Timeline: October 11th – 13th
Lyndsay arrived at the Siena Central Train Station late Saturday afternoon; we picked her up and brought her back the short distance to camp. We’d laid into some wine and snacks and spent an hour or two relaxing and getting caught up on news from home, solidifying plans for the coming days, and just generally having some fun.
Earlier in the week Joanna had noticed a nice restaurant down the street from camp and a little after 7:00 pm we drove down there (no sidewalks and narrow streets make walking after dark risky business in that part of town) and parked in their crowded parking lot.
Restaurant Altri Tempi is part of the Hotel Villa Scacciapensieri and features a lovely dining room, excellent service, and a menu that changes each day. Employing a strategy we would use successfully for the duration of Lyndsay’s stay, we opted to share food, allowing us to sample the broadest array of items. I selected the fixed price meal consisting of three courses, Joanna a primi and Lyndsay a second. Our charming waiter helped us with the wine, an excellent and reasonably priced Chianti Classico, very representative of the region.
What followed was delightful as our exchanges with the waiter brightened the evening and each item ordered provided a memorable food experience. Particularly enjoyable was Joanna’s primi, an item we’d seek out repeatedly in the coming days, ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta served in a butter and sage sauce. The delicate flavors compliment each other, with no one ingredient dominating another
We returned to camp and prepared for the next day, Lyndsay retiring earlier than would be our pattern later after a long day in the air, on the train, topped off by a fine meal. Sunday morning we took the bus into Siena to roam the streets, stopping at the Piazza del Campo for a coffee and some croissants.
After a couple of hours of walking and picture taking, we stopped at a restaurant to enjoy some lunch and in preparation for the five hour bus tour we’d take at 2:00pm, stopping in the towns of San Gimignano and Castellina in Chianti with a Chianti tasting to finish up the tour. We again ordered to split, sharing two primi’s and a secondi all for a shade under 10 Euros a dish. Lyndsay’s lasagna came with a Béchamel sauce, a nice blending of meat and cheese, my Scalopine Sensa presented a thick piece of veal with a subtle brown sauce and Joanna’s wide noodle pasta came with a very mild tasting wild boar sauce.
This was a welcome change for Joanna and I, used to grabbing food to go from shops, mostly pizza. We’d follow this pattern for the rest of our time with Lyndsay, stopping for a nice lunch each afternoon, sampling various dishes, usually accompanied by a bit of wine.
The tour was a very nice experience; certainly well worth the 30 Euros each we paid for it. Our guide was informative and spoke with the most interesting accent; we all agreed she should be doing commercials or voice-overs for a living. It was a smooth ride out to San Gimignano, I town I last visited in 1979 with Rendy; we spent a hurried hour there in very crowded conditions before heading on to what was listed in the tour brochure as a quaint Tuscan hill town. Imagine our surprise when we discovered it was Castellina in Chianti.
It was much quieter here; not nearly as crowded as San Gimignano so that walking there had a decidedly different feel to it. Many of the shops we’d seen in our prior visit were closed, it being Sunday including the shop featuring the bike kits, saving me a considerable sum of money as I might have purchased one despite my reservations about the shorts.
Back in the bus we made our way to a family run vineyard (famous wine estate according the tour website) for our promised wine tasting. This would turn out to be a highlight, a thoroughly enjoyable ninety plus minutes of tasting five different types of wine while comparing their characteristics against a plate of salami, bread and olive oil, cheese, and salad.
Our charming hostess at the winery, a daughter in the family that owns it and a number of other vineyards, entertained us throughout the event, leading us up to the eventual pitch to purchase some of their wine, a rare opportunity as they do not sell to retailers.
While all that we tasted was good, it was just expensive enough for us to pass on a purchase, thus enabling us to buy larger quantities of less expensive wines later in the trip. This policy would pay off in the coming days as we made our way through Tuscany, eating, drinking, and laughing about our experiences, a no better way to travel.
Lyndsay’s Blog: http://tuscanywithmanns.wordpress.com/
Hotel Villa Scacciapensieri : http://www.villascacciapensieri.it/en/
Restaurant Altri Tempi: http://www.villascacciapensieri.it/en/restaurant/
San Gimignano: http://www.sangimignano.com/en/
Castellina in Chianti: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castellina_in_Chianti