Travel log for Wednesday, 10 October 2007.
We had breakfast in the villa and I explored the grassy expanse beyond our back door. While Sharon tried taking a photo of me, the villa cat edged closer towards her and gave her a nudge just as she pressed the trigger! It was as if it was trying to make friends with us. In the end I decided to pose with it. Here is what happened, in sequence:
Original pose, sans cat.
In the last shot, the cat deliberately turned his back on me and held his tail up for some time, as if he was knowingly posing for the camera. So I did the same and turned my back on him! He was certainly not an aloof cat.
We drove out to Cortona, the town in which Under the Tuscan Sun was based. I was the navigator this time. We wound round and round, up the hill until we finally reached a parking area. The city walls are tall and medieval-looking. You have to park outside the city and move around by foot. We saw a few vehicles driving through the gates but most people were walking about.
We explored the city for a while. Near the gates that we entered, was a pottery shop displaying its wares. I realised its photograph was also in my guide book!
Sharon went into a bakery and bought some really delicious pastries (whose name I’ve forgotten). They all had different fillings and I picked one with white chocolate. Yum! The exterior was crispy, like a fresh croissant.
We reached the city centre after about 15 minutes. While it was not very large, it was charming. One of the focal points was the clock tower.
Sharon took a seat on the steps and someone took a photo of her. Then I was told to join her, and a photo was taken of us. Then the other girls sat on the stairs. We all started taking pics of each other!
We had lunch at La Grotta, listed in our guide books as a lovely family-run restaurant. Spotting a 4 euro price tag for one litre of local Chianti wine, I convinced my companions to order it along with our meal. Only afterwards did someone whip out her guide book and read out that only local pub-goers would order that wine and that it was another type of wine that was better to drink! Too late. It tasted OK, if a bit young, and we certainly could not finish it all.
The food was glorious. We shared some prosciutto ham and melon. Joan had truffle pasta, Sharon had gnocchi while i had tomato-based pici. We also had a delicious salad involving thinly-sliced mushrooms and more lemon juice.
We all wanted to share a Florentine steak for 2 persons going at about 32 euros. Fortunately, the nice waiter warned us that it weighed 1 pound, so we ordered the steak for 1 person instead… and still had trouble finishing it! It was delicious and medium rare (or even rarer than that), so yours truly, being a fan of raw beef carpaccio, happily took all the red bits.
I told my friends that if they liked this steak, they’d love Valentino’s back in Singapore, off Rifle Range Road. Chef Valentino from Italy does a great steak, more well-cooked with a simple marinade, on a bed of arugula (rocket leaves) and drizzled with lemon juice. Like Tuscan cooking, it’s prepared simply and the sheer quality and freshness of the ingredients does the talking.
Shopping in Cortona was good. We found a local leather shop and each of us bought a product – myself included! I picked up a red pouch to hold my bling-bling sunglasses. The two lady staff were very friendly, one asking how come we were speaking English to each other instead of Mandarin!
I found another quirky shop that had different types of soap. While some scents were unusual, this one really took the cake! Doesn’t it remind you of a James Bond or Austin Powers movie?
We got back to the villa and started moving house. This was because more wedding guests were coming and they were staying in our old rooms. I followed the rest of the girls and lugged my bags up 3 floors (as there is no elevator in 18th century villas!), only to find that I was supposed to stay on the ground floor of another section in the villa! Argh! Fortunately my new room-mate Pauline had arrived and helped me with my bags.
Our new room was more modern on the insight and we shared a pantry with Guillarmo and Liddy, Jeanne’s sister’s parents-in-law. All the wedding guests had dinner together at a pizza place. Apart from another table for two, we took up the entire restaurant! The chef had taken part in a national pizza-making contest and was very proud that of his results – I think he came in 16th or something, I couldn’t totally understand his English. It was a very happy occasion. The couple introduced all their relatives to us and we got to know them better over the next few days.
Tuscany, Day 3
Travel log for Wednesday, 10 October 2007.