News

Hellbender Tap Takeover

You know we love our local, small producers.  You can’t get much more local and small in the beer business than Hellbender!  We love their brews and always have at least one tap devoted to them!  So, starting Thursday, July 27, we will be offering 4 delicious beers from Hellbender in the Grotto bar and dining room.  A full glass is $6 {only $4 at Happy Hour} and a 5 oz taster is $3!  A flight of all four tasters is $10.

In addition, I am cooking up a special small bite to go with each brew.  And the cheese on two of the bites is from the P.A. Bowen Farmstead in Prince Georges County, MD.  This is a farm where the brewery sends its spent grain after brewing to be fed to the hogs and cows on the farm.  They use some of the milk to make incredible English style raw milk cheese which we are serving with the beer! The bites are $3 each or $9 for all 4.   {veggie options available for all bites}

BARE BONES KOLSCH

Traditional German-style ale – light and crisp with a spicy finish from American-grown noble hops.
4.7% ABV, 25 IBU
Bite: steak & cloth bound cheddar cheese crostino

DOWN N’ OAT PALE ALE SEASONAL RELEASE

Malted oats and wheat make up the majority of the malt bill, creating a light-colored American pale ale with a biscuity malt flavor and clean, crisp finish. Massive late hop additions and dry hopping with Idaho 7, Ekuanot, Aurora, Centennial & Mosaic deliver intense tropical fruit and citrus flavors and aroma.
5.8% ABV.  This is their last seasonal release and is no longer available from the brewery!  They have held back a keg just for this event.
Bite:  Polenta squares w/stilton style Prince George’s Blue

IGNITE I.P.A.

Orange-hued IPA with strong, earthy resin and bright citrus notes from Nugget, Centennial, Citra and Equinox hops; finishes citrusy and dry.
6.5% ABV, 62 IBU
Bite: Spicy Ceviche

DAYS GONE BY DRY-HOPPED BELGIAN TRIPEL

A collaboration with the historic St. Feuillien Brewery in Le Roeulx, Belgium, Days Gone By is a traditional Belgian tripel brewed with a distinctly American hopping. Bright golden in color with a light coriander spiciness, it finishes with bold citrus and tropical flavors and aroma from Citra, Amarillo, Idaho 7 & Azacca hops.
8.5% ABV, 42 IBU.  This is their current limited seasonal release.
Bite:  House sausage in spicy tomato sauce w/sharp provolone & calabrese hot pepper

World Lambrusco Week

World Lambrusco Week is June 16-22

The 2017 7th World Lambrusco Day Festa is June 21

Wednesday, June 21, you can come and drink up to 10 different Lambrusco and Dean will give you stories and tall tales about Lambrusco in the Grotto Bar from 5 ’til 8pm.  We will have loads of snacks to go with.  The cost of the casual tasting & class is $35 plus tax & gratuity.

Tickets and more details” World Lambrusco Day

Red Bubbles:

Celebrate The Rebirth Of Real Lambrusco

Why is there a Lambrusco Week?  If you ask that question, then you need to learn about Lambrusco: Real Lambrusco!

What Is Lambrusco?

It is not a region, a city, a style or sweet fizzy swill:
It’s an ancient family of grapes used to make fizzy dry reds!
No other wine has been so bastardized as Lambrusco!
Forget riunite, cella & the rest {7% alcohol & 10% sugar!}

Real Lambrusco is made in the Emilia, surrounding Modena.  It comes from any of the family of Lambrusco grapes such as Grasparossa, Sorbara & Mariani, Salamino, + other grapes like lancellotta ~~ Real Lambrusco is dry to off-dry, 11% alcohol; tart & lively with a sugar level of less than 1.5% Due to Lambrusco’s natural high acid content, it is great food wine and can seem very dry indeed. Lambrusco is a refreshing sparkling red: perfect w/rich antipasti & pasta; & the best wine for cheese & cured meats

The rebirth of Lambrusco came about fairly recently when wines like Ermite Medice Concerto and Chiarli Vecchia Modena Premium were recognized by the Italian wine press with Tre Bicchiere from Gambero Rosso and other publications.  But the reality is that real Lambrusco had not gone anywhere!  It’s just that industrial Lambrusco {Riunite, Cella etc} dominated the market and, unfortunately still do.  But we at the Grotto and at Dino before have always believed in the real deal.

Our Favorite Lambrusco Producers

Camillo Donati
Cantina di Volta
Carra di Casiatico
Chiarli
Ermite Medice
Fattoria Moretto
Fiorini
Vignetti Saetti

International Lambrusco Days

June 16 Thru June 22

First off, here are the social media links!

Sorbara, Marani & CO
@LambruscoDays 
: 6/16-22/2017
LambruscoDays.com

A week of Lambrusco & Dining at the Grotto!  We will start off with a $25 Lambrusco flight consisting of 5 Lambrusco with 5 bites to accompany.  The pours will be smaller and the bites just that, so this is the equivalent of a normal wine flight and an antipasto for $25.  Or you can get a full Lambrusco menu with the flight for $49.  The menu may change nightly depending on availability.  But right now, here is what we are thinking of:

5 bites

Potato & crispy Tuscan bacon {pork belly}
Prosciutto & Fresh Mozzarella
House Cured Duck Breast
Crostini Caprese
Wild Boar Rillettes

The full menu will continue with…..

Cannelloni Duo
spinach & ricotta cannelloni
one covered w/wild boar ragu
one covered w/duck bolognese ragu

Wagyu Steak
charred ramp pesto w/walnuts
grilled broccoli

Duo of Pecorino

The Lambrusco will change daily as we want to show off all out range of wines.  We will be sure to have a Sobrara {the lightest color Lambrusco} to a Grasparossa di Castelvetro z{the darkest and fullest of the Lambrusco Family.  You don’t need to buy tickets and you don’t even have to reserve!  But if you do reserve, please let us know you are coming for the Lambrusco Flight or Menu.

Perhaps The Worst Wine Writting I Have Ever Read and my Reply

One Mr. David Brenner, writting on Italy Chronicles which subtittles its blog “The Italy You Don’t Know” certainly lived up to the Italy {wines thereof} I don’t know.  And I do question what Mr Brenner knows.  So first, please read his article before I rip it to shreds.

Wines To Avoid – The Worst Italy Can Offer

And now my response:

{edited to correct an error identifying the cuvee of Chiarli involved}

Congratulations! One of the worst articles on wine ever written. Where to start?

