Feeling the Texture of History

On October 5, 2010, in Family and Friends, Food, Travel, by Mark Ranes
Ricotta, Truffle and shaved Parmesan cheese

Ricotta, Truffle and shaved Parmesan cheese

We are four days into our Italian adventure and enjoying every minute of it!  The rest of my group is out enjoying a 20 km wine tasting bike tour and I’m relaxing at the villa.  It rained sheets last night, and threatened to cancel their trip, but they headed out several hours ago to take on the winding, narrow (wet) roads of Tuscany.  It’s taken a few days to adjust to the time change and my body still craves sleep on non-Tuscany time, but it’s getting better.

Sunday, we walked 3.5 km to Radda in Chianti and took in the town.  We enjoyed a light lunch at an amazing restaurant, where I had fantastic ravioli stuffed with ricotta cheese, and topped with truffles and shaved Parmesan cheese.  I also enjoyed some melon gelato that was as amazing as everyone told us it would be.  We walked through the cobbled streets of Radda, getting a general feel for Italian life.  It moves slowly, enjoys wine and food, and generally takes in the best of what life has to offer.  The people are friendly and open to tourists.  We are welcome here.

Platter of Mixed Tuscan Grilled Meats!

We returned to the villa to enjoy an amazing evening, highlighted by a five course dinner, honoring the 50th birthday of Steve.  Everything was wonderfully prepared, and the mixed Tuscan grill was out of this world.  I’ve never seen such a large platter of meat before.  We enjoyed savory grilled Italian sausage, pork chops, chicken breasts and the most wonderful beef ribs I’ve ever had.  Amazingly, we consumed almost the entire platter!

Yesterday, we traveled to the walled town of towers, San Gimignano.  While very touristy, it still conveyed the many hundreds of years of Italian history.  As Americans, we know a history of only several hundred of years.  In Italy, and the rest of Europe, that time frame is but a blink compared to their legacy – and it shows just about everywhere you go.  While there were many shops and restaurants, there was also an incredible sense of history in San Gimignano.  Rock and stone dominate the architecture, and there is an deep sense of permanency.  These buildings have been here for more than a thousand years, and they’ll be here for at least that many more.  I enjoyed a nice Italian beer, sitting in a cafe, watching others take in the history.  Definitely a moment to remember.

A back alley in Siena

A back alley in Siena

After a couple hours we headed out to Siena.  We had no problem parking near the walls of the old city, and then wandered through market areas, alley ways and cobbled streets to reach the The Piazza Del Campo.  I went into this blindly, having no idea what Siena offered, and was surprised at the beauty and history of the old town plaza.  We enjoyed hand thrown authentic pizza and salads, shopped a bit, and then headed over to Cathedral of Siena, the Duomo di Siena.  Again, I was unprepared for what I was to see.  We purchased tickets to enter the cathedral and spent several hours enjoying the amazing art, architecture and sights of the city of Siena from the Panorama – a huge arch accessible by climbing several hundred stone steps, up a narrow spiral stairway.  The view of the city was breathtaking from the top of the arch.  We headed out of Siena after dark, drove home and enjoyed a wonderful meal of pasta, salad and bread.  It was a long, but inspiring day.

Throughout the day, I found myself touching the things I saw, feeling the texture of history.

Here’s a gallery of photos from the first few days.

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