili in their tasting room and thought the wines were a little bland.  We had better in Orvieto a while back.
Outside Osteria Acquachetia, waiting for a table for lunch.  The guy standing at the door was keeping an eye on his son, who was having a temper tantrum by the store next door.  He took turns with his wife, who came out later so he could go back to his food.  The kid could scream.
The food was worth waiting for.  Here's the carpaccio of Chianina beef. It was really good.
Here's what my plate looked like after we shared all the food.  There was pasta, salad, roasted pepper and rabbit stew.  
Florine and Irene taking photos through a gate.  Want to know what they were admiring?  See the next photo.
The garden that got Florine and Irene's attention.  It was rather pretty.

Back at the parking lot - view from up high.
View of the countryside from the car on our way to Cashmere in Chianti.
More views.  Excuse the crooked photos - it is not always that easy to shoot from the back seat of a moving car.  Unlike the Greeks, the Italians do not seem to care that much about providing pull outs so tourists like us can park and jump out and take photos.
Some stately looking place that we passed by along the drive.  I think I've seen the place before on a wine label.  Would not be surprising as just about everybody makes wine in the Chianti region.

After a minor setback, we finally found Cashmere in Chianti.  The instructions that Irene got off the web was less than clear.  They did provide coordinates which we faithfully entered into the GPS but when we got there, the gates were locked so we thought we were in the wrong place.  We then proceeded to misinterpret the instructions and pulled up at a house which was listed as a landmark for finding Cashmere in Chianti.  We finally figured it out and went back down the path we had originally taken, and this time, there was a pick up truck there and a woman unlocking the gates.  We asked if they were opened and she said yes so we followed her in.  She was greeted by 5 little dogs and it was amazing that she did not run any of them over.  They pretty well ignored us, which was just as well.  Nora Kravis is the owner of the place and she had just gotten back from out of town, hence the delay in opening her store.  She also runs a little agriturismo that can accommodate 2 people.  The area around her place is very peaceful and beautiful, with the occasional goat bell and bleats.

Irene, making nice nice with one of the 5 dogs.

The Cashmere in Chianti store.
Nora Kravis with some of her cashmere goats.  She has over 200 in her herd and this was a herd of females and their kids. The males are in a different field.  She opened the gate so the herd could come in to graze.  She said the goats are great because they ate weeds (but not so good as they also like roses) and did not destroy the grass.

One of the older goats in the herd.
Goats grazing in the field directly in front of us. Nora told us a little about the bureaucracy involved in running her operation.    There is so much paperwork involved in everything that as an example, the person who was supposed to be inspecting her goats spent 4 hours on paper work and never really got to see the goats.
A spinning wheel in the store.  Nora took the time to explain the process from combing the goats to getting the yarn for knitting or weaving.  Her cashmere is really beautiful and her goats are the reference cashmere goats for Europe. She is basically a one person operation and she combs all the goats herself and she only has 1 left to do.  She is also a vet so that is very helpful for her paperwork.  She does not cull her herd, and her oldest goat lived to 21 years. Way back in the day, when she first started keeping cashmere goats, she had to import some of them from the US by way of Calgary, so in a way, there is a Canadian connection. We had a great visit and learnt a lot more about cashmere goats and cashmere in general.  Beware - at least 80% of the cashmere out there is fake!  And the Japanese has come up with something that could hurt the Nomads who supply most of the cashmere - they have something called Cashgora.  The Chinese apparently has some goats that produce something very similar to cashmere but is not.  Maybe that's why we have been getting some affordable cashmere sweaters from China in the last while.
After our very successful visit to Cashmere in Chianti, we decided to go to Greve.  After all, we've heard nice things about it.  The GPS thought it was about 45 kms and an hour's drive away.  Road signs said it was 18 kms.  We decided to go with the road signs. 
A village/town that we passed on our search for Greve.  Greve is a valley town with a pretty piazza and a church.  We did eventually found Greve and parking.  We strolled out of the parking lot beside a little river.
This is what we saw by the side of the river.  This thing was big.  It has webbed feet.  Anybody know what it is?  I just called it a giant water rat.

The river where we found the water rat.

Here we go - the church.  Kind of pretty,and just off to one side of the piazza.

Cut out policewoman (I think) welcoming us to Greve in Chianti in one corner of the piazza.

It was market day in Greve.  We browsed a bit - mostly vendors of hand made jewellery, ceramics, paper and various artifacts.  One of the different things about Greve is that the buildings in the piazza all had large balconies in the front.  Many of the buildings housed restaurants, trattorias, osterias, bars and gelatarias.  I haven't quite figured out the difference between restaurants, trattorias and osterias but they all seem to offer pretty good food.  And have we been eating well in Italy!
Statute in piazza. He must be someone famous.
A last look at the piazza on our way back to the car.  Many of the vendors had started packing up by then.
Petros is a big fan of sunsets and we stopped in someone's long private drive to take photos as the sun set.  It was really pretty because for once, we actually had clouds in the sky to provide contrast and added interest.
We had dinner at the villa while Petros went over to one of the local bars to watch the Italy-England soccer game.  We could hear the Contessa cheering from Adriana's apartment and I kept an eye on the game on-line.  Italy won 4-2 on penalty kicks and you could hear the cheers from the village in the villa.  Carla seemed pretty happy too.

That was another fun day in Italy. Ciao for now.

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