Half an hour’s drive from Cittaà della Pieve is another hilltop town. Montepulciano is in the centre of a famous wine region producing the famous Montepulciano Nobile wine. There are twice as many inhabitants as Città della Pieve. We arrived at around lunchtime and decided to walk the panoramic path around the town. The narrow winding streets, every now and then, allowed a glimpse down narrow alleyways of the spectacular hills and cypress trees you imagine when you think of Tuscany. This town is twice as high as Città della Pieve (about 600 metres) so the streets were getting steeper and steeper.
The buildings, constructed of stone, are far grander here too, evidence of the wealth that wine has brought to the town and the several noble families who have cellars here. Many have been producing wine for more than 400 years and on our walk we came across one such cellar and the restaurant attached to it. La Cucina di Lillian is part of the Gattavecchi vineyard and in the old winery a tall vaulted room houses the restaurant. Several large groups were eating Sunday lunch but they managed to find us a table in the corner and a bottle of mineral water for Daisy. She is becoming a very sophisticated diner.
A speciality of the house is the locally produced meat and cheeses and there were several choices of boards featuring both. We went for the smallest with various salamis, hand-carved parma and other cured meats (it was huge, almost a meal in itself). They also have home-made pastas with a range of sauces to choose from. For the main course I selected roast pork with an almond sauce and Jamie had tagliatelle with a tomato and aglione sauce. Aglione appears to be in season as it is appearing on lots of menus around town and seems to be a very fat form of garlic bulb which has a much milder flavour. Jamie tried a glass of the house’s best Gattavecchi Montepulciano Nobile ‘Riserva’ and I had a glass of Poggio alla Sala Montepulciano Vino Nobile ‘Parceto’. [Paola’s was more expensive. And nicer.] We later found out that by the bottle these wines are over £25.00. Ouch! After a coffee we set off to complete our tour of the town. We took the details for the restaurant as, in the tourist season, you probably have to book weeks in advance.
It was such a lovely sunny afternoon and, as it is January ,hardly anyone around as you can see from our photos. We couldn’t spend too long wandering around as we had to be back home for a musical event in Città della Pieve that started at 5 o’clock. So after a quick purchase of chocolate-dipped orange peel and pistacchio truffles in the chocolate shop, we headed home.
The ‘concert’ was held in the main hall of Palazzo Corgna. Not many people seemed to be there but the room soon filled right up as Italians always seem to arrive for things at the very last minute. The band consisted of a drummer (Juri Pecci), an accordion player (Sandro Paradisi), a guitarist (Mauro Mela) and the vocalist (Antonio Ballarano). They played a whole range of stuff from the ’50’s and some classic Paolo Conti numbers. A couple of Dean Martin songs like That’s Amore, as well as L’Americano and Volare. The singer had a great gravelly voice and sang old Neapolitan folk songs brilliantly. (He also made some jokes, which went completely over our heads because of the Neapolitan dialect!) The accordion player is really well known for tango, so that was a bit like listening to “The Gotan Project” live! They played several encores and we hope they come back soon as it was amazing and, once again, all free. Later in the bar with friends before supper, we bumped into the band, and said how much we’d enjoyed it.
. . . By the by, whilst shopping in Lidl, (only because they are open all day and bake the best bread, you know) I spotted a Chianti Special Riserva DOC for €1.99! And very good it is too. Sadly when we went back to get more, it was sold out. I do take my shopping home in a Waitrose carrier though, as we have to keep up some sort of standard.