We arrived in Montepulciano in the late afternoon. Thea and I snoozed on and off during the 5+ hour drive from Sorrento. I woke to the sound of Matt and Brian pointing out the hill top towns sprinkled all over in the distance as we drove through the gorgeous Italian countryside of Umbria and Tuscany.
We parked the car at Agriturismo La Terra, where we would be staying for a few nights, and wandered past the brick building where we were greeted warmly by Ilaria and Pierpaulo. They offered us a glass of wine and a seat on their deck. Also on the deck were 7 tiny kittens playing at our feet.
It was at that moment that I decided that if I had to spend our entire visit on that deck. I would be totally okay with that.
As we watched an amazing sunset, other guests joined us on the deck and began discussing how amazing their dinner prepared by Pierpaulo was the night before and how we were in for such a treat.
Eventually, after it was sufficiently dark and we were sufficiently hungry, we all gathered around the dining table with Ilaria and Pierpaulo. We discussed everyone’s plans for the following day and learned about our hosts while we dined on bucatini with tomato sauce, spinach salad with walnuts and figs, porchetta, and cheesecake with pears. (There was more, much more, but I didn’t write it down or take any pictures. Sigh.)
The following morning we drove over to the town of Montepulciano. (We were staying in the rural outskirts.) We took the usual self guided walking tour courtesy of Rick Steves to get acquainted with the medieval town along with some of it’s Renaissance architecture.
If you have ever gone wine tasting in Italy, you know it’s usually a big production that requires a reservation at the winery and at least a couple hours of your time. Without knowing much about the wine of the region, we decided to forgo any reservations and instead stop into some of the shops where we could have a less formal tasting experience.
Montepulciano is loaded with wine cellars that go deep underground, one such place is Cantina Ercolani. Here you can wander underground, below seven historical buildings to see the wine cellar, a medieval museum, and Etruscan tombs. (Etruscans settled in central Italy around 900 B.C. and were around for centuries until they were killed off or absorbed by the Roman culture, but don’t worry, based on artifacts from their tombs, historians believed that they lived very good lives and were more technologically advanced than other nearby civilizations.)
Back at Agriturismo La Terra, the four of us had signed up for a cooking class with Pierpaulo. We learned how to make homemade ravioli filled with ricotta and spinach, pappardelle with mint pesto using walnuts and almonds, and tiramisu, along with other delicious things.
The next morning, we drove around admiring the various vineyards and dodging scattered rain showers. We wandered around the town of Montalcino, known for it’s Brunello red wine, and we visited Bagno Vignoni, a town surrounded by natural hot springs.
Our visit to Montepulciano was a welcome respite from the busyness of Rome and Sorrento. The relaxing few days we had filled with wine, hearty Tuscan cuisine, and kittens(!) prepared us for the craziness of Florence, our next stop.