Enoteca

Siena, Italy

Siena is a medium size town in the Tuscan region. It has a great piazza in the center and several beautiful churches. The piazza is where Italians and tourists meet to sit and talk or have a gelato. There are restaurants and bars around the edge of this piazza. It is a large piazza.

On July 2 and August 16 the famous horse race is run (il Palio), There are 13 Contrade or city wards that compete but only 10 of the 13 get to race. Ten horses and ten men race bareback around the piazza’s edge three times. The winner holds the honor for a year. The edge of the piazza is transformed into a dirt horse track. The center has areas for people of each Contrade to stand and watch as horses race around them.


– George

Categories: Bars, BLOG, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Il Palio, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Ristorante, Romance, Shopping, Siena, Small Towns, Tuscany, VLOG, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Tuscany & Umbria Fun

In 2015 we took a week-long trip through some interesting cities of Tuscany and Umbria. This is a hilly area of Italy and the cities are hill towns with narrow streets and lots of stairs. It is Italy and the friendliness of the people and quality of the food and wine comes through.

The video below is an introduction to my Italian city videos.

 

Our trip was several weeks long but the first week was in Tuscany/Umbria and the rest was at our home in southern Campania. We flew into the Rome airport, Fiumicino, and rented a car.  Our itinerary was:

  1. Perugia – Chocolates – See are YouTube Video below
  2. Assisi – Home of Saint Francis – See are YouTube Video below
  3. Cortona – Home of Under the Tuscan Sun – See are YouTube Video below
  4. Montepulciano – The famous wine city – See are YouTube Video below
  5. Siena – Home of the famous Horse Race Il Palio – YouTube video coming soon
  6. San Gimignano – My favorite city anywhere – YouTube video coming soon
  7. Florence – Home of Italian art – See are YouTube Video below

There are so many more cities in this area worth seeing but we were limited to a week and wanted to spend time in Florence.

Perugia

This is home to the famous Italian chocolate Perugina. It is owned by Nestle now but in Italy it is made the original way with not as much sugar. The American version is sold with much more sugar. This small town has an old city center with very narrow streets that barely fit a car. See the video below for how narrow these streets actually are. As in most Italian towns, life takes place outside. Piazzas are places to sit at a bar or restaurant outside and enjoy and observe life around you.

Assisi

Assisi is a small hill town in Umbria that was home to Saint Francis and the Franciscan Monks. It is above all else an Italian city. The food and wine are great. Eating is done outside in piazzas and narrow streets. In our video we caught an Italian wedding as we were seated outside at a restaurant. You never know what will happen next but it will be fun and interesting.

Cortona

OK, we all know Cortona from the book and movie, Under the Tuscan Sun. Frances Mayes made this small town popular to tourists from all over the world. The city is high on a hill in Tuscany overlooking Lake Trasimeno. Frances Mayes has her real home here as well as Bramasole, the home used in the movie. Walk with us through this wonderful city in our YouTube video.

Montepulciano

Montepulciano is a famous Italian red wine city (by the same name). Here you can walk a wonderful hill-top city and drink this and other great Tuscan wines. We stayed at a great hotel outside the city called Borgo San Pietro Hotel Cortona. You can see this city and the hotel in the YouTube video.

Siena

This video will be available on YouTube on Monday January 30th. This is a larger city with a great old center that has a huge piazza that is used twice a year (on July 2 and August 16)  run a famous Italian horse race, il palio. People crowd into the center of the piazza and horses race around them. Mud flies and everyone has a fun time. Outside race times the piazza is a place to meet friends and family and sit and relax in the sun. The border of this piazza is loaded with bars and restaurants. The food is good but they are very touristy which means high prices.

San Gimignano

This video will be available on YouTube on a Monday two weeks after the above Siena video. San Gimignano is by far my favorite city anywhere. It is a walled hill city with two main gates. It has been preserved in time from its medieval beginnings. You will notice The famous town homes that help protect families from invaders. In medieval times there were 72 of these homes measuring as tall as 70 meters (230 feet). Today there are only 14 surviving towers. Tourists have found this city and with tourists came tourists stores like Gucci but it is a great town to walk. Get off the main two streets and see the real town.

Florence

Florence was the center of the renaissance and brought art, style, architecture and culture to medieval Italy. Books have been written about Florence. It is a very large city and one of Italy’s main cities. You come here for food, wine, views and art. In our YouTube video we walk around Florence and show you great museums like the Uffizi. Florence has something for everyone. Spend some time here and get to know the city and the people.

