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Castelpoggio, Italy

A trip of medioeval, and natur
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permalink written by  Castelpoggio on January 22, 2007 from Castelpoggio, Italy
from the travel blog: Castelpoggio
tagged Italia, Castelpoggio and Tuscany

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Tuscany, and a little place by the name or Trove

Petroio, Italy

We've been a bit behind on blogs, and have actually been in Tuscany since Tuesday. Our hosts, Ugo and Barbara picked us up from the train station in Orvieto and we drove through the countryside taking the long route back to their house. You know how in movies Tuscany is always portrayed as only consisting of rolling hills covered in vineyards, olive groves, and sunflowers; occasionally interrupted by the Etruscan hill town and towering Cyprus? Yeah...they don't exaggerate. This place is unrealisticly beautiful.

Barbara needed to stop in a bakery on the way home so we pulled up to the village of Pienza and she told us to take a quick walk while she grabbed what she needed, and visit the local cathedral.

The next day we spent acquainting ourselves with Ugo and Barbara, the two cats and two dogs, and what we would be doing while here.

I'll do a detailed blog about their property, Trove, sometime soon but for now here are a few highlights.

Plumbing here consits of a main tap and a well. The first night was a bit humorus until we got the system worked out. Screw baths, shower under the tuscan stars instead.

Ugo needed to make a quick visit to a friend one night and invited us along and then unexpectedly asked if we'd like to be dropped off at a garden created by a professional landscaper who lives in the area. He didn't tell us anything about the place before hand aside from its ying-yang nature, so we felt like we were walking into the twilight zone walking into this place.

This guy must have a thing for Satyrs, they are tucked away everywhere you look in the garden.

Enscribed everywhere are passages, particular words and phrases. Stuff to turn the wheels...I like this guys style

Love yall!

permalink written by  Slade's Elucidation on August 9, 2008 from Petroio, Italy
from the travel blog: Slade's Elucidation
tagged Tuscany, BoscoDellaRagnia, Trove and Petroio

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All about Trove

Petroio, Italy

Trove (Tro-vay) is a 600 or so year old Tuscan farm owned by Ugo and Barbara Mariotti. It sits between the towns of Castelmuzio
and Petroio in the Trequanda district of Tuscany, Italy. They've owned the place for 35 years, though for a long while their time was split between Italy and Australia.

Being so old, the house obviously wasn't originally equipped with pluming or electricity. They've added electricity via cabels and extension cords, and have a line to the city water which is available through the 2 taps in the house; the one upstairs by the kitchen sink and the one downstairs by our room. That's it for running water in the house,our in room plumbing is a pitcher and washbasin.

We've already shown you the shower but I'm sure your just dying to see the toilet...

You do your business in the bucket seat or hole if you prefer, then sprinkle saw dust when your done.

Most Americans would be rather intimidated by this and I cant claim exemption from that, however its really not bad. If it meant having a house like this I'd happily live with a saw-dust toilet the rest of my life :P

Aside from Ugo and Barbara, the house has four other official residents. Billy and Mary Moon the two lovable pups, and the two cats which have names that never get used so I don't know them. They're lovingly referred to as the Damn Ginger Cat and Fluffy.

Mary Moon is neurotically afraid of new people. However, Ugo and Barbara had to leave for a few days soon after we arrived and we were the only source of food and cuddles. Needless to say, she warmed up to us pretty fast. Billy and Ginger are the two most inclined to seek out human companionship and it didn't take long before Ginger was sleeping between James and I on the bed, and Billy had moved his afternoon siesta spot from the workshop area under the house to the cool tiles of the floor in our room. Fluffy spends all day doing god knows what, though we have a sneaky suspicion she might be responsible for this rare breed of tail-less lizards in and around Trove. They look a lot like their more plentiful cousins...only well tail-less.

Come dusk though you'll see her trotting up the lane. At first shes wary of you, but as soon as shes feels your hands on her, shes in your lap nudging every appendage you have for cuddles and drooling on you. Seriously, the cat has drooling problem. But shhhhh, I never told you that...don't want her to be self conscious or anything ;)

Trove has a decent amount of land, boasting its own vineyard and olive groves in addition to several fields for crops and the houses veggi garden.

