The day starts well, I’m treated to a relaxed morning to get some computer things done while Marie and her parents go to the local supermarket with Eliza to get some supplies for the week. In addition to returning with what turns out to be the best mozzarella I’ve ever tasted, they found a baby carrier that they thought might be comfier than the slings we have, so we have a bit of an adventure figuring it out, establishing that it’s possibly the comfiest thing Eliza has been in as she’s thoroughly happy in it.
After a tasty lunch filled with many salad items, during which I ‘accidentally’ eat the whole mozzarella ball, it’s so delicious, we head out to a local town well known for its wine cellars. We arrive with a slightly angsty Eliza and find parking immediately just outside the old town walls. Three steps through the entrance arch is a wine shop advertising free tastings, and another, and another, it looks great, if a little touristy. It transpires that Montepulciano is firmly on the American tourist Tuscan wine tour trail, with most of the shops in this little hilltop town dedicated to wine tasting, typical products or other tourist fayre.
Now, here’s where I and my company differ- on hearing we’re going to a famous wine town I’m imagining wine tastings, wine tours, maybe some other shops….for Marie and her parents, it’s all far too touristy and they head through this area, stopping to look inside some churches and then into a museum boasting a Caravaggio on display (yay). The Caravaggios we’ve seen on the trip so far have been pretty amazing and I’m now converted….this one however, is a portrait of a man, unsigned, which may or may not have been painted by Caravaggio, they’re unsure…hmm…not sure that would pass the trade description act in the UK. I do have fun imitating the image of Mary breastfeeding Jesus with Eliza in amongst the many many examples of religious art we walk through on the way to the Caravaggio though. I’m sure if Marie was writing this post, she’d have details on the art and be telling quite a different story, but however much I try I just can’t get interested in seeing the same images over and over again.
Once out of the museum, we take in some view points and I spot a ‘free wine tour’ sign…having been gently declined any wine tasting in shops by Marie already, I wonder if this is the Wild Card and float the idea…I’m sent off to investigate and, after climbing down and then back up a couple of flights of stairs with Eliza gently weighted on my chest (by which I mean, with a nice extra stone of weight to carry), I confirm it’s free and open. We head down, not spotting any staff for a tour so decide to go on in. It’s cool, an underground Cathedral full of gigantic barrels of wine. I later find out (by tagging on the back of a tour coming through) that the man who built it did in fact build it as a religious building, it was then felt unsafe or unsuitable for this use and a smaller chapel was built upstairs, this being used for wine ever since. The glass tube on the top of each barrel, to check the wine levels, was designed by Leonardo Da Vinci and to this day they still use the same design. There’s also a well and an Etruscan cave to have a look at, which is quite fun, realising this area has been in use by humans for so many years.
From here we take a seat in the wine tasting room and are presented with several red wines to try including the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, meaning wine made by the noble families of Montepulciano, one of the wines the town is famous for. They’re all pretty tasty and Marie’s parents buy a few bottles to take with us. The walk back to the car takes us back past some of the shops we’ve passed earlier and I get a new bag, having noticed it earlier in the day. My relative love of shops also comes in handy when I confidently confirm the way back to the car, recognising some of the shops- to some confusion of how this is possible when all the shops look the same according to the Hamards.
After this we head back to the car and onwards for dinner. Marie’s parents know of an Osteria in the nearby village of Montalcino they once had an amazing salad at and are keen to go back. Eliza’s asleep when we arrive and, keen to preserve any possibility that she may sleep while we eat, Marie and I opt to remain in the car while her parents take a look around the village and pop to the nearby wine shop. They once attended a jazz and wine festival in the castle here and hold very fond memories of it, eating in the Osteria afterward. It’s not quite as they remember and the salad is no longer on the menu, so Francoise especially seems a bit disappointed, but orders herself the same wine as she had then, which is great. We guess that the small Osteria, which is barely noticeable from the outside, must feature in an American guide book as we’re surrounded by Americans seemingly having a meal to justify the consumption of copious amounts of wine (the table of 4 next to us have worked through three bottles by the time we leave). Fair play to them, if you come all that way for a wine holiday, you’d best make the most of the wine tasting opportunities! My rabbit dinner is pretty good too, which is one more positive on the rabbit front (I really want to like rabbit and I think I probably do, but about half the times I’ve had it, it hasn’t lived up to expectation at all so I’m still trying) and Marie introduces her parents to her favourite dessert in the region; Vin Santo wine which is a bit like sherry, with biscotti like biscuits to dip in it. I’ve meanwhile had my eye on a Zuppa Inglese on the dessert menu, which translates to English Soup- I’m imagining the glorious meringue floating in vanilla custard that I had in France and have been hoping for the chance to order it. In my defence, this is what Marie’s parents also imagine I’ve ordered…what arrives is…erm…hard to describe, but its covered in a checkered pattern with thick, super sweet, chocolate and cherry sauces, the kind that sometimes get drizzled over ice creams. Not quite the dessert of my dreams, but Eliza has managed to sleep all the way through the meal, so it’s been pretty relaxing.