18.06.2010 - 20.06.2010 18 °C
Our next day out from Siena was through the Chianti region, with stops in the towns of Castellina, Radda, Gaiole, Greve, and Panzano. I'm not so familiar with Italian wines, and was surprised at the Chianti landscape - quite high and forested.
Each of the towns is quite compact, laid-back and charming in its own way - but I'd vote for Castellina or Panzano as the most interesting. The latter town has a famous (and colourful) butcher - we stopped in to sample the free wine and nibbles (his traffic-building gimmick) right as he was hacking apart a huge cut of beef into at least six-inch thick slices...steaks? Most likely, but they looked the size of roasts! His shop assistants offered samples of a strong wild boar salami - and I order a few slices to go. I learned later that you need to wrap that stuff up tightly - very pungent, but tasty.
Last stop on the way back to Siena was the Rocca della Macie winery. We'd had their Chianti Classico at dinner the night before, and noticed the place on our way by that morning. We sampled then promptly bought, a bottle of their Sangiovese/Syrah blend called,
Sasyr - I happily shill it here since it was quite lovely.
We moved on from Siena to spend the next day and night in Cortona. This was a very popular town, due mainly to the book and movie Under the Tuscan Sun. We also arrived on market day, so the town was bustling during the day and a little more sedate in the evening. We had a good wander up and down through town, then ate dinner at a great spot overlooking the main piazza (Tuscan Sun movie fans: where she wrote the unappreciated postcard) - more porcini mushrooms, with a delicious bit of pork (and those Italians really know pork), followed by a perfect little tiramisu. Up there as one of the best meals in Tuscany.
We continued on to Arezzo on a drizzly Sunday. This town's film location claim to fame is the main piazza in Life is Beautiful.
Although we didn't get to see it at its best, Arezzo seems like a lovely town to spend more time - it has the requisite historic centre, old town walls and gates, scads of churches and a unique piazza where they had just held an annual jousting festival...we only saw the stands and remaining dirt/mud in the piazza, but it would be impressive to see everyone in medieval garb and horses charging along the raised runway like so:
We left Arezzo just as the rain really came down, and headed south to spend the next three nights in the atmospheric town of Montepulciano to continue our daytripping from there.