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September 11, 2017

A Girls Trip to Tuscany

My tennis partner Ann organized a girls trip to Tuscany.  Ten of us came from near and far.  Some arrived in Italy early; others arrived the day we were transported to Tuscany from Rome.  With the exception of Mary, most of us enjoyed a smooth arrival to Rome not counting the deluge of water falling from the sky!

We took two vans to Il Colombaio, our villa on the border of Tuscany and Umbria. We settled in for a lovely evening of food and drinks and prepared for our first full day in Tuscany in Montepulciano.

Montepulciano is a medieval and Renaissance town that sits atop a 2,000 foot limestone ridge in southern Tuscany.  It is renowned for its pici pasta and Vino Nobile wine.  Our drivers delivered us directly to its Piazza Grande formed in the typical medieval fashion with a church, the city hall, and a wealthy man’s residence with a portico below for socializing and doing business.  On a side note, the FREE public bathrooms were nearby (a nice change from the Amalfi Coast).

The church which borders the square is called the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and is also known as the Duomo of Montepulciano as it is the most important church in the town.  Here is a link to an interesting article discussing the difference in Italian Church names:  chiesa, basilica, catedrale, and duomo: Is it a church or a cathedral?

After looking around the square, we visited Rameria Cesare Mazzetti.  Rameria means copper smith, and Cesare is a famous one.  He hand makes a variety of copper kitchen ware and decorations.  His craft has been passed down through his family for generations.  He still uses his grandfather’s stamps and tools today which are over 100 years old.

Cesare buys his copper from Chile.  It is certified in London and is then sent to Italy. He receives it in forms of rough globs and thin sheets.  He hand pounds the copper into the appropriate shape and depending on its function adds pure tin.

While copper requires a little more attention in the kitchen, it offers distinct advantages and professional chefs from around the world commission work with Cesare.  Both the shape and the thickness of the copper is very important for the pots to transmit both high and uniform heat for cooking.  In order to withstand the heat, the pots require the correct number of beats with the hammer!

In addition to being excellent heat conductors, copper also adds iron to water, so those who are anemic can add cold water to a copper pitcher and eventually get the iron they need without taking medicine.

Cesare was quite the character and a rather horny old man.  He wanted a kiss from every lady after he pretend branded everyone’s buttox before we left his laboratory to see his store up the street. As a parting gift, we made a copper decoration with flower petals, our initials, and the date. It was nice and creative!

After visiting his store, we wandered the streets of Montepulciano.  The views of the rolling Tuscan hills covered in olive groves and vineyards were lovely.  I wandered around the town looking for interesting photos, while the shoppers in the group visited the row of stores to find some nice leather, jewelry, and olive wood cutting boards just to name a few items purchased.

Many of us also explored the Città Sotterranea.  Here we weaved through passage ways filled with giant barrels of Vino Nobile produced by Ercolani.  The underground city included a crypt, the well of love, old olive crushing equipment and combs used for sheeps’ wool.  I loved wandering through the maze of rooms.

After the morning in the walled town, our drivers provided a short ride to Ristorante la Grotta, a Michelin Star restaurant located at the base of the town across from the Chiesa di San Biagio.  Courtesy of Ann, we enjoyed a long, savory lunch before heading back to the villa where we took an afternoon walk through the Tuscan hillsides before we ate and drank the night away.  ETB

At the Villa

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