And prums, lots and lots of prums. Yes, I said prums, NOT plums. It's best you don't ask.

The other day after attending a lunch hosted by the local women (This local festivity brought to you by the communist era in Italy), we were treated with the first actual thunderstorm we've experienced since leaving home. I've missed texas storms, the lightning and thunder.

For more pictures go to our pictures section, scroll to the bottom and click on the tags Tuscany or Trove. The city tags arnt working at the moment so clicking on the city wouldnt work so well :P

The next day we headed to Sienna to go to THE Palio, which i'll tell you all about soon :)

permalink written by  Slade's Elucidation on August 17, 2008 from Petroio, Italy
from the travel blog: Slade's Elucidation
tagged Italy, Tuscany and Trove

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The Palio

Siena, Italy

The Palio

If like me, you have no clue what this is, its just one of the biggest yearly horse races in Italy. An unbelievable amount of tradition and pomp go into making this race such a spectacle. It starts from the moment your born if your family belongs to one of the contradas. And preparations for race day start weeks before, culminating in all day festivities on the day of the Palio.

We left the house around 8am to head to Sienna so we could secure parking and see all the race preparations. Barbara took us all around Sienna showing us where all the major landmarks and contradas were so we could watch the groups getting ready for the race. Before the race the contradas get their parade horse and members all decked out in medieval costumes...im assuming its the same traditional garb their contradas actually wore in the middle ages.

Afterwards they parade to the contradas home chapel to have their jockey and race horse blessed.

Then all the contradas join together in the streets, drummers playing, flags being tossed and all the members crowding behind their group.

This is not something done for tourists,this isnt still put on merely for the sake of amusement and history. The Siennese live and breath for the palio, spend untold hours and resources outfitting their group and hosting banquets and events throughout the year. That said, they reeaaaaalllllly get into it, and once things start getting under way it gets crazy in the square. Wayyyy more people then is probably safe squeeze into the square before its sealed off for the parade and finally the race horses to enter.

After the horses get lined up, which is no small feat since they use a rope starting line and no barricades, and several false starts, the race is under way. The course is pretty treacherous for a horse and several usually stumble or fall, the one James was routing for lost its jockey on the first loop. Someone wins but you usually cant tell who because you cant really see the track through all the people, so you head to the closest bar to watch the replay on TV. The winning contrada parades around town getting piss drunk all night and everyone else being tired as hell goes home.

Oh and the prize for winning....

That and bragging rights. Each contrada has a museum to house all the Palios its won. Heres a link i found to a site which has an archive of all the palio flags back to the 1600's, each desgined by a diffrent local artist.

Peace yall ;)

permalink written by  Slade's Elucidation on August 22, 2008 from Siena, Italy
from the travel blog: Slade's Elucidation
tagged Siena, Italy, Tuscany and ThePalio

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Fun Times at Trove

Petroio, Italy

The past few weeks have passed by in a blaze of , well blazes for one. Barbara decided that the Calabroni (aka big fucking hornets that are creepily smart) had lived in the big stump by the house for too long and set the whole thing ablaze. It smoldered throughout the day, and come evening it was still going. To attempt and get water into the centre of the stump the guys tried standing it up and it proceeded to roll down the hill taking out several small trees and landing just a few feet away from the field of dried grass. For obvious reasons this wasn't a good home for the giant flaming log. Never fear, Barbara has a big tractor :P Everyone pitched in to get it back up the hill and onto the gravel drive in a position where it could be properly hosed before we all turned in for the night.

James unearthed a nest of baby lizards in the process of hatching too, arnt they cuties?

A day or two later there was a wine tasting in Montepulciano of local wines. Local wines here means the rather famous Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Rosso di Montepulciano., yummm.

We met two friends of theirs in Montepulciano, Leslie (who is their colleague as well) and Karla (who also does tours back home in Czechoslovakia), and had a lovely evening sipping good wine. On the way home we saw this little cutie hanging out by the road...

