For our R&R we took a trip to Italy - first stop, Tuscany. We stayed just outside of Montepulciano at the Ortaglia B&B perfect with a great view of the town on the hill and surrounding vineyards. To view the entire photo album from our trip, click here.
Terenzio and Mara were fantastic hosts. Terenzio has a wealth of knowledge of Tuscany and its history and we enjoyed exploring the area each day and relaxing by the pool in the afternoons. He explained why many of the towns were atop the hills to better defend attackes from the barbarians. He also showed us various towns many of which were along the path for pilgrims from the north enroute to Rome. Most of the pilgrims stayed in ospedales (overnight hospitality centers where travelers stayed inside city walls for protection). Towns visited were Castello di Vignoni Alto, Bagno Vignoni, Abbey of Sant'Antimo, Montalcino, San Quirico d'Orcia, Pienza, Cortona, Castiglione del Lago, Siena, Montepulciano, and Orvieto.
We also took 3 cooking classes most of which were hosted by Mara, who showed off her impressive culinary skills and taught us about real Tuscan cooking. For starters, the Italian sofrito begins with olive oil, onion, carrots, and celery. She showed us how to make pici (homemade pasta typically with just flour and water but we added just one egg) with Sugo All'aglione (garlic sauce which is the traditional sauce for the pici in the territory of Montepulciano). Julia and I believe we have the consistency of the dough right and can't wait to try to make it on our own. We learned to make Pappa Al Pomodoro and an easy technique for peeling tomatoes which is to simply drop the tomatoes in boiling water for a few seconds. Among other recipes we made were Scaloppine Al Limon, Zucchine Trifolate, Peperoni con Capperi and Scottiglia (Combination of mixed meats).
Finally, we also got to enjoy some of the areas finest wines including Brunello de Montalcino and Nobile de Montepulciano.