One of the things we love to do on holiday is cook. Dishes that makes use of local ingredients can’t be beaten and when we spent a few days in a villa, the apron comes out.
When it was time to cook at Il Diaccino we assembled the ingredients for a Carbonara and Jean went to work. Local fresh Pici pasta and pancetta, fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese, black pepper, egg and a little cooking.
Thursday last week we visited Siena. It was a week before the Palio and the clay track had been laid over the cobbles in the Campo and the tiered seating was in place around the edge of the Campo.
At 3pm, when we arrived, the businesses around the Campo were shut as the Palio track was being watered – a daily ritual in the week leading up to the Palio. This threw our plans of a quiet drink in the Campo into disarray.
So instead we visited Jean’s favourite clothes shop and helped boost the Siena economy – just as we had done in Rome a week before.
Shopping done, we returned to the Campo. The track watering was complete and the bars and restaurants in the Campo had the “all clear” to lay out tables and chairs on the clay track. Normal transmission had resumed.
We wiled away the evening with drinks and a very good pasta dinner at Al Mangia bar before heading back to Diaccino.
The torre in Siena – 400 steps to the top
Watering the track as part of the Palio preparation
While we are away in Italy our girls are being looked after by our dear friend Vicki who has moved in for 4 weeks. We receive regular updates and photos showing how much they are missing us. Or possibly not missing us …
Bella lining up for a tummy rub – friends know all about this look
Wine buffs will know we are staying in the Chianti Classico wine region. Within a few kilometres of our local town, Gaiole in Chianti, there are over a dozen producers ranging from the very large to the very small.
On Sunday night these local wine makers, together with the restaurants of Gaiole in Chianti got together and held a wine and food festival in Gaiole – Calici di Stelle. Loosely translated that means “Glasses of Stars”. For sampling were some fine Chianti Classico wines along with a range of other wines they produce.
Our dear friend Olga was assisting with the Ciona winery stand (our villa Diaccino is on the Ciona estate) and invited us along.
It was the perfect way to spend a Sunday evening. Starting at 8pm and running to midnight the event was a chance for locals (and visitors like us) to sample the local wines and try the local food. More than that, it was clearly a chance for families and friends to spend time together and catch up.
We got to sample some very fine wines as well as chat with the wine makers. Dinner was in the form of beautiful Gnocchi, roast pork and various accompaniments.
We had a great time but sadly the jet lag kicked in around 9:30pm so we had to leave early.
Locals sampling the local vintage
Jean wandering through Gaiole looking for another wine stand
We are half a world away from home and enjoying the hospitality and heat of Rome.
Our flight was largely uneventful until an unscheduled two hour delay on the tarmac at Hong Kong due to “congestion over South China” – whatever that meant.
We found out it meant that our 11 hour flight from Hong Kong to Rome stretched out to 15 hours – 2 hours on the ground and an extra 2 hours in the air as we flew a course well north of the usual route.
Rome greeted us with a 40 degree day which even the locals said was “molto caldo” – too hot.
Rehydrating in Piazza Barberini, Rome
We spent the day walking – in the shade, keeping fluid intakes up and shopping. Jean is the proud owner of a new handbag called Louis IV which I’m sure will feature in a future blog post.
All this before the jet lag kicked in and we were asleep around 7pm. We were wide awake again at 4am so for the first time in living memory the Mowday’s will be the first in the breakfast room at Hotel Barocco this morning.
Today we travel north to Tuscany and start our week staying in Chianti – still in temperatures that will top out at 40 degrees. Not that we are, in any way, complaining.
We are less than 12 hours away from starting our trip to Italy and there seems to be numerous things still to do and very little time to do them in. We have an early start tomorrow to make sure we catch the flight to Auckland and then on to Hong Kong and Rome.
It is amazing how the amount, size and weight of the technology we take has decreased over the years. The bulky and heavy laptop of 4 years ago is now a MacBook Air weighing next to nothing. The TomTom GPS is left at home as our phones do the same job, and apart from our phones, a bluetooth speaker, noise cancelling headphones for the plane trip and some cables, that’s it.
We have signed up for Vodafone New Zealand’s excellent $5 a day roaming product to avoid any shock roaming charges. Spark have still not matched this product and instead offer a confusion of call rates, text costs, data rates, caps and excess charges for various parts of the world – including Italy.
Our lightweight suitcases (full sized cases that weight barely 3Kgs each) are packed and well underweight. Passports are in order and tickets issued.
It’s a cold, rainy, miserable night in Wellington. Rome is sunny and hot – we are ready to go.