Today it rained ALL day, so we could not pick olives, and there wasn’t anything else to do really so we read a lot and relaxed. This morning Roberto and Emanuela took us to the local market in Pitigliano, which was really fun. We ate porchetta sandwiches as a snack, which Roberto said is one of their market rituals. We sampled a lot of cheeses, I think all different types of Pecorino. Because they are originally from Venice they are particular about the quality of their seafood. There is a fisherman at this market whom we met that they bought calamari, salmon, and a dried-salted fish from. We will be eating the calamari tonight.
We left Florence mid-morning on Monday and caught a bus to Grosseto. A few hours later we were on our way to Pitigliano to our new farm. I was very nervous on the bus ride because we had to tell the driver to drop us off at a stop not at a station. This meant that we would pretty much be sitting on the side of the road hoping we were in the right spot and would be getting picked up soon. Luckily we have an Italian phone now so we called Emanuela and Roberto as soon as we got off the bus and they were there in less than five minutes. Our new farm focuses primarily on olive oil, and is beautiful. Roberto is an engineer, so the house, and the guesthouse we live in, are magnificent. There are 8 cats, and 3 dogs, and they are all very friendly. We are really happy here and are looking forward to learning more about olive oil.
We took a three day weekend in between Potentino and Podere Marco Polo to go back and visit Florence. We had become Friends of Florence cardholders on our first visit so we had several places still left to go to. It rained the entire weekend, non-stop, but we were able to do almost everything we wanted. We stayed near the Duomo in an apartment, which our friends had found through Airbnb.com and recommended. We had the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had, went to a beautiful bar, had Chinese and Mexican food, cow intestines (tripe), and visited Cibreo Trattoria, a restaurant our first farm highly recommended we visit. speaking of our first farm, on our walk to the trattoria we ran into Drew, the guy originally from Oklohoma, that we lived with on our first farm. He was volunteering at a market near where we were staying, which we also visited. So we also saw the Duomo, the Pitti Palace, and The Acadamy (where Michelangelo’s David sculpture lives). We walked through the Boboli Gardens, and also down the Ponte Vecchio. If we could go back for another day or two I would definitely go back to the palace to see the main gallery there and the royal apartments; as well as visit some of the smaller churches.
To return the favor to William for bringing us ice cream, we through him a cocktail hour. I made a grappa with lemon, mint, and lime; as well as, a vodka infused with rosemary. We also had a cheese board with fruit, jams, and bread.
A few nights later I took over “pudding duty” and made crepes for everyone. They were delicious and we put nutella and maple syrup on them.
The owners of the estate were Sally and Charlotte Greene, a mother-daughter duo. Charlotte was gone most of the time, so we became very good friends with Sally. She had a lot of stories to tell and was married to the nephew of Graham Greene, the famous British actor. she was very very nice, and loved to sing and dance, which we did quite often with her.
One week when Charlotte was away, Sally’s brother William came to visit. He was so nice that he brought us ice cream while we were picking olives. He works in the agriculture business in England, but also lives part time in South Africa.
Two weekends ago, and then again recently, we were able to go on a tour of the castle with guests staying there. Alexander showed us several of the rooms including a library, sitting room, bedroom, bathroom, and breakfast room. Later when his friends were in town he showed us to his personal perfumery where he gave us a tour of some of the world’s rarest scents. (one of which is cat anus hence the picture of our new friend Ralph)
There are also pictures here of various dinners and lunches which showcase the castle as well. It even had its own church.
On Sunday we celebrated our day off with an American brunch. Then we walked to a neighboring town for a chestnut festival. It was a very very long walk, mostly uphill, but we hitchhiked some of the way towards the end, which really helped. The festival was full of people, music, food, and wine, and lots of lots of chestnuts.
We have lovely neighbors that live in the flat next to us with two children. Roberta is the oldest and usually in school when we are around, but Flavio is their youngest and always around. He is very cute and very friendly. Two years old and trilingual we never know what he is saying to us. One of his languages is Albanian, which we are told wouldn’t even sound like words to us.
We have arrived at our new farm. It’s a very lavish castle which we eat and cook in daily. For sleeping there is an apartment for all the woofers that is off to the side. Not quite as fancy as the housing in the castle, but we really aren’t in it much anyway, the grounds have plenty of space to walk around, and plenty of places to sit and relax.
A few days ago we went to Siena for the afternoon. The city is known for its main square, which holds the Palio horse race every year. It is broken up into several neighborhoods that compete against each other in this race. We were lucky enough to get there in time to see the Duomo cathedral as well as the church which houses St. Catherine’s head and thumb. I was wearing a slebeless shirt so they made me wear a paper poncho to cover up my unholy shoulders, it was vey funny. We ate dinner in the square, and had gelato at Grom, a fairly well known gelato chain. We rode the bus home and Dante picked us up. It’s definitely a must see city if coming to Italy.