That weekend Leslie and Karla came to stay at Trove and Saturday Ugo took us on a little sightseeing day trip. One of our first stops of the day was at the monastery where some of the movie The English Patient was filmed. It boasted some wonderful frescos and views of the surrounding countryside.

After leaving we drove through the countryside for a bit, just enjoying the stunning senary.

Ugo suggested we go to the little village of Lucignano d'Asso, so we could take a walk through it. Honestly I think he just wanted an excuse to visit the little grocery/deli that was there. He orded us a bottle of wine and we thought some light nibbles of cheese and what have you. We got a bit more then we anticipated but out of courtesy to the hostess couldn't do anything but eat the juicy fresh cantaloup, tantalizing slices of local dried meats, and cheeses. The meats we superb, I think Beth might have cried tears of joy had she seen those plates coming out ;)

Eventually we ended up at the hot springs on the side of Mont Amiata. We swam in a modern swimming pool which has several sections of varying size and temperatures, all fed by thermal waters heated by the volcanic activity of Mont Amiata.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love bathing in really hot water? Like hot to the point it chases James out of the shower. I could really do with a hotspring in my backyard...would certainly lower our electricity and water bills :P Of course I would also need a backyard again to have a hot spring in it.

We also visited one of my new favorite places again, the garden Bosco dela Ragnaia. This time it was a whole diffrent experiance having Ugo there to play the guide and tell is the meanining of all the words inscribed around the place. I swear this guy reads Conversations With God, and must have a lusty obsesion with good philosiphy.

We were luck enough to meet the creator, and he is the most unassuming guy youd ever meet. There he was just working away on a flower bed in his beat up denim and floppy wide brim hat, humility and warmth eminating from every gesture. He stopped his work long enough to have a quick chat and then politly excused himself and got back to it, he is obviously not a big socializer but still makes you feel welcome.

It's finally cooling off a bit and we've enjoyed several dinners outdoors in one of the courtyards. Nice breeze, good vino, good company...

I think I might have mentioned this before, but just in case....


Love you all!

permalink written by  Slade's Elucidation on September 4, 2008 from Petroio, Italy
from the travel blog: Slade's Elucidation
tagged HotSprings, Italy, Tuscany, Petroio and Pienza

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Vendemmia Time!

Petroio, Italy

Vendemmia, Italian for grape harvest.

The vines are starting to turn hues of orange and red, and the grapes are juicy sweet. It's harvest time.

Two days before the harvest was to start we pulled out all the bins, baskets, tubs, and tubes and gave then a good rinsing. Grapes don't like dirt, or soap, so everything gets a good rinse as you put it away after the previous years harvest and again right before this years to insure things are as clean as possible.

The morning of the Vendemmia we had one last thing that needed rinsing, having decided to harvest a day earlier on account of the weather turning. The final thing to wash was the de-stimmer. The name says it all, this machine removes the grapes from the stalks smushing them a bit in the process and them shoots them into the tube you hopefully have aimed into the holding vats. Having quite a force behind it, if the tubes off for cleaning and you don't have a catch bucket over the hole you can shoot dried grape bits leftover from last years harvest quite a way into your nice freshly swept cellar. Blasting anyone in the way. Not that I'd know from experience or anything.... Sorry Paul.

Around noon we headed down to the vineyards to get started. Barbara and Ugo knew this years would be a small harvest thanks to the very dry spring and summer, what they hadn't really counted on was the local deer eating at least half of the grapes they did have this year. Normally they move the dog kennel down to the vineyard so Billy and Mary Moon can chase deer to their hearts content and protect the grapes. Alas that didn't happen this year and as a result there are some very very well fed deer in the area. I think the local poachers owe the Mariottie's a couple venison steaks and such for feeding the damn things.

Regardless of the small yield there were still grapes that needed picking and the whole gang pitched in. Ugo and Barbara of course, James and I, as well as Martine and Paul; another couple here helping who also hail from the land of Oz. Even the animals came to help.

Normally the white and red grapes would be harvested separately for white and red vintages but due to the small quantity this year Ugo and Barbara decided to combine them to make and old school Chianti wine.

Disclaimer, I really have no clue what I'm talking about here. Apparently, before “Winemakers” moved into the area Chianti was made by combining the red,Sangiovese,and white grapes, Malvasia. Doing this would still make a red wine, not a rose or blush, as its the skins of the red grapes that make a red wine red. These days Chianti is primarily just made with the Sangiovese grape.

Back to the harvest, after collecting grapes for a few hours it was time for a picnic lunch in the vineyard and a short rest before collecting the last of the grapes.

After all the grapes were picked the buckets were taken up to the cellar, where we ran them through the de-stimmer and the juice was pumped into the big holding vat where it eventually becomes wine.

There is of course more to that process of grape juice to wine but that's another blog.

Cheers mates ;)

ps To see all the harvest photos click the photos link then scroll to the bottom of the page and find the Vendemmia tag.

permalink written by  Slade's Elucidation on October 7, 2008 from Petroio, Italy
from the travel blog: Slade's Elucidation
tagged Tuscany, Trove and Vendemmia

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Day Trippin

Radicofani, Italy

After staring at this mountain for the past two and a half months, when James and I got permission to take the car out for a day trip to Mont Amiata we went. Before heading up Mont Amiata though James wanted to go investigate a near by fortress. He has a little boys fanaticism when it comes towers, gun turrets, and such.

From the road the place looks pretty damn impressive. Can you imagine being the invading army? Having marched hundreds of miles you get here and realize not only do you have to fight these guys you have to run up that hill to do it while they're firing unfriendly implements of war at you. “Naw I'll pass on this one Sarg....”

We found or own hostile force on the way up, but he fled at the sight of our mighty siege weapon aka the 4wd suzuki.

Being the end of the tourist season the place was practically deserted and we sat on a bench and enjoyed a picnic lunch in the middle of an ancient fortress overlooking all of Tuscany. And we found shrooms, yes those kind of shrooms. No, we didnt eat them.

After lunch we went and explored the fortress proper and climbed up the big tower which has been turned into a museum of sorts. Heres something I bet you didnt know about Tuscany, there are a LOT of ants here. Not the mean demon spawn ants we have back home mind you, just the happy eat everything in sight sort. Anyhow, its matting season for the ants. So all the winged ones have taken to the air, at the same time, and there are millions of them. Apparently the party invite said the dance was on top of of the tower, because the entire way up we passed the dead and dying ants twitching on the stairs. I naïvely figured they must of flown up from the door below but was relieved of that notion as soon as we stepped out on top of the tower. A mass of flying and dying ants filled the air and covered every horizontal surface of the ramparts. Yum...

Having had our fill of flying insects going places they shouldn't we decided to head down and make our way up Mont Amiata.

The drive up to the top was in my opinion almost the best part of the trip. The bosco were breathtaking. A veritable fairyland.

At every bend I was waiting for the gnome to climb out from under his mushroom and take my into a barrow to meet the King and Queen of the Sidhe. Ok not really, I didn't eat those mushrooms remember. But still that place was magical.

Most of you i'm a bit of a nature nut, but perhaps not to the extent I really am. I don't need religion, philosophical self help books, Conversations With God even; no Tolle, no string theory, or pagan rituals. I need trees, trees to climb in, big grey rocks to climb over, moss to run my hands through, tempestuous wind blowing through my hair, I need sunshine, and thunderstorms, and babling brooks.

Mont Amita had it all, yes I climbed trees and yes I hugged the mossy rock. Cant help it, it was too cuddly. Save me? I might turn into the crazy lady in the woods who talks to the animals and has a pet name for every tree. There are ski lodges for rent on Amiata, perhaps I could just play the crazy lady in the woods for a few weeks outa the year :P

It was a good day, a little known part of Tuscany that might have been my favourite.

permalink written by  Slade's Elucidation on October 18, 2008 from Radicofani, Italy
from the travel blog: Slade's Elucidation
tagged Italy, Tuscany, MontAmiata and Radicofani

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