Corked wines. Caused by TCA , not spores A chemical sometimes found on cork, but that can be found in nature from many sources. Here is the Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cork_taint. Certainly saying it came from spores may be correct in a modicum of cases, but it is not the leading cause. Wineries may be infected with TCA and it may be introduced thru the cork. Please, the next time you write about something elementary that you have no knowledge of, at least hit the good old wiki if not google.

Corks: “what posh sommeliers are checking for when they sniff the cork after taking it out of the bottle.” If posh sommeliers are sniffing for corkiness on the cork, they need to learn something. A cork’s smell has little relationship with the smell of the wine. And why smell the cork when the wine is in a nice container, easy to pour out, called a bottle. Yes, good sommeliers {who are not always posh} actually check the wine. In my 30,000 bottles of wine I have sampled or opened as a retail wine salesman, a wholesale wine sales man, a regional wine buyer for a gourmet foods company and in my 20 years as a restaurateur, I have smelled corks that are disgusting where the wine was perfectly sound and corks that were perfectly innocuous where the bottle was filled with bilgewater {corked, aldehydic, volatile acidity, maderized, bacterial spoilage of all sorts, mercaptans and more}. One should look at the cork as an indication of storage and no more. And old corks tend to look bad no matter what. Frankly, this article smells worse than any cork I have ever smelled, and et the content leaves an even fouler taste in the mouth.

Your example of one bottle of corked Chianti. Really? Blaming the winery for one freaking bottle when it is an industry wide problem? Should I now avoid all Chianti Classico by Terri di Mastri? Should I now avoid all wines by Terri di Mastri? Should I now avoid all Chianti Calssico?

No! I should avoid the one bottle of Terre di Mastri we know to be corked because you opened it. What is the point of naming a winery because particular bottle wine was corked? I have a friend who has a problem with their Fiat Arbath.. Should we avoid all Fiats?

Next we come to your critique of Est! Est!! Est!!! where you also slam Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio and Vernaccia di San Gimignano. As with any area, there are good wineries and bad. Are you really saying don’t drink this particular trio of DOCG’s in light of the rampant bad wine that should be counted as crimes against nature committed in other wine growing regions?

Est! Est!! Est!!! can be a pleasant thing to go with a light seafood pasta and antipasti on a hot day. And guess what: that’s how it is used in Rome. Are there innocuous bottles of Est^^3? Of course. But there are far more innocuous to down right scary bottles of Chianti or Primitivo. And not to mention the legion of horrid merlots grown everywhere because, well merlot.

San Gim is a tourist town and there are tourist trap restaurants, stores and, yes, wines. But there are fabulous wines being made. San Quirico, Pietrafitta, Le Rote, Teruzzi e Perthod, and more are all fine producers of very good wines indeed. Following your recommendation would deprive these worthy producers the opportunity of showing off their wines which offer a lot of value in most cases. And open minded drinkers of a lot of fun wine at a good price. If you think Vernaccia di San Gim {which here in the states usually retails for $10 to 15} is among the “worst Italy has to offer”, I have to hold your opinion as some of the worst Italy has to offer.

Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio: here you are simply wrong and slanderously so. Terradora di Paolo, De Angeles and the venerable old name Mastrobernandino are all making outstanding wines under this DOC. Where you came up with the notion that this is “among the worst Italy has to offer” mystifies me. Are you just pulling it out the lower end of your alimentary canal? I pity anyone who reads this article and follows the advice herein.

Your 4th example is Lambrusco, with Chiarli Vecchia Modena shown and described. You may have had a bad bottle. But you do know that it’s sibling wine, the Premium, wins Tre Biccherri year after year after year. Now usually I am not a big fan of scores and competitions, but here is a winery that has been recognized by Italian wine professionals as an outstanding achievement and you call the regular Vecchio Modena “was by some distance the worst; most unpleasant; most downright awful bottle of wine I’ve ever drunk anywhere.”

I have served all sorts of different bottlings of Chiarli in my restaurant for years, and have never had anyone so describe it. Every top restaurant in Modena carries Chiarli. Perhaps it is not you your liking, but the worst Italy has to offer?

Eremete Medici, Venturini, ohhhhh, I give up. You clearly show no evidence of knowing good Lambrusco.

Thanks for letting us know how wrong we are!

And now let us come to the biggest joke of all…. A 1 euro wine is bad? I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!

 

Summer Tomato Sauce

Summer Tomato Essence

IMAG0019
Seconds from the Dupont market… over 50# per tray

Cut ripe juicy tomatoes in quarters. Put in large, non reactive sauce pan {enameled cast iron or stainless steel} Bring to a boil and reduce heat and let simmer until the tomatoes completely fall apart. Put tomatoes thru a food mill to remove skin and seeds. Be sure to work the mill well until the skins are fairly dry.

You can freeze the essence and use it as in ingredient in soups or stews. You can also make some into sauce using the following outline. You can vary the herbs, but if you want to flavor the sauce with basil, do it when you have thawed the sauce and are ready to serve it. Rosemary, marjoram or thyme all are nice for the herb, or use a mix. We freeze only the essence and make the sauce when thawing out so we can tailor the sauce for its final use.

Summer Tomato Sauce

Photo by Adam Parr & Charles Borst

To make the summer tomato essence into a tomato sauce, saute in olive oil over high heat red chili flakes {Aleppo pepper is my favorite} in olive oil for a second and add chopped garlic and oregano and cook until just aromatic. Don’t let the garlic burn. Add tomato sauce and cook until it is almost as thick as you want for your final sauce. The sauce will reduce further when you reheat it from the freezer. Season with salt & pepper, leaving it under salted so you can add salty ingredients like capers or anchovies wen you have thawed out the sauce.

For 1 quart of the essence, I use
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp Aleppo
1 Tbsp Garlic
1 Tbsp chopped fresh Oregano
1/2 to 1 tsp coarse black pepper
pinch of salt

Oniony Tomato Wine Sauce.

Cioppino_2
Photo by Adam Parrr & Charles Borst

For a nice variation, sautee 2 cups onions cut into half moon rings in olive oil until completely soft a alightly sweet. Don’t allow it to burn. Add 1 to 2 cups of red or white wine, or one cup dry vermouth. Reduce it and allow to thicked until the sauce is not too runny. Then complete the sauce as above, adding in 1/4 cup parsley at the end. Makes a great tomato sauce for fish and shellfish.