Enjoy your travels and enjoy your life…

– George

Categories: Architecture, Assisi, Bars, Cortona, Duomo, Eating, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Florence, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Hotels, Il Palio, Italian, Italy, Italy BLOGs, Lakes of Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Perugina Chocolate, Ristorante, Romance, Saint Francis, Saint Peter's Basilica, San Gimignano, Siena, Towns, Traveling without a tour, Tuscany, Uffizi, Umbria, Under the Tuscan Sun, VLOG, Walking, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Montepulciano, Italy

Montepulciano is music to the ears of wine drinkers. I know it is music to my ears. It is a hardy great Italian red wine named after this small mountain town. In this town and the surrounding area you can taste and purchase great Montepulciano wines. Tuscany is a fantastic wine-producing region of Italy. It has become world-renowned for great red wines. Walk around Montepulciano and stop in an enotecca to taste the wine.   Maybe stop at a bar for something to eat and some wine. You may be rewarded by a medieval parade as we were (see video below).

Watch our VLOG video on YouTube (Below) and walk this small mountain town with us. If you are planning a trip to Tuscany, stop by here and enjoy Italian life in a small town.

The streets are small and narrow and there are stairs but this is a great town. We stopped at a bar in the main piazza and had something to eat and some wine. Sit and watch Italian life all around you. OK there are also tourists. Just erase them from your mind’s eye and focus on the locals. They are the well dressed people speaking Italian.

We wandered all over this town and in the very back corner found a wonderful small shop that sold a man’s art works. We met him, spoke for an hour and bought one of his paintings for our place in Italy. He is in our video above. Look at his smile. These people are very happy and live a good life. Maybe it’s the wine … who knows?

Montepulciano is near Perugia, Assisi, Cortona, Siena and Florence. Include it in your Tuscany vacation. You do not have to be a wine drinker to enjoy this romantic city.

I truly wish that all of you could visit this town in real. If you can not, visit it with us in our videos on YouTube (above). If you enjoy the video, please like it and subscribe to our channel.

Visit small and large Italian cities with us in our videos on YouTube. Our Italian series has many great Italian cities to see.

– George

Categories: Assisi, BLOG, Cortona, Eating, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Florence, General Travel, Italian, Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Perugia, Romance, Siena, Small Towns, Tuscany, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

8 Reasons to Travel to Italy

I never feel I need a reason to go to Italy but for those that have never been there here are some reason to plan a vacation there:

  1. Food – I speak a lot about the food in Italy but it is truly amazing. It is mostly organic, healthy, tasty and delicious. Italians do not like to mix a lot of different flavors together. The flavors are subtle and make you want more. It is NOT the same as Italian food in other countries. We think of spaghetti and meatballs as Italian but it is NOT! You can find it in tourist areas but not in real Italian restaurants. Rule: Do not eat in tourist areas. It will not be the real thing and will be more expensive. Get out of these areas and discover the real food of Italy.
  2. Wine – Again, I speak a lot about the wines of Italy. Try them! Other a carafe or 1/2 carafe of the local red or white wine. They are light and delicious. Go to an Enoteca and taste several wines while enjoying some small plates of food. Bars serve local wines as well. Rule: Order by the carafe not by the bottle.
  3. Museums – Italy has more museums than anyone could possibly visit. While in the major cities, see the well know museums. In smaller cities seek out their museums. I was once in a small town that was famous for its mushrooms. They discovered that the people who died and were buried did not decompose. There was a museum with real bodies you could see and touch if you wanted to. Rule: See the important museums but don’t miss the small ones.
  4. Churches – Italy has so many churches and bars. Each city usually has one dominant church usually a Duomo (Cathedral) and several smaller churches. Go inside the churches and look at the walls, ceilings and floors. That are true works of art. Go into the basements and crypts, If you can go onto the roof (Duomo in Milan) do it! Rule: Do not pass by churches! They are often the best museums around.
  5. History – Italy is for you if you are a history buff. Many battles were fought here. Before Italy was united into a country it was many warring cities. Don’t be afraid to visit the small cities you see from the road. Stop into the local bar for a coffee and paster or a sandwich. Walk the streets and see the church. The Romans had a major influence on our world. Were better to study this than Italy. Rule: Get out of the major cities to see the real Italy.
  6. Shopping – This is Jo Anne’s favorite part of Italy. There are small mom & pop shops everywhere that still sell quality items for a fair price. The chains are coming but not that prevalent yet. Rule: Give your business to the small shop owners.
  7. People – Italians are very friendly and want to communicate with you. If you don’t know any Italian say Buon Giorno when you pass people on the street during the day. From sunset on you say Buona Sera. Buona Notte is only used for the last time when you are retiring for the night. When you reach out to Italians they will respond back to you. Rule: Try to communicate to people and they will try to communicate back.
  8. The Countryside – Italy is truly beautiful. Its mountains, volcanos and seaports are majestic. You will see small villages built high up on a mountain or on a great beach. No visit should be done without a visit to the countryside. If you are going mostly to Italy’s major cities, take a train, bus or car out into the countryside. Rule: Get out into the countryside and explore. There are treasures here.

