Blog Sunday 1/10 in Sarteano
The drive through the Tuscan countryside from Citta della Pieve was wonderful. Past Redbrick hilltop farmhouses with their signature cypress lined driveways and gardens. Up winding roads through rough ploughed fields and olive groves. The grapes have been picked but cannot tell if the olives are ready yet. Grape harvests are down in quantity, because of the hot summer, but apparently the quality will be excellent.
Sarteano is a small town with a mighty castle, bequeathed to a local family by the Medicis. In the late ’90’s the local authority took it over and began a programme of restoration work so we hope we can go in and see. But as we have arrived at lunchtime, everywhere has closed for the afternoon and we need to find a restaurant. Standing in the main square and wondering why google maps is struggling to find our lunch choice, Osteria da Gagliano, we realise we are standing with our backs to it, so in we go and manage to nab the last table in this tiny Osteria.
The menu lives up to expectations with too many delicious possibilities. I finally choose a special of the day, always a recommended move. This was stuffed pasta parcels with ricotta, porcini mushrooms and ‘pinoli’ (pine nuts), served in melted butter and herbs. No dairy intolerance luckily! Jamie had the chunky pasta called ‘Strozzapreti’ which translates as ‘priest strangler’. The sauce for this being fresh tomatoes, thyme, rosemary and tarragon. The second course we shared (not surprisingly); pot roasted guinea fowl with peaches and grapes and a side dish of sweet and sour onions with walnuts. Always room for a refreshing dessert of a ginger semi-freddo ‘ice cream’ with a fruits of the forest sauce.
After such a feast we were in need of some exercise and so we set off for the castle. At the top of the town and through the winding narrow streets is the entrance. This little fort is so perfect, almost like a toy fort with its castellations and round tower. It is four storeys tall and each floor is accessible and there is a spiral staircase escape from the top floor. Amazingly each floor appears to have had two water closets so well done Medicis.
A ticket to the castle, where there is also a contemporary photographic exhibition in the rooms, also included entrance to the archaeological museum. Here exhibits of the local Etruscan finds are displayed really well. The frescoes and pots and funerary objects were all of such quality and style. This is pre-Roman, from the 9th to the 1st century BC, and yet the black figurative decoration on terracotta plates looks like something that Wedgwood might have produced this century. Even the frescoes with their fantastic animals, dragons and serpents, were so well preserved as some of the tombs have survived the looters and were only discovered in the last twenty years or so.
On our walk back to the car we spotted a very beautiful bright yellow Fiat 500 sitting under an olive tree, in the car park of the 15th century Convento Santa Chiara, now a hotel with a very pretty courtyard garden.
An interesting town on the road to Citta della Pieve is Cetona and we thought we would make the most of the late evening sun by enjoying an aperitivo in the main square. A wedding reception was set up and the civil ceremony taking place in a chapel on the square. It was fun to watch all the different guests come out for photographs and to speculate on who they might be and how they were dressed. People watching is an Italian sport and we are only in training.
The evenings are getting shorter and by the time we got home at 7pm it was already dark. Clocks will change very soon.