Tuesday 9 October 2007
My first morning in Tuscany! I woke up on my own while my other 2 roommates were still asleep. Joan’s mother made us liang teh, which became a staple for us every morning until the day we sang at the wedding. As I tend to get ‘heaty’ I welcomed anything that would prevent me from getting a sore throat!
Eventually we had breakfast at the bride’s family’s quarters in another part of the villa, since they had arrived earlier and had already purchased some groceries. It was a joyful gathering with members of the bride’s family, who came from different parts of the world.
The villa cat arrived and tried to charm some scraps out of us, but we refused to let him touch our food. In the end, he sat on a chair, looking like he was about to drink the groom’s cup of coffee!
I tried to take a decent photo with my church friend Joan, the energetic bridesmaid, but all my photos with her tended to look like this! Ah well. I’ll have lots of fodder for HER wedding!
After breakfast, we made our way to the town of Volterra, which is also rich in Etruscan history. We drove through the Tuscan countryside and I really got a taste of what ‘rolling hills’ looked like!
As we approached Volterra, we spotted this most unusual object. Does anyone have any idea what it’s doing here?!
I’d like to buy a vowel, please!
The streets of Volterra were narrow, and it felt like we were walking in a valley of shophouses.
Soon it was time for lunch. As we were a pretty big group, we split up and I had lunch with a new friend, Wee Hoon. Now I really have to show you the Tuscan food!
This was minestrone soup. We didn’t know it came with rice and green vegetables! It was hearty – a meal unto itself. I liked this one.
As it was the Porcini mushroom season, I had to try their parpadelle pasta (flat ribbon) with cream sauce and mushrooms. This was not bad.
I was also the beneficiary of Wee Hoon’s seafood paella, which was quite filling and on the salty side. There was this yellow ‘powder’ sprinkled on the side, and it didn’t taste like parmesan cheese. We had no idea what it was, but it was edible.
I was ‘game’ for some game, so I ordered the wild boar stew. It looked like beef rendang. And it tasted like beef rendang too – without the spice. It was OK, nothing to make me crave for more.
After lunch, I was a bit tired of the town area so we explored a nearby park. We discovered this cluster of very tall plants and started playing around with it!
Because it was autumn, the leaves formed lovely patches of colour – nature’s quilt. I absolutely have to show you these pics:
Even the ground looked pretty!
After Volterra, we headed back to Siena to pick up some groceries. After getting a bit lost, we finally found a parking space near the Basilica, which has very high walls. I took a shot at a couple who were standing at the wall for a very long time. Later on when I uploaded my photos, I took a closer look and realised they were kissing! So here’s my first romantic shot of Tuscany:
We split up again to do our own shopping, and met later for dinner. On our way to the restaurant, we saw this brilliantly lit square, Palazzo Salimbeni. In its centre was the statue of a man who looked like a pope. I thought he was one, initially. I later learnt that this man was the founder of the Library of Siena!
On our way, we passed by Nannini, the most famous cafe in Sienna. Later we realised our other friends were inside the cafe, buying pastries for tomorrow’s breakfast! So we headed into Nannini for a breather.
They had lots of cakes, pastries and cookies. While we were there, a group of Italian schoolgirls gathered outside the sliding doors of the cafe and started singing songs in unison. They were there for a short while and we were wondering what they were up to!
We had dinner at Da Guido, another top Sienese restaurant listed in our various guidebooks. The food was good and the waiters were excellent – funny, responsive and charming. As we looked at the menus, our waiter shot us the question, “Are you ready?” and we said yes. He replied a little plaintively, “I’m not!” and dashed off to serve another table, promising to come back to us in 2 minutes’ time. We laughed.
Da Guido was remembered by my travelling companions for its most excellent olive oil, which we ate with our bread along with some balsamic vinegar from Modena. For many days to come, my friends compared its olive oil to that of other Tuscan restaurants we dined in – that was how good it was.
On our way back, we chanced upon a large crowd of people. It turned out to be an Italian political rally. I did notice political advertisements at the airport and it occured to me that it must be local election time.
Driving back at night to the villa was not easy as the roads outside the city are not well lit. I really have to credit Sharon for driving a manual car on the other side of the road in a strange land, with no GPS system.
Tuscany – Day 2
Tuesday 9 October 2007