Dean

Brunello di Montalcino


My favorite place in the world is Montalcino and my favorite wine is Brunello.  Sohere is a very short primer on Montalcino

The Wines Of Montalcino

The grape of Montalcino is a clone of Sangiovese that has been grown there for over 140 years, known as the Brunello clone.  It has given its name to the most famous wine from Montalcino: Brunello di Montalcino. Brunello is earthy, spicy, and yet has a black or red fruit component (depending on the elevation and location of the vineyards in the zone.)  It isn’t a big, flashy  red, like so many wines today.  It is a more mysterious experience, taking some time to unfold in the glass. But it’s silly to try and describe the wine; you just have to taste them. And this weekend is the perfect time to do so.  We have acquired some older Montalcino wines and are offering some fabulous flights.  because these wines are so limited and rare, we are going to pre sell the flights.  The only way you can be sure to get the wine is to purchase them thru the links here.  The specials on the food menu, you can just order and we will have a current vintage Montalcino flight you can just purchase. But the special wines are just that: Special.

What Is Brunello Di Montalcino?

Brunello has two meanings.  In addition to being a clone of Sangiovese, “Brunello” is also the most famous wine of Montalcino.  To be called Brunello, it must only be produced from 100% Brunello clone Sangiovese from vineyards rated for Brunello production.  The wine must spend at least 2 years in oak; but the Brunellos we love get the traditional 3 years.  But this is aging in large oak or neutral barrels,so the wines acquire complexity and texture rather than oak flavors.  In top years, some wineries make a selection of their most concentrated wines and give them an extra year of aging before bottling and these are riservas.

What Is Rosso Di Montalcino

Rosso di Montalcino are the wines that don’t make the cut for the wineries’ Brunello or come from vineyards that only meet the quality standards of the Rosso DOCG.  In any case, the limits on production of Brunello require that at least 20% of the harvest MUST be made into rosso; and great wineries use far more Brunello than that in their rosso blends.  So Rosso is the great bargain of Montalcino.

IMAG0061

This bottle of Rosso di Montalcino Le Macioche 2004 is a super example of rosso.  Yet when it cameout it was far less expensive then dozens of California Cabs or Bordeaux; you could easily bought 3 bottles of hte Rosso for the costof one bottle of middle of the road cabernet or Bordeaux.   Now, with 7 or so years in the bottle, it is smooth, spicy and yet very robust.  It offers sd much or more drinking pleasure than those cabe, goes better with food and still has years of drinkability ahead of it.  It will go great with our teres major steak.

Der Risotto zum Nibelungen {The Risotto Ring for Nibbling}

First make a ring powerful enough to rule the universe. Next, pull a sword out of a handy ash tree growing thru the floor of your lover’s husbands house and use it to kill your lovers husband and cut 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter into small pieces. You first sweat 1/2 cup onion in 2 T butter and 2 T olive oil till they are translucent and sweet, but not browned. Use high enough heat to get some sizzle but do not brown the butter either. 

Heat 3-1/2 cups of broth: veggie, chicken, meat, fish, etc. As the onions are done, raise the heat and add 2 cups Carnaroli rice picked by the Po Virgins {See Wagner’s epic the Ring of the Risotti for a full explanation}. Stir the rice so it does not burn and “toast” it in the butter/oil. It will take about as much time for the rice to toast as it takes Furtwangler to lead the Vienna Orchestra the Ride of Die Valkyrie, which you should be listening to as you do this

It will first look oily and “clump together” then it will turn white and seem to be separate grains. Finally it will take on just a hint of color and then you add 1 cup white wine. Keep the heat high until the alcohol boils off then reduce the heat till the liquid just barely bubbles. Stir as necessary so the rice does not stick. When the liquid is almost all absorbed, add a generous half cup of broth and stir. Don’t add too much, you do not want the river Rhine to overflow and put out the flames. Stir a couple of more time as the liquid is absorbed. Repeat each time with a little less broth. 

With each addition, the liquid will be absorbed and a little creamy starch will extrude. You want to wait to add the next ladle of broth until all the liquid is absorbed and there is just crema left. To mere mortals, the crema appears to be a liquid, but with enough repeated listenings to the Ring, you will be able to distinguish the leitmotif of the crema from that of the broth. Or you could just go and kill a dragon and taste a drop of its blood and you will understand the language not only of the birds, but of the rice. 

Taste the rice as you go. It will go from crunchy to soft with a chalky center to soft all the way thru but a little dry to almost creamy. As soon as it reached this point, spread the grains out on a sheet pan in a uniform layer. Do not press them down as they are as delicate as virgins {think Siegfried who was a virgin until the late third act of the third opera of the ring when he met his Aunt, but I digress}. Take a wooden {Wotan} spoon and draw diagonal lines in the rice to make channels for better cooling. When cool, gently form into a funeral pyre and burn Valhalla and all the gods with it. 

If you get hungry after all this, take a piece of butter and melt in the pan. Add some of the rice and a ladle full of stock. Stir until the risotto is heated thru and the stock is almost completely absorbed. Add a handful of grana, Parmigianno or whatever. 

If you want a flavored risotto, heat your flavorings {ie cooked Hubbard squash, or a saute of mushrooms or a spoon of Bolognese or a big handful of small clams etc} before adding the rice. 

I was watching this on You tube last night. Can you tell?

First published on DonRockwell.com

Ten Things To Do in Venice Off the Beaten Path

Here are ten of my favorite things to do in Venice. My wife and I are big time glass lovers and small time collectors, so if you share that passion be sure to go to Murano and visit the shops mentioned.

One

Go to Murano and visit Franco Schivon and Murano Collection. These two shops don’t have demonstrations of how to make a horse out of glass. They actually have great pieces of art.

Murano Collection is a joint venture between Carlo Moretti, Vennini and Boro and Tesovier. It offers well selected pieces and is very dramatically lighted. We have shipped many pieces from there to the US with no problems. They handle the VAT refunds shipping and insurance.

Schiavon has a Japanese glass master, Tsuchida Yasuhiko, who makes one of a kind pieces. His work varies from the dramatic to the derivative. He is still young and you can see his development in his art.

These two shops are much different from the multitudes of shops on the island. Get of the vaporetto at La Colonna. Franco Schiavon is on the left along the canal at Fondamenta Vetrai 15, and Murano Collection is across the canal at the first bridge. This area has the best concentration of really nice shops with really collectable art glass, not the schlocky Asian made stuff so common. Beware of your wallet however, not because of pick pockets but because art glass ain’t cheap.

Pricing: Schiavon and Murano collection — if you have to ask you can’t afford it. Museum quality pieces (limited runs of 100 or less signed by the artist) start at over $1000 but there are pieces in the hundreds of dollar range that are still really wonderful. Looking is free.

