Wednesday, July 24, 2013
After a late start to the day, we drove to the local trattoria for a breakfast cappuccino, tea and a slice of pizza before making our way south of Siena to Pienza, a beautiful small town on a hill overlooking several Tuscan valleys. The dreamy views from here are spectacular. We were looking for a mezzaluna mincing knife that we can use at home to replicate some of the wonderful Tuscan dishes we have savoured here and were lucky enough to find one. Pienza is famous for its pecorino sheep cheese and there were many tiny little shops selling this delicacy along with salami and other cured meats. We also found a variety of truffle oils and sauces and couldn't resist buying two bottles of white and black minced truffle paste. 

After our visit to Pienza, we headed for Montalcino and its renowned brunello vineyards. We fell in love with this part of Tuscany. The rolling hills covered with vineyards, olive groves, tall cypress trees and magnificent stone buildings. We stopped at the Abbazia di Sant' Antimo, a thousand year old stone monastery where the local monks still practice the mystical Gregorian chants. There was so much peace and beauty in the building and surrounding countryside that we felt this was one of the most sacred places we have been to on our travels.

We made our way back to the town of Montalcino, another small and sleepy town on top of a hill with fabulous Tuscan vistas in all directions and lots of tiny, steep sidestreets lined with shops and homes. There were several wine shops selling wonderful Brunello de Montalcino wines but sadly we don't have room in our luggage to bring any home. So we did the next best thing and ordered a glass of brunello at an outside cafe accompanied by what may turn out to be the best bruschetta of our trip so far along with a plate of salami, cured meats and pecorino cheese. The setting was fantastic, the food was excellent and the wine was even better. We could have sat there for hours but it was getting dark so it was time to leave. On the way back to Castel Monastero, we tried several Italian gas stations in an attempt to fill up our car. Most of the gas stations are automated but they didn't like our credit cards and most of the payment machines didn't like our cash. Finally, we managed to get a few five euro bills into some of the machines and were able to get enough gas to get back to our hotel. 

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