Italy is to be enjoyed. You will love it if you go there knowing you are visiting a foreign country that does things different from elsewhere. Don’t compare your country to Italy. They are different. Don’t look for food from home. Eat Italian. Be polite and Courteous. You will enjoy your visit so much better.

Buon Viaggio …

George

 

 

Categories: Bars, Beaches, Duomo, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italian Facts, Italy, Mountain Towns, Museums, Ristorante, Shopping, Small Towns, Traveling without a tour, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Wines of Italy

Italy is well-known for its wines. Most wine drinkers know the Chianti, Super Tuscan, Brunello, Barolo and other popular wines. Italy has so much more to offer in wines. Each region is known for its local grapes and the wines they make.

The regions are, roughly from Northwest to Southeast:

Italian regions
Aosta Valley
Piemonte
Liguria
Lombardia
Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol
Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Veneto
Emilia-Romagna
Toscana
Marche
Umbria
Lazio
Sardinia
Abruzzo
Molise
Campania
Basilicata
Puglia
Calabria
Sicily

Italian Wine Regions

Italian Wine Regions

Where ever you plan to go in Italy, you will find great wines. For special occasions we will buy a bottle of a great Brunello to celebrate. In most restaurants we order the local wine in a carafe. You get very good wine for a very good price. There are no bottle, cork, foil and label costs. The restaurants buy it in bulk and serve it by a half or full liter carafe. This allows you to taste the different wines in a region.

A great way to taste wines in Italy is to visit a local Enoteca. These are small places for tasting several different wines. They usually serve small plates of food as well. Wine really goes with anything from pizza and pasta to a gourmet meal. Enjoy it!

Wouldn’t it be a great trip to start in the north-west of Italy and work your way down to the South-East tasting Italy’s fine wines. Of course we would stop to see the sites as well. By the time you were done, you would have a great appreciation for the wines of Italy. Which regions would you fall in love with? Andiamo!

George

 

Categories: Enoteca, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Wines of Italy

Italy is well-known for its great wins as well as very good table wines. Italian wines are government controlled and the Italian wines are classified as:

  • DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) — controlled and guaranteed designation of origin
  • DOC (Denominazione di origine controllata) — controlled designation of origin
  • IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica)
  • Table Wine (Vino da Tavola)

Read the article, In Italy, vineyards worth traveling across half the world.

Italy has your wine, whatever your wine tastes are. Enjoy wine with your meals as the Italians do. Remember wine tasting is an arousal of your senses:

  1. Look at the color of the wine. Reds should have a deep color while whites should be clear.
  2. A dark almost brown edge around the wine indicates an aged wine. A very dark edge might indicate the wine is passed its time and bad.
  3. Swirl the wine in your glass to release its bouquet. A wine glass should never be filled to the top.
  4. Put your nose in the glass and smell the aromas. A full glass might drown you.
  5. Close your eyes and try to imagine the smells.
  6. Now sip the wine and swirl it in your mouth to get the odors into the back of your throat and nose.
  7. Swallow and complete the taste.

Did you enjoy the wine? Wine is one of the most complex substances on Earth. Enjoy it slowly and fully. An Enoteca in Italy is a place to test many different wines. They usually serve small dishes of food to clear your palate and better enjoy your wine tasting experience.

George

 

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How to Plan a Trip to Italy – Part 12

Now you are in Italy and have a great small hotel. Where do you eat? I have posted on this before but to be complete in this series, we will post it again.

Italy is an easy place to find great local food. It is always fresh and usually organic. Italians love their country, their food and their wine. It shows when you eat in one of their restaurants. We have a few rules about food in Italy:

  • Do not eat at tourist places – they are usually close to the monuments tourists go to see. The food is not real Italian. You can find hamburgers, poorly prepared pasta and cheesy pizza.
  • Restorante are top of the line restaurants – They serve excellent food but are expensive.
  • Trottoria’s are local food for a moderate price – This is where we like to eat. They are everywhere and have fresh local food prepared correctly.
  • Pizzeria – These are restaurants that serve Pizza. You can have Restrorante and Pizzeria, Trattoria and Pizzeria or just Pizzeria.
  • Enotecca’s – these are wine bars that allow you to buy and sample different wines. You can usually eat small dishes as well. This is a great way to taste some of the local wines and determine which you like.
  • Breakfast is easy! Go to a local bar … that’s right a bar. They serve coffee (espