May 3, 2009

A Weekend in Western Tuscany

Corte dei Cavalli, the perfect writer’s retreat.
Erika and I spent a dream of a long weekend in the western part of Tuscany. Erika had come through as always and found the perfect place—Corte dei Cavalli, court of the horses, near Certaldo, about a two-hour ride from Florence. We could have gone horseback riding if we’d wanted to, but I preferred to explore the countryside.

What follows is a little tasting of our weekend:

A mimosa tree, a field of daisies, a hedge of rosemary. Heaven.

The view from our apartment with the towers of San Gimignano in the distance on the right.

A fit of giggles. We had those a lot. Erika and I just get on as if we’d known each other forever.

The wonderful piazza of San Gimignano. In the Middle Ages there were 70 tower-houses in the town. Now only 13 survive.

Erika indulging in ice cream in the piazza. She has a mean sweet tooth, but it doesn’t show on her slim body.

The famous Campo in Siena
where each contrada races its horse for the Palio. In Siena we saw a fantastic art show, "Genius, Madness and Art", in a refurbished convent close to the Duomo. Van Gogh wasn’t alone in creating powerful art despite or because of his fragile mental state.

We also had one of our best meals at the Taverna del Capitano. A vegetable tart made of layers of zucchini, onions and red peppers to start, then pici (thick spaghetti) with a garlic, tomato and red pepper sauce. Erika ended the meal with an incredible chocolate cake. “A fairytale cake” she called it.

Volterra, another stunning medieval town, this one with Etruscan roots. It’s famous for its alabaster and the magnificent view. It’s high up and the wind was whipping us into icicles so we didn’t stay very long. In the picture I’m looking down at the Roman amphitheatre

The Roman amphitheatre.

On our way back to Florence on Sunday Erika drove me through the Chianti valley. We stopped in Greve where the monthly market and the local band were in full swing.

We celebrated our weekend with a glass of prosecco in the piazza, bought sausages and a bottle of Grignasco from the renowned shop across the street and then gorged ourselves at Nerbone’s with lard and anchovy bruschetta and a Chianti infused beef stew with onions.