Two

See the Carpaccio’s at Scuole di San Georgio del Schiavoni. Incredible paintings on the themes of St. George and the dragon and St. Jerome. Stunning!

Pricing: Under $2.00.

Three

Go to Erberia Rialto and visit the art gallery and studio of Nicola Tenderini and buy a water color or oil painting from him. It won’t set you back much and the painting hanging on your wall will recall Venice for years to come. His technique captures the glint of the sun reflecting off the water. Sometimes I am startled by the motion in his paintings as I sit doing something else. Nicola is at Campo Bella Vienna – Erberia S.Polo 216. Monday through Saturday mornings only. By the way, the bar to the left as you face his shop is superb. Great panini and cappuccino. Note that the locals never pay; the son just writes down a cryptic symbol in his notebook.

Pricing: Nicola’s pieces are under $100 right now because he is an undiscovered genius. The bar is super cheap.

Four

Go to Torcello and see the original Cathedral of the Lagoon. There are two amazing churches there. Wonderfully desolate island loaded with cats.

Pricing: Cost of a Vaporetto ride unless you lunch at Cipriani which I have not done yet. That may set you back $100 or more a person. There is another trattoria on Torcello which is more reasonable but I don’t know how good it is. Looks nice.

Five

Wander the back streets of Cannareggio. Once away from the touristy areas around the Rialto you come into quiet neighborhoods where you get a totally different feel of Venice. We found a sunken gondola around one corner. See the ghetto and take the synagogue tour.

Pricing: Wandering the neighborhoods is free; the tour of the Ghetto is 6 euro or so.

Six

Visit the Ca D’Oro. This is a wonderful museum with its own Vaporetto stop. It was not very crowded and was filled with wonderful objects including affreschi that used to be on some of the grand palazzi on the Grand Canal.

Pricing: Huge bargain, free or just a few euro.

Seven

Go to Do Mori and eat and drink.

Pricing: Cheap if you drink cheap (maybe $10 – $20 a person for a light meal of cichetti) but there are wines at around $10.00 a glass that retail for $50 to $70 a bottle in the US.

Eight

Go to Da Pinto for incredibly fresh fish at very reasonable prices. Drink Doro Princic wines and eat very good cichetti. Do not in any circumstances eat the pasta or pizza but do order the baccal mantecano (salt cod roughly pureed with olive oil and parsley).

Pricing: Da Pinto will run about $45.00 for two antipasti, a platter of grilled fish for 2, a bottle of Doro Princic.

Nine

Go to the Pescaria Rialto at 6 in the morning and see the fish market being set up.

Pricing: Free.

Ten

Go to Campo S. Zaccaria and visit the gallery of Missiaja, a former architect who now is an artist. He specializes in the Commedia dell’Arte characters and a few Venice scenes. He uses some computer generated techniques along with hand applied color to hand made paper for his limited editions, and he uses more traditional printmaking as well. Achiugetta at Campo SS Giacomo e Fillipo is nearby so you can raise a glass and consume cichetti while you contemplate your purchase.

Pricing: Free if you just look, $10 for a small print or a box of note cards on handmade paper, $300-$400 for medium and small hand painted items, more for larger ones.

Opera – Arena di Verona

I have been to several outdoor opera venues, but none begins to come close to the experience of the opera at the Arena di Verona.

Location

First off is the location itself. The Arena di Verona is not a ruin. It is an intact piece of the Roman era. True it is missing its outer wall except for a small portion. It is missing its decorative marble facade. But there it is, sitting right in the middle of Piazza Bra!  Not only is it a tourist visit destination, but it is home to a superb opera festival every summer. The tickets are easy to buy through their website (www.arena.it) or, even easier, by phone and fax.

Opera is Not Miked

The essential thing about the Arena is that it is outdoor opera that is not miked. This is the bane of outdoor opera. An opera singer singing thru a body mike has to moderate his or her voice to take full advantage of the sound system. Or their mike has to be turned down so low that the folks in the back can’t hear. But the acoustics of the Arena are so superb that no miking is used at all. There are dead spots on the stage (and these vary depending on where you sit). In fact, I would put listening to opera at the Arena on a par with the Met in NY (not quite as precise but louder in the cheap seats than the Met) and better than the old Kennedy Center Opera House acoustically.

Seating

Next up is the seating. It comes in three flavors: reserved on the floor, reserved on the side and nosebleed general admission seats on the original Roman seating. The reserved seating on the floor is in two sections and the first is much better than the second, but also a lot more expensive. If it’s a favorite opera with a super cast (e.g. Turandot with Cura and Casole) pop for the good seats. On the other hand, Nabucco seen from above was just fine. You need to get to the GA seats by about 7:30 to get good seats. It helps if you have your 75 year old mother in law and she looks a little tired. The ushers found room for us only five rows up on the second time we went, arriving at about 8:00pm. The first time, we arrived at 8:30 and sat five rows from the top.

The Candles

You have to pick up your candle from a box, unmarked, on the stairs. The tradition is to light the candles as the opera begins. It’s beautiful but we heard many a person cry “Ouch!” as the hot wax hit their fingers.

Snacks

In the nosebleed section, there are vendors selling Nestle’s ice cream (not gelato), pizze and panini, and drinks:  beer, coca, fanta, tonic or wine. No water. Bring your own.

Rain

If it rains before the opera begins, you get a refund. After the first note – tough luck. The rain hit when we were there about a third of the way thru the last act of Aida. You never saw anyone move so fast carrying so much as the harpists and bassists when the rain was hitting their instruments. Licitra’s voice had not even died out and they were already off the stage. And if it does rain, you will get wet trying to get out. Italians don’t do lines well.

The Performance

It will be lovely. This is opera with a tough crowd. They collectively know their stuff. Great singing will be applauded and the crowd will call for a bis for the superb. (A bis is where the singer repeats his aria, or in the case of Nabucco, the chorus repeated “Va Pensero”.) The second singing will be “out of character”, the singer will just stand and sing rather than act out his or her part. Licitra sang a beautiful Celeste Aida but did not get a call for a bis while Cura’s Nessun Dorma did get it. Even though Cura’s singing was not technically perfect, his acting was so superb that it merited a bis and he got it.

