Friday, June 4, 2010


Okay.  If you haven't read yesterday's post ('Hail and Monks and Nuns, Oh My!'), you need to go do so.  If you have already read it, here is the video I tried posting last night of the singing tourist:

Last night we sat out on the patio with a family from Washington DC staying a couple rooms down from us.  They (Jeff and Kelly) are traveling with a 3 month old (Olivia), and a 3 year old (Tucker), and both of their children are adorable!  Jameson was already asleep last night, but Tucker sat out with us pretending to be our "waiter" for the evening, though all he really did was force crackers upon us.  Christine got smart and held on to her same cracker for over an hour.  Every time he tried to pass them out, she just showed him that she hadn't finished her last one.  One smart chica.  This morning when we were getting ready to go, we opened the doors (because it was so nice out) and hear Tucker say "Mommy! I want to go see if Jameson is awake yet!"  We were already off to a much better start than yesterday.  The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and it was a cool 74 degrees outside; Absolute perfection!  Jameson and Tucker played with the bugs (which Jameson pronounces "butt") while we got things packed up and ready to go for the day.

Our first stop on todays day-venture was a winery recommended to us from the guy in the enoteca (Italian store that sells local wines and often cheeses, breads, and even sandwiches) in Cortona.  If I've learned anything from this trip, it's to take advantage of recommendations.  People rarely steer you wrong when sharing their favorite places, and this case was no different.  We drove the short 15 minutes to Avignonesi, and the entire property was just unbelievably beautiful.

Christine and Christer were doing a tasting, so Jameson and I took some time to play outside and take pictures.

Jameson’s pants are too big and he doesn’t have a belt (yet) so Christer sings “Pants On the Ground” whenever he’s rocking this look.  We found this cute little fish pond on the vineyard property, and Jameson, of course, tried to climb in.  He does this ADORABLE fish face, which he would promptly stop doing whenever I shoved a camera in his face.  This is the best picture I could get.

The people at the vineyard were so nice and gave us a tour today even though they didn't have one scheduled.  The one scheduled for tomorrow was in Italian, so they gave us an impromptu tour today.

They were heating irons over flames and stamping the barrels while we were there.  That's what you see this guy doing.  When they're done being stamped they look like this:

The barrels, when finished, go to ferment in rooms like this:

The vineyard is named after the Avignonesi family who moved from Avignon, France and settled in the Montepulciano and Siena area.  It was then that they started their winery, with the Italian land and French grape vines, giving their wines a unique characteristic.

After the Avignonesi we drove about an hour to Montepulciano, another Medieval town in Tuscany that dates back to as early as the 3rd and 4th centuries B.C.  Montepulciano as we see today was constructed and inhabited in the 12th and 13th centuries.

This town had lots and lots and lots of hills, but also had one of the best views in all of Italy.  Just see for yourself.

The piazza had this amazing church built in 1832, and lots and lots of room for Jameson to run around. (and more importantly, to give Christer a break from lugging Jameson around in the backpack up and down all these hills)

After Montepulciano we got back in the car and drove another hour to the little town of Orvieto.  The town rests on volcanic rock, and the rock is so pliable that the inhabitants have carved out underground passageways through the town.  After parking (already a decent way up the mountain), we took 10 flights of stairs, escalators, or moving belts (like the ones in the airport, but these were at a slant upwards), to get to the actual city. 

If you can't tell, this church was amazing.  It was constructed out of white and black marble, much like the duomo in Siena, but it also had all of these tile mosaics with the beautiful gold, which reminded me a lot of Saint Mark's Cathedral in Venice.  Out of all the towns we’ve visited so far, this felt the most medieval to me.  It could just be the giant medieval-esque flags they had hanging throughout the town, but with the piazza and the duomo, it really seemed like a medieval town.

We tried to get dinner in Cortona on our way home, but a Friday night out to eat in tourist season was a long shot, so we ended up just getting pasta from the local pizzeria.  It was such a beautiful night that we ate outside on the patio and opened up some of the wine from Avignonesi.  One of the bottles, a red wine, is called Desiderio and has a picture of a bull on the label.  The (very nice) people at the winery told us that the bull is actually famous in the area of Cortona for being such a great bull, and his name was Desire, so they named the wine after him.  Today was jam packed with sight seeing and picture taking...another successful day in Tuscany.

Today my favorite thing about Italy is:  How much the Italians love children.  Jameson seriously gets stopped and ooed and awed at a million times a day.  We were eating paninis outside of an enoteca in Orvieto and the lady working came outside and offered to take Jameson for a walk while we ate.  Everyone is not only understanding and tolerant of kids, but they love the little ones.

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