Thursday, January 3, 2008

Greve and Volpaia

Jan 3, 2100 GMT

After doing our thing at the Internet café in Radda for about an hour, we strolled down to Bar Dante Alighieri, where we had stopped briefly the previous evening. We had a light lunch of spaghetti cut thicker than a pipe cleaner, with a wonderful chunky red sauce, and a thick traditional Tuscan soup with white beans, potatoes, some unidentified greens, and old bread all cooked down to a thick and well-seasoned mash.

Next we headed north from Radda to Greve in Chianti. It was a very twisty road between the two that wound among heavily cultivated rows and terraces of well-trained grape vines and olive trees. It's a lot hillier here than I'd expected - meaning that the hills are a lot steeper and higher that I'd pictured in my mind. The weather had hardly improved, meaning that it hovered just a bit above freeIng under heavy grey skies. It also happens to be winter, so the vines are bare, and all the trees are a dusky brown with retained dried leaves. But it is still quite a sight to see. If the weather improves, I'll be sure to post some better pictures.

Our stay in Greve was brief. We were there long enough to see the main square with attached romanesque church. One of the shopes that lines the main square is purportedly the most famous butcher in the region. Given that Hilary's a vegetarian, we didn't go in, but we could see that every inch of the walls and ceiling were hung with legs of prosciutto, crusted with salt and whatnot from their long aging. We also found a wine cellar, probably run the some association of vintners, that had bottles of many of the regional Chiantis and olive oils - probably upwards of 100 different labels and vintages. They would run from about €10 to over €100+. You could taste most everything there, oils and wines, by purchasing a sort of debit card and taking that to one of the circular tables around the room, where different bottles were hooked up to a dispenser. While an ingenious system in a way, it was alittle sketchy and impersonal, so we didn't try it out. We are hoping one of our other stops will have a more personalized tasting, with a much narrower selection, small enough to actually get your palette around it.

We drove out of Greve not long before sunset. The Tourist Info center had given a more detailed roadmap, and even highlighted the way to our next destination: a very small walled town only a 100-200 called Volpaia. We had tried to get to Greve by way of Volpaia from Radda, but our maps were not detailed enough to show us the tricky way to reach the right road. Now we were trying it backwards. The thin highlighted track actually traced a few kilometers where the map showed no road. Undaunted, though perhaps a little weirded out, we followed the directions up many narrow switchbacks and through a few tiny, one-road towns on the way, we left pavement behind as dusk fell around us. For a good 15 minutes, the only indication we were still on the right track was the fact that that there were many fresh car tracks through that day's snow. Eventually, we reached this tiny, 900-year old town that sits on the end of a ridge - part of Florence's southern vanguard in the fifteenth century. Now, diverse vinyards adorn the slopes below it. A small adventure getting there, and unfortunately too late in the day to even hey out of the car to look around, most places were definitely closed for the day. We'll try to catch it in daylight in a few days.

After a home-made dinner of spaghetti and red sauce (not as good as lunch's), we plotted out tomorrow's plan. Ordinarily, I wouldn't go through such an effort, but tomorrow is our designated day to hit up Florence, so we want to have our act together beforehand.

Sent from my iPhone.

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