Getting There and Parking

Just follow the signs for Centro. It’s best if you are coming in from out of town to use the Verona Nord exit from the A22 and come in from the west. You are on limited access roads almost all the way into town. You will get on a strada marked Montova Verona and take the Verona exit. You will just veer left a couple of times before you hit signage which will direct you in through the Porta Nuova.
Exiting from the A4 and coming north is also pretty easy, but can be very trafficky. Driving south from the Valpolicella into town means having to come through the centro first, difficult but not impossible.
We parked twice in the covered parking lot “Arena” for 12 euro. Another time we parked on the street on the way to the arena lot. The difficulty with the street parking was backing out into the traffic.

Dining Before and After the Opera

We have explored a number of options and dined better than we have in other touristy places like Piazza Rotunda in Roma or in the Piazza del Mercato Centrale in Firenze. Verona is a serious food city! But be warned, there are a lot of places on Piazza Bra that had very insipid looking food at very high prices.

Hotel Rubiani: If you want very good food served on a lovely patio, go to Hotel Rubiani. Its on a side street just off the Piazza. Find Cantina dell’Arena and turn left as you are facing the Arena; it’s straight ahead on the right. We dined well with a nice bottle of Muller Thurgau from the Alto Adige producer St Michael Eppian. Dinner was around 65 euro. We each had a carpaccio antipasto; mine was octopus and Kay’s was pesca spada (swordfish). Our paste were taglioletti all’Ortolana loaded with delicious summer veggies and spaghetti ai gamberetti e zucchini.  Both were great.  Don’t know if it’s open after the opera. It starts serving at 6:00 pm.

Cantina dell’Arena: Right on Piazza Bra, although we ate outdoors on a side street.  Good food, not great, but the wine list is superb. We enjoyed Quintarelli Valpolicella and Bussola Amarone at very good pricing. We dined there twice, once the three of us and once in a group of 16. Both times were a lot of fun and even with the large group they took very good care of us allowing us to order alla carte for a large group. Their pizze are good to very good, but I would stick to the simple items. Best of all was Sfilacci di Cavallo which is a shredded jerky like product made from horse meat served on a bed of arugula. I had an insalata mista di mare which was marred by the inclusion of fake krab but otherwise delicious. A salad of potatoes and octopus was good. Costolette d’Angello was good and the potatoes incredible. The first dinner was $150.00 but that included about $70 in wine. Open before and after the opera.

Enoteca Cangrande: Before or after the opera. What a find! Find Oliva or Olivo on the Piazza Bra and follow the alley way back a short block or two and you will run directly into Cangrande. It looks pretty seedy from the outside but the empty bottles of Dal Forno Romano are a sure tip off. Run by Marco, with a shaved head and pierced eyebrow, this was both entertaining and wonderful. Fabiola is the fabulous South American waitress who gives great service but is no wine expert. Superb wine selection. Best to go to the far back room and just pull the bottle off the shelf. Or better yet, let Marco recommend something for you. Discovered Raimondi Amarone this way. We had a cheese and meat plate one night before the opera with a bottle of superb Amarone (whose producer name I forgot to write down!!!!!).

The highlight was the gorgonzola, vezanna (a mountain veronese cheese somewhere between a good gruyere and parmiggiano in texture) and tomino both fresco and stagionata. The meats featured the best lardo I have ever had. Also a wonderful cooked ham and local veronese prosciutto. We started out with a piece of 100 day old gorg then they brought us 300 day old gorgonzola. Heavenly.

After the opera that night, we returned and had bocconcini which were little rolls of bread, split and topped with an assortment of things: Gorgonzola and mostarda, lardo and mushrooms, cavallo and speck. Marco picked out wines and we were happy. We bought 4 bottles so I don’t really remember the breakdown of food to wine price wise.  They have a limited menu in addition to meats and cheeses. We will return again but in the mid evening to explore this option. Open 5 pm to 1 am.

Other Things to do in Verona

We only spent part of a day wandering the town. But one thing stood out as a superb visit: the Castelvecchio museum. The castle was given a refurbishing by architect Scarpa and it is a stunning space for art. The castle was left mostly intact but the exhibition space was created using simple concrete poured in rough forms, left undecorated. For example, there is a statue of Cangrande on a huge concrete beam suspended in space. You see it twice, once from below and then later from the same level. There are also special exhibitions there and we loved the one we saw.

Southern Tuscany Travel Guide

Montalcino is in the center of one of the most beautiful areas I have ever been to. We love to take half and full day trips from our base of Montalcino. Below are five day trips we have taken. But this only scratches the surface. You can easily travel them on a TCI map of Toscana (Tuscany). They are between half day and a full day. The individual elements are shown below and can be combined variously. The details of the towns and things to see and do are listed after the day trips.

Day Trips From Montalcino

Trip One: San Quirico, Bagno Vignoni, Castiglione d’Orcia
From Montalcino, take Traversa di Monte towards San Quirico. Follow the signs for Torrenieri. Take SS2 south a couple of kilometers to San Quirico. Park in open spaces alongside town walls on left and enter through the main gate.

Back on the SS2 and follow signs for Bagno Vignoni.
Back to the SS2 south and follow signs for Castiglione d’Orcia and Rocca d’Orcia. From there continue on thru Monte Amiata and Castelnuovo dell’Abate and circle back to Montalcino.

Trip Two: Castelnuovo dell’Abate to Sant’Angelo in Colle
From the traffic circle above Montalcino, take the road to Castelnuovo dell‘ Abate. There is a white road at the entrance to St Antimo. Follow this road to Sant’Angelo in Colle. Do not take the sharp right down to St Antimo unless this is your destination.

You can come back to Montalcino, making this a short route, or you can continue on to pick up Trip Four’s route. If you chose to go back to Montalcino, take the road out of Sant’Angelo in Colle and turn north on the paved road.

Trip Three: Buonconvento and Murlo
From Montalcino head down to the traffic circle at the gas station. Turn left to Buonconvento. Park outside the town and wander its old center.

From Buonconvento, follow the signs to Murlo and Lupompesi (they might also indicate Casciano). From Lupompesi follow the signs to Casciano to see the ruined castle/tower at Crevole.
Either double back or do this trip in reverse after a trip to San Galgano or on the way to San Galgano.

Trip Four: San Galgano and Monte Antico
This trip can be broken up into two or more trips. It is not an efficient drive anywhere, but a grand ramble that has some amazing sights. I have done it both directions, but I think that a long day winding up at La Campanga in Monte Antico or a long day winding up at Bosco della Spina in Lupompesi or even Il Poggiolo, Duccio or Da Mario in Buonconvento both have their charms.

