"It's not about the money, we don't need your money, we're just trying to make the world dance, forget about the price tag... we don't need no ch-ching ch-ching, we don't need no bl-bling bl-bling, we're just trying to make the world dance, forget about the price tag"
This is our theme song for the moment. We are in Tuscan wine country, enjoying sweeping views of olive groves, green-striped fields of vines, tall cypress trees. Our money plan for continuing to travel is not going so well. We'll take it day by day and see how long we can keep going.
It's best here if you have no particular agenda. Today we drove into the mountains, then on the way back, we stopped to taste some wines. I have been seeing sign after sign advertising wine, olive oil, 'agriturismo'. Agriturismo is a word for agricultural-tourism, which means people from the cities come out to stay on a farm or in the country. Here you can find typical products of the region: wine, cheeses, olive oil, spreads, etc. Farmstays are wonderful, but often a bit mysterious. For instance, where we stay they have a little farm shop, but it isn't open and I have no idea how anyone would ever find it. It is more of a glorified closet. So I keep seeing these signs for wine and olive oil, and I am wondering: can you just stop and taste? are they open? We drive into a place that has a BIG welcoming sign on the road advertising wine and olive oil tastings. We drive down a dirt road to a small house and there is no additional sign, no business-looking structure. We think we may be in the wrong place, but I decide to ask. A woman comes out and I ask in meager Italian: is this the place for wine tasting? Um, yes, but wait a moment and I will call. Utoh. She places a call and then hands the phone to me. I realize Chris has been right - this is just not how it is done. I apologize to the man that we cannot come back in several hours, and for bothering to call. We get in the car and speed off. I realize I have just knocked on the door of a winemaker and asked for his wines. I suppose you need appointments. Or maybe the general public does not do this... I have asked in a few towns if the wineries are open for tastings, and the people have seemed puzzled. Wine tastings? at the wineries? I am beginning to think this is a foreign concept here, and I am just desiring something that is not really the way wine country in Italy presents itself. We see another place along the road that has people lingering outside and looks a bit more promising. Stop! I am determined to try. We walk inside and I ask, can we taste? Just a moment. A old man comes out to greet us and brings us to a wall of wines. What would you like to taste? He goes through the varietals of the area in Italian and Chris and I are both stunned to find out that we actually understand everything he is saying. We choose one - a Montecucco wine that is mainly sangiovese grapes (as this area is predominantly using) with a small amount of Merlot. He opens it, pours two full glasses and disappears. He comes back with a full platter of local salami and cheeses. Hmm, this could be expensive. Chris and I are both wondering and slightly worried about what I have gotten us into here, but decide to just go with it and enjoy. We have a wonderful lunch/snack, and he asks if we would like another taste. We wish we could, but no, we'll pay the check. Do you want the wine? Yes, it was one of the best I have tasted. OK, he says, 9 euros for the wine. We buy some oil and leave after spending 13 euros. We are both shocked. Really? free tasting? all that? It was a perfect afternoon experience and I am, once again, glad I persevered to 'crack' the mystery of Italian wine tastings. It seems you find the right enoteca, and voila.
Tonight Chris is learning to bake bread with Viola, the owner of the villa where we currently are staying. I just peeked in on them to see them slathering olive oil over focaccia that they had spread out by hand onto baking sheets, and placing cotton then wool coverings over the bread to keep it from drying out. Amazing, the smell of sourdough rising. Bodhi's hands were going a million miles a minute, I know he was anxious to get his hands into the dough and play. He got to hold a little of the sticky dough in his hands and move it back and forth. Now I understand the origins of playdoh. He was mostly interested in eating it, then when he found out it wasn't very good, he was mostly trying to drop it on the floor, but it continued to stick to his hands. They are baking pizzas for everyone, so tonight we eat all together, like I have wanted to do since we arrived in Italy. To sit in a pergola and eat under the moonlight with other guests and locals, talking, eating and having some wine. Especially to treasure the bread just made this afternoon, local cheese, and vegetable toppings picked fresh from the garden...it will be the best pizza regardless of taste. And with it, we bring our jug of rosso di montalcino, a 5 gallon jug of vino for 14 euro, to make it that much sweeter.