Saturday, September 27 – San Quirico d'Orcia GTG

Sunny and warm (but I wore a long sleeved top today and a jacket in the evening)

I slept badly. Woke up at 4 am (counted the church bells) feeling very congested and slightly paniced because I had done nothing to arrange this lunch expect make a reservation for 17 and I was not really sure of the number of people coming or if anyone would come. We got up at 8 and Steve was feeling bad from this cold – but I was feeling much better. I really wanted to go and get some organic olive oil from a place in Montisi where we go each year, but I thought Steve really needed to rest all morning before our next lunch.

We went down to the breakfast room (very nice) and after a our usual double espresso, some bread, butter and jam and a cornetto, Steve was perky and we thought we could do the olive oil run. We had planned to meet Wendy and Riccardo from the message board at 11:30, but I called them on their cell and we agreed on noon to give us extra time.

Took the car out of the garage, and drove out into the incredibly beautiful southern Tuscany countryside. I had forgotten just how wonderful the Crete area is – big open fields with rows of Cypress trees and farmhouses in the distance, the distinctive grey clay on some of the hillsides, occasional forests, big groves of olive trees. We drove towards Pienza, but turned off just before to go to Castelmuzio, then Montisi. We drove past the farmhouse (La Fornacina) where we spent three weeks in fall 2001.

We buy our oil from La Romita in Montisi. It is an organic producer and he is really into the oil. Everyone tells us we pay way too much, but I think his oil is great and am willing to pay more for the organic production. Everyone tells us that all the oil from this area or from all of Italy is organic, but then I wonder why there is an organic movement in Italy when everything is already organic? People in the US will tell you there is no need to buy organic, but we always do. La Romita is a restaurant on the main street of this small village and the frantoio is below it. We were in luck, because as we drove in, the owner was driving in too. He showed us new equipment he has for this year’s harvest. He presses olives in October, November and December. The earlier pressings are his more expensive oil. He will be doing his first press next week – but we won’t be here, so we have to buy last year’s oil. We got a five liter tin of last year’s October oil (150 Euro – yes, yes, I know – too expensive). This is the third year in a row that we have bought five liters from him.

We drove back to the San Quirico and met Wendy and Richard at the caffe. Wendy and Richard (Riccardo) are both on the mboard. Wendy has written several vacation rental reviews. They could not stay for the lunch, but were in the area, so we had arranged to meet before. They are both Slow Travelers (staying mostly in vacation rentals) like us, and have been traveling this way a long time. We had coffee and talked about our current trips. Barb and Art found us in the caffe, then Joanna. Wendy and Richard headed off, and we all headed to lunch at the restaurant owned by the hotel.

We had about 18 people for lunch: Linda from NC and husband and 3 friends, Joanna and friend and cousins, Zak, Barb and Art, Charity and Bill, me and Steve. We sat at a long table in the garden area and shared antipasto and ordered one other dish each. The food was very good, the conversation even better.

After lunch, we drove up to Joanna’s new house. Linda from NC and her group were driving to Cetona to spend a week in the house we stayed in last year (from TuscanHouse) so they didn’t come, but everyone else did. Joanna’s house is in a lovely hill town near San Quirico. We had not been to this town before. Her house is beautiful (needs to be renovated, but is in pretty good shape) – she and her friend Stephy had spent the last week cleaning it. It has a large garden area too. The town is small, but has several stores, a caffe and a pizza place. The views from the town and her house and garden are beautiful – you can see most of southern Tuscany from there.

The group split up at this point, Charity and Bill heading to a vacation rental in Chianti, Zak back to work, Barb and Art back to their new life in Umbria, Joanna and Stephy to Rome to fly home the next day.

We drove to Pienza to check out my favorite bookstore there (on the main piazza, just outside the walls). We got a couple of books and some DVDs in Italian.

One book is very interesting and I will post more about it on the mboard, but it is almost exactly what I have done in the Instructions for Visitors section of the web site – photos of parking signs and descriptions of parking methods, photos of menus, photos of garbage cans – all that stuff that I wrote for the web site and have been thinking of turning into a book. It was a relief to see it. I made a detailed plan for that book, a proposal and sample chapters two years ago and sent it around to agents and publishers. All rejected. Then I worked more on the outline and tried to get an expat in Italy to write it with me – but the project never came together. Instead of working on the book, I always worked on the web site instead.

I just did not want to write the book – for many reasons. I didn’t think I had the idea right, I didn’t think I should be writing this (because really I don’t know that much about Italy), I thought it was too hard a project for probably too little financial rewards. Now I can forget that project – and I am happy!! I will put a link to this book on the web site. It was written for Brits, but if you translate courgettes to zuchini and aubergines to eggplant, it will do for Americans. It is very well done – the main problem is the title which makes you think it is a language book. I have it packed away now, but it is called something like Language Survival Skills and is published by Harper Collins. Written in 2001, right when I was writing all the same stuff for SlowTrav. They even have language lessons for each type of thing described – exactly how we were going to do the book.

I still have another book plan for SlowTrav – and this was always part of the book idea – about how to find vacation rentals and what to expect. This has been written before, but I don’t think it was done well. So I still have a big project to avoid doing in the next few years.

Drove back to the hotel and had a very simple dinner again at the hotel restaurant.

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Pauline Kenny

Pauline Kenny and Steve Cohen are US expats living in Dorset. We moved to the UK in 2010. Read about our move. If you would like to talk about travel, please join us on the Slow Europe Travel Forums.