Clockwise: From Montalcino, take the road marked Grosetto. Follow it down past Sant’Angelo in Colle. You can detour to see Castello di Banfi or Camigliano (wonderful village with a great Brunello producer). If going to Camigliano, take the turning off towards Tavernelle and follow the white road. In any case, you wind up going south past San’Angelo Scalo and cross the Orcia river. The road ends at a “T” with the road towards Paganico. Take the right turn towards Paganico. The turn off towards Monte Antico is well signed if you chose to stop there. I do not know if La Campagna is open for lunch (or if they do the Pizzone at lunch).

To go on to San Galgano, continue to the 223, go north for a short bit and follow the signs towards Roccastrada and Monticiano. This is a long, windy route that will take you thru beautiful country. You will be in for a treat in sunflower season on this road (summer). At Monticiano you go northwest; I believe the signs are for Frosini and San Galgano.

You will come to a fairly large crossing with a middle of nowhere gas station just past it. Turn left here for San Galgano and follow the signs. There is the main abbey and then a small church above. There is an okay wine bar by the church.

To get back to Montalcino, take the road back to Monticiano and then take the road that cuts back to the 223. It is indicated S. Lorenzo a Merse. It is a beautiful and very windy drive. There is a turn off to Tocchi worth following. From the 223 go north and follow the signs for Murlo and then back to Buonconvento. You could stop at Murlo for pizza, Lupompesi for Bosco della Spina or Buonconvento for I Poggioli, Duccio (Fiorentina) or Da Mario (very cheap good eats).

Counterclockwise: Head to Buonconvento, then to Murlo across to the SS223. South to the cutoff for Monticiano/San Galgano. From San Galgano, double back to Monticiano and head down thru Roccastrada, Paganico and Monte Antico. You should be able to fill your day and have dinner at La Campagna. The drive from Monte Antico back to Montalcino is about an hour or so.

Trip Five: Monte Oliveto, Sant’Anna and Trequanda
From Montalcino, take Traversa di Monte to SS2 north. Follow the signs to Monte Oliveto Maggiore. The turnoff is in Buonconvento.

After visiting Monte Oliveto, continue on to Trequanda. From Trequanda follow the signs for Montisi and then Castelmuzio (white road route) or Madonino to Castelmuzio (paved all the way). From Castelmuzio, take the road towards Pienza and Sant’Anna is to the right.

An evening stroll in Pienza is a nice addition or continue on to San Quirico and dinner at All’Antico Forno.

Sights Close to Montalcino

Sant’Antimo
This abbey is the most famous sight in the immediate surrounding of Montalcino. It is just outside the village of Castelnuovo dell’Abate, about a 15 minute or so drive from Montalcino. To get there, go to Montalcino. At the traffic circle at the top of Montalcino and follow the sign for St Antimo.

The abbey dates from before the year 1000 but what we see today is more modern. Still it is over 900 years old. It is amazing for its simplicity, setting and lack of ostentation. I find it a powerful place. You can go and hear the services with the Gregorian chanting, but we visited it many a time before ever hearing them. You can hike there from Montalcino and take a bus back from Castelnuovo.

Read more about Sant’Antimo.

Castelnuovo dell’Abate
The town itself is on a little hill and the streets are surprisingly steep. There is a large bar at the entrance to town and Bassomundo is a well know restaurant there of which I have heard mixed things. You are in the midst of some great wineries: Ciacci Piccolomini is the easiest to find and to arrange a visit to. If you go, say hi to Jenna. Their wines are very friendly and approachable for those who are not knowledgeable about Brunello due to the ripeness imparted by their vineyard sites.

Sant’Angelo in Colle
If you are at St Antimo, it is a short drive on a white road to Sant’Angelo in Colle andIl Pozzo, a rustic restaurant that serves superb Fiorentina from Chianina beef. It is worth a detour. Heck, its worth a trip from Siena or even farther! Have the Pinci al Ragu di Cinghiale and Fiorentina and you will be happy. Stuffed and in a stupor but definitely happy.

The village of Sant’Angelo is a delight: simple with a circular layout. It is worth wandering about. It is strikingly lit for nighttime wandering so you can walk before or after dinner. Since some of the streets are pretty steep, so you may not want to challenge gravity after dinner at Il Pozzo. The steep streets offer a treat during the day. You take a side street and all of a sudden you are staring out to a beautiful vista framed in by the walls and narrow path of a street. Great photo opportunities abound!

South of Sant’Angelo in Colle
The road from Montalcino to Sant’Angelo continues on farther south through beautiful vineyards and countryside. This is the home to some pretty large Brunello makers and this district is more of a monoculture than some parts of the area. The grounds ofArgiano and the Castello di Argiano are pretty amazing. Its worth a detour and a short walk. You can only go to the winery by appointment.

Both Banfi and Camigliano are a little ways off the main road. Banfi is down in this area and there are often events held there like the Winter Jazz Fest. Banfi has a restaurant and a museum and incredibly beautiful grounds. I am not a fan of their wines and as such cannot talk about either dining there or tasting there. Camigliano is a wonderful winery making very good wines right now. It is located in the village of the same name and the restaurant there is supposed to be very nice. I think its pretty easy to set up tours or tasting at the winery.

The last town on this bit of road is Sant’Angelo in Scalo. There is reputed to be a good butcher shop there specializing in Chianina beef. If you have an apartment, it’s a good stop for supplies for dinner. You can continue all the way to the end of the road as you cross the Orcia river, you have come to the end of the Brunello zone.

From Sant’Angelo in Scalo, go across the river is the road to Paganico and Mt Amiata. East along this main road is Monte Antico and La Campagna. Monte Antico is a tiny hamlet in the middle of vineyards only accessible by a long and winding road. It offers great views around. I think there is a castle there and you have views of Camigliano and Banfi. This is an out of the way restaurant that has superb (by reputation only, we didn’t have one) Pizzone or large pizzas. If you have two or three NFL linebackers with you (or a teenager or two) you can probably finish one. They are seriously huge and look great. They also make incredible tortelli with potatoes and a topping. I had one a version of the latter with nettles that were very yummy. The wine list is outstanding.

San Galgano
If you go all the way to the Grosetto road (223) and head north a little, you will come to the cutoff for San Galgano. To me, this is a must see, but it is at least an hour or more driving. San Galgano was a major abbey that was abandoned in the 1400s during the wars between Firenze and Siena. The roof was sold for its lead content to make ammunition. Today, what is left is a crumbling shell of the building. It is stark and very moving. There are still functioning portions of the monastery where there is a monastic community. There is an alter and lighting in the abbey so I am sure they have some services there and some events as well.

