Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tuscan treats: Lush landscape, fab food, art wonders delight the senses

Mama Mia!  Monuments,  cathedrals, fine food, cheap wine, friendly folk, gorgeous scenery....now that's Italian via Tuscany!

Bruce Keller at Pisa, enjoying a light rain to make the place glisten!
(who cares if the bathroom is tiny?)


Tuscany's unique
green countryside.


Tuscany has something for all.


IF YOU CAN'T agree on a vacation destination -- one person wants scenery, another great food and wine, another monuments and history -- give Tuscany a try.
It's "one stop shopping" in the tourist lexicon, where all the major wants, desires and yearnings can be satisfied no matter how diverse the group, or how different a couple's tastes.
Many easy day trips can take you from the Chianti region to ancient wonders.
From the glories of Renaissance Firenze (that's Florence in English), with its glut of of artistic treasures, to the golden landscape and hilltop towns of the Tuscan countryside, Tuscany is a wonder.
Gaze at the beautiful cypress and terraces of the Chianti and Montepulciano vineyards, stroll through Pisa and investigate its famous Leaning Tower.
Rent a car and drive south to lovely Siena with its scallop-shaped piazza.
TRY SOME squid and pasta in tomato sauce -- you can smell the basil, garlic and oregano blocks away from the restaurant.
Cookie and Keller had morning caffe
for less than five Euros in Greve!
Stop in to some of the galleries and see why this region has fed the imagination and delighted the senses of countless visitors for many years.
For several years, we rented a villa in Chianti near the alluring market town of Greve.
Each day, we set off from our 12th Century digs, to explore the countryside with its beautifully restored farmhouses and inviting tiny villages.
Greve is a picturesque Tuscan town, with wonderful rentals, inviting piazzas and dozens of fine, reasonably priced cafes. 
WE'D FIND a new cathedral or small museum to while away a couple morning hours, then have lunch at a new restaurant -- always with a half-carafe of the house wine -- about 3 Euros, or $5 and always delicious.

The coffee in this part of the world is also delicious -- small jump-charging "piccolo caffe nero" was my favorite morning wake-up, but the grande caffe con panna was Keller's favorite, warm cream in black coffee and yummy with a couple sugars.
Squid in tomato sauce over a small bed of linguini (not much! The chef let
the squid and tomatoes be the stars!) A Tuscan taste treat.

GREVE IS well known to Italians as the market town of the Chianti Classico wine zone.  It's occupies a lovely cypress covered niche in the hilly region between Florence and Sienna. We liked Chianti because of the reasonably priced villa, the privacy of our own digs with a small but adequate kitchen, and the opportunity to explore.
Besides quick drives into Greve, we took day trips to Florence, Siena, Lucca and Pisa.
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  of places to stay range from single rooms to lavish apartments, rustic or luxurious farm houses, and villas fit for a prince.
Our villa was redone with terracotta tiled floors and beamed ceilings, furnished in country style with authentic antiques and fine copies of paintings by the Italian masters: Giotto, Botticelli, Donatello, Masaccio, Fra Angelico, Piero Della and more.
You can visit a different cathedral, plaza, museum, cafe each day, and
Tuscans like to mark their monuments and statues with plaques and dates.
Our bathroom gave us plenty of laughs -- there was no indoor plumbing 800 years ago -- and the kitchen was tiny, improvised from the day when kitchens were located in separate buildings.
We had access to a large, modern swimming pool and a perfect view of vineyards and cypress trees for relaxing, Scrabble, drinking wine and reading.
MANY OF our friends claim to pay less for villas than for modest hotels -- figuring two or three couples, each with a private bedroom.  So consider this option if you're traveling with others.
We dined like kings and queens and if we returned to a restaurant, it wasn't for lack of choice.  It was because we loved the food. The most memorable meal -- the aforementioned sauteed squid and garlic in a tomato sauce over just a little linguini!

Pam and Kitsy ham it up in their vintage hats,
at the Nye Firehall, where exercise took a time out.

                                                               COMING UP: A Mad Hatter
party at the Nye Firehall, honoring the exercise class in which Cookie participates. Those alluring California coastal hotels, romantic travel by train, a couple lazy days in Red Lodge, two-stepping out at the Cowboy Bar in Fishtail, a trip to exciting Barcelona. For fun, frolic and off-the-track enticements,  visit us Wednesdays and weekends at: www.whereiscookie.com
And remember to explore, learn and live!

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