It started out as such a perfect day. I got an email from my sister Sarah that said she had been accepted into graduate school. 400 applications and 30 were accepted. She was elated. Also she was chosen as a graduate assistant to work with 2 year olds. My idea of hell, but her idea of paradise in Italy. In addition we may get an offer on the farm from someone whose name is the reverse of my father's. Miracles unfold!
On to Italy. We decided to go to Montone for lunch. It is the closest hill town to Umbertide (Umbertide is very flat) and one of our favorites. It is like walking through a museum but normal people are living there. The view from the town down into the valley is stupendous with green patchwork fields below and undulating hills on the horizon. Google the town if you want to take a look.
I started with a salad in a formed baby parmesan basket, very petite and lovely, with warmed slices of pears and honey on the side. The salad was dressed perfectly and the pears were soft and delicious with the honey. Gary had grilled scallops with pumpkin puree. The look on his face would have told you the story. Those were the appetizers!
Sigh. We were so happy. We told the waiter that we would just have coffee but then we looked at each other and I foolishly said, do you want to spit a secondi and of course we did. By this time we were ecstatic with our eating and the wonderful wine we were drinking, so you will get no more photos. We let the owner of the restaurant, Giancarlo, who has a TV show, choose. We had the most delicious slices of rare steak over raw baby spinach and baby chard. The amazing thing was he gave us these little tiny bottles of olive oil, like the free perfume you get. The olive oil was cold pressed and then frozen. He said hold it in your hands and watch it. It changed into the most gorgeous color of green and liquefied. This was poured over our steak. OMG. I can't even tell you how delicious it all was.
Of course we had dessert because we were no longer in our right minds. Gary had tiramisu in a little jar and I had a lemon tart, with a pie crust like I bake that was similar to a key lime pie in consistency. We were sated. The only good news to tell you is the portions were small and remember the 65 stairs that awaited us.
On the terrace above us we could hear American English. As I went to the bathroom, I stopped and introduced myself. (Time out for some observations. As a tourist one is not particularly happy to run into Americans but as someone who lives here, finding Americans is fun.) Anyway they were Bob and Anne from Oklahoma. They were staying in Montepulciano, a 2 hour drive from the restaurant. They said the restaurant was their favorite in all of Italy and they drove for lunch no matter where they were. We told them of our apartment buying story, and they had found a house they had fallen in love with but were hesitant about buying it. They were retired attorneys. We'll see. I told them to read Retirement without Borders.
After lunch we stayed and talked to the owner/chef Giancarlo, who told us he had earned a 1 star from Michelin this year. He is from Puglia, which is probably why he is so friendly. He also had dinner porcelain from our friend Matteo, from whom we bought the apartment. Life in Italy is very connected. We congratulated him on his superb restaurant and told him we would return and waddled back to the car.
We got back to the piazza to discover a wedding taking place. She was a little long in the tooth, he was bald, but she had on the biggest, ornate wedding dress you can imagine. It made Dianna's wedding dress look like a simple frock. Anyway, the men returned for card playing and stayed all afternoon.
Gary and I watched our show, Foyle's War, a great BBC series if you haven't seen it and settled in with the loud chattering in the background. Children were running around, the old ones were out, dogs were out, everyone sitting, yelling, at the cafe, no one ordering, chaos. OK. Charming, now when will they go home???? 3 young boys under the age of 10 were playing with each other and screaming at the top of their lungs. Picture the stone, echos, no mama, just dad and a grandma. Lord. Ok it is now 11:00 time for them to go, right? No. More people show up. People with baby carriages, more dogs, more grandmas, more young people. The piazza has more people in it than I have seen since we arrived. Gary goes to bed, and to sleep!!! Who can imagine, then at 11:45, I kid you not, everyone goes home. At the stroke of midnight, the piazza is empty. If you ask Italians why this is, you get one of those looks like they don't even know what you are asking.
Up on Sunday morning, the piazza is totally empty. No men playing cards, no dogs, no kids, no one.
Gary and I will need to change our routine or get ear plugs.