But I love it for its haunting beauty. It is crumbling and in need of at least stabilization. Since we have been coming there (eight years ago at time of writing) we have seen some of the rose window and some decorative elements disappear from visit to visit. I think it best around sunset. Its very much worth the drive.

After San Galgano itself, you need to hike up the hill (or drive) to the small round church above. The church itself is open to the public but the rest of the buildings are private property. Not only is the view grand, but the church itself is a masterpiece. The dome is banded in black and off white stone and there are Ambrogio Lorenzettifreschi and sinopie (the drawings used to transfer the design to the wall in the making of a fresco) in a small chapel off to the side. Be sure to feed the light box to illuminate them. There is also a wine bar which we did not love especially. The salumi was passable and the wine fairly ordinary. But the setting is nice and the folk friendly.

On the direct road from San Galgano to the 223 you will pass a turn off for Tocchi. I love following the one way road and seeing the medieval buildings in use today. There was a restaurant there, very plain and simple. We passed it by and thought that it either would be incredible or not good at all. I found out later than many considered it incredible. It has closed due to illness or a death in the family. Today it has reopened as Beppi or something like that. It looks larger and not as simple. I know nothing about it but I do want to eat there one time.

Sights Southeast of Montalcino

Taking the Traversa del Monte from Montalcino towards San Quirico leads you on another set of adventures with a totally different geography. Here you don’t have the gently rolling vast seas of grapes as you do to the southwest. The landscape is hillier with more small towns and dramatic vistas.

Torrenieri
Torrenieri is a tiny town, reputed to have a good pizzeria. It is a kilometer or two north on the frontage road from where the Traversa meets the SS2. It has a wonderful old church that is seldom open but worth seeing. There is also a winery,Abbadia di Ardegna, with god awful wines, some of the worst I have ever tasted. But it also has a museum of sorts, giving the history of the “torre nero” that gave the town its name as well as a history of peasant farming in the 1930s. Tasting the wine and buying a bottle of the rosso (buying it, mind you, not drinking it!) is a small price to pay to see the tour.

San Quirico d’Orcia
Heading south on the SS2, follow the signs to San Quirico d’Orcia. San Quirico is a lovely town. You drive over the horseshoe shaped old bridge and follow the road and the town will be on your left. Park along the walls and enter through the main gate. There is a garden off the piazza just inside the gate and the main road of the town runs perpendicular to your entry path. Some people like to base in San Quirico rather than Montalcino. It is smaller, quieter and less wine and wine tourist oriented. It has a well regarded hotel, Palazzo dei Capitani. Another advantage is that it is relatively flat and has great access to the SS2.

San Quirico has two churches, one newer with lion porches (basically straight ahead through the gate) and one older one to the far end of the town (through the main gates and to the right). It also has a great restaurant, All’Antico Forno, a very nice bakery and a superb cheese store. The cheese store is beyond the old church and it fabulous. It specializes in family made pecorino. The shop is owned by the youngest son of a sheep raising family. He was tired of shoveling sheep sh*t and he learned to make cheese. It is really quite good, especially the spiced pecorino sott’olio.

Bagno Vignoni
Continuing south of the SS2 from San Quirico, you see a cutoff for Bagno Vignoni (you can also go through the new section of San Quirico and venture up the white road, but I would recommend the simple approach to Bagno Vignoni and take the white road back to San Quirico.

Bagno Vignoni is a gem. There are two spas. The public baths date from Roman times (I think the current version is due to a Medici restoration and a modern reconstruction of the water system). There is a great bar called Il Barino which features live jazz.

By the parking lots, there is a set of ditches that carry the hot water to the edge of the cliff over the Orcia River. These ditches lead to a wonderful historic exhibit. There are two large holding basins and a set of baths there, recently rediscovered. When you have a water source with a large elevation like you do at Bagno Vignoni, you have the chance of having water mills and wealth. The problem at Bagno Vignoni was the rate of the water flow. It was enough to make for really nice hot springs but not enough for the mills. So the holding basins. They were constructed to hold a days worth of water. When full, the exits would be opened and the water volume was enough to run four mills, located down the cliff face. These mills have been excavated and there is loads of signage. The walk down is invigorating and beautiful. The walk up is exhausting, but will enable you to walk off a dinner at Il Pozzo easily. If you do this hike, come early in the day for both the rising morning mists and the lesser heat of an early morning climb back you the cliffs. There are a couple of restaurants in Bagno Vignoni but we have not dined at any of them.

From Bagno Vignoni you can take the white road up to Vignoni and then follow around to Castello Ripa d’Orcia, a wonderful site that is home to a hotel and restaurant of mixed repute. We have just wandered the grounds outside the gates and taken lots of photos. Vignoni is a lovely confection, now used as weekend and vacation homes mostly. The scenery is breathtaking! If you do this drive, you can take the white road back to San Quirico and get a free roller coaster ride. Nothing like a 14 degree drop on a white road!!!

The alternative is to drive back to the SS2 south and follow around in the direction of Monte Amiata thru Castiglione d’Orcia, a drive that is long, winding, castle filled and breathtakingly beautiful. Before hitting Castiglione d’Orcia itself, there is a turnoff forRocca d’Orcia. This is a must do stop, if only for another strenuous exercise opportunity. You will be humbled by all the 90 year old geezers in black sweaters and hats on a hot summer day, smoking cigarette after cigarette who will whiz past you saying “buongiorno” as you are sucking swamp water on your way up. At the top, you will be rewarded with a pretty bland modern sculpture garden, a fortress and some of the best views you will ever see in Tuscany. Its incredible! There is a small entry fee. The rocca itself is well signed and you can learn a little of life in feudal times.

Further along the road is Castiglione d’Orcia, a little town with a castle undergoing what seems to be a fairly large restoration. The town always seems packed with people but we have yet to explore it. From Castiglione d’Orcia you continue towards Monte Amiata and can then turn northwest towards Castelnuovo dell’Abate, St Antimo and Montalcino.

Sights Northwest of Montalcino – Murlo and environs

Buonconvento
From Montalcino, take the road down to Buonconvento and then follow the SS2. Some people think of Buonconvento as the cutoff for Montalcino or a railway stop. Whizzing past it, it is easy to ignore. It is set on a plane in a semi-industrial zone. But it has a lovely centro and is worth exploring.

You can park at either end of the Centro but I find the North side easier. Walk to the main gate at that end and you are in the pedestrian Centro which is all of three or four blocks long. There is a Museo dell’Arte Sacre which is definitely worth going to see. In addition, there is a church with some modern touches. But I just love to wander up and back more than anything else.

For dining choices, Da Mario is loads of fun. It is dirt cheap and good. Not great mind you, but good. Most of the diners will be in their usual seats eating their usual orders that no one need to hear them recite. It’s that kind of place. But for a new comer, they will hand you a long menu and then point out the four or five choices from each section that they are offering that day.

Duccio is a Slow Food recommended place, a lot more fussy and formal. Good food, very good Bistecca Fiorentina, nice wine list. I Poggioli in the new section of town is also good and lower priced than Duccio. Very traditional and a bit on the heavy side. They have fish on the menu and as specials which makes for a nice change in Montalcino. The new town of Buonconvento is fairly non descript and lacking in good wine bars etc.

Murlo
From Buonconvento, there are several routes, all well signed, leading you to Murlo and all routes have their delights. Murlo is a tiny village, very precious with a gorgeous church and spectacular Etruscan museum. Murlo’s claim to fame is that a functional copper casting furnace was found there. Great insight into Etruscan metalwork was gained. The Museo also shows off discoveries like houses and their decorations. The Museo is spread out in two buildings on two floors. It is a fabulous museum and always worth visiting. The signage and information varies from complete with in depth background to almost non existent.

There is a pizzeria/restaurant in the village but I have never eaten there. It comes highly recommended. Murlo is a great stop at dusk as the village is on the hill and surrounded by excellent scenery.

Lupompesi
Heading out of Murlo you come first to Vescovado di Murlo, a suburban feeling housing enclave and then the little turnoff that is Lupompesi. Lupompesi is home to Bosco della Spina which is my favorite restaurant in the area. Its food is quite seasonal and offers very modern renditions (in terms of plating and lightness) of classic Southern Tuscan cuisine. It is also truly beautiful as well. Great wine list.

If you follow the road past Lupompesi you will come to the ruined castle of Crevole. It is stunning. Go at night so you see it light up and, well frankly, a little spooky. I would love to see someone make a film there, or maybe stage a production of Luccia di Lammamoor. Its that creepy but beautiful. You cannot get to the castle itself as it is on private property, but there are parking areas and some trails that allow you to get closer.

Sights Northeast of Montalcino

Monte Oliveto Maggiore
From Montalcino, go north on the SS2 until you find the turnoff for Monte Oliveto. It is a few kilometers up the road and well worth a stop. Monte Oliveto is a major abbey still in use today. It is Franciscan today, with a business in old book restoration as well as a restaurant and grounds. They also have rooms for a retreat.

You can spend half a day here easily. Walking the grounds, take in a service with Gregorian chants and then the highlight: the Fresco Cycle by Signorelli and Il Sodoma. The Fresco cycle is on the walls of the cloister. You may run into a tour group or you may be blissfully alone with this masterpiece. I personally am a big fan of Il Sodoma and think him one of the masters of the early Renaissance. His name, translates to the Sodomite and his interest in the male form is quite evident. All the women are basically the same, with nondistinctive figures. The men, however, are all unique and with precise figures (often displayed with hands on hips and bottoms thrust out). Not to be sacrilegious, but his flagellation of Christ presents a quite hunky Christ in a very erotic pose tied to the cross and showing the signs of his scourging. Every muscle and bead of sweat and drop of blood is shown in detail.

Il Sodoma didn’t really understand perspective and its fun to see every mistaken panel with Escher-ian impossibilities of space. Animals show up as often as pretty young boys. Perhaps the best part of the whole is the use of grotesques and the tromp l’oiel panels that frame each scene. Also there is a lot of satire such as the fact that there is a scene where the abbot of the monastery is represented as a devil being thrown in a well. He is shown with donkey’s ears. He made the mistake of disputing a payment to Il Sodoma and was thus immortalized.

Monte Oliveto Travel Guide: More information about the abbey and descriptions of the frescoes.

Sant’Anna in Camprena
From Monte Oliveto, your choices are myriad. I would suggest continuing to Sant’Anna in Camprena. You need to go via Castelmuzio and Montisi. Castelmuzio is a nice stop in and of itself. The old town is elliptical in shape with great views. There is a new town which we did not explore. The church is very nice and, if you can find the caretaker, there is also a little Museo. The bar in town was pretty dreary. There are all sorts of places to sit so that might be the best idea of all. Here you will find another fresco cycle by a much younger Il Sodoma.

Trequanda
We love Trequanda for its simple beauty, its location and its restaurant Conte Matto. Davide is a superb host, the food quite fine and devoted to local and traditional ingredients. The salumi is strongly flavored and made from Cinta Sinese, the local, rare and wonderful pork. The wine list is immense and superb. We dined there on a snowy day and spent three hours watching out the window as the hillside became increasingly white. There is also a fantastic bakery in town.

The church is wonderful for its facade and two freschi inside, one of which is attributed to Il Sodoma (and seems like it could be) and another attributed to him that looks nothing like any of his work. If you dine at Conte Matto, be sure to visit the bakery before or after and pick up some pastries for your next morning’s breakfast. If you are looking for the makings of a picnic, when you turn to drive up to the town itself, there is a huge butcher shop that specializes in the areas finest treats: Cinta Sinese pork products and Chianina Beef. The shop was closed when we went by but I bet you could put together a wonderful picnic at the bakery in town and the prepared and cured meats section of the butcher shop.

Beyond Trequanda is some fine outlet shopping including Liba shirt makers. It’s a great bargain as they make shirts you find at Barneys in NYC for over $100 and even $200 a shirt and you get them at Liba for 45 Euro each. The quality is incredible. Next door is a leather outlet but we did not find anything we could both afford and liked.

There are also signs for roman ruins and churches that you could spend hours following. They will drive you crazy but you will also get some glimpses of pretty amazing stuff. We found a Roman era something or other – bath, sewer, nympheum, who knows! I don’t! But it was amazing, free and deserted!

Pienza
Also in this neck of the woods is Pienza. We loved strolling it for its renaissance perfection of layout. The Duomo was wrapped iron scaffolding when we visited and a lot of renovation is needed to keep the major attractions from falling off the hill. The main street has about 20 cheese shops most of which are selling the same Coop-made cheeses. I felt like it was a cheese-y Disneyland yet others love it.


This ends my introduction to the surroundings of Montalcino. It is neither balanced or complete. I have nothing about Montepulciano, Montefollonico, San Giovanni d’Asso etc. Some of these are still on my to do list and others just didn’t fit in. It just goes to show that in over 5 week-long visits, staying in Montalcino, we have only begun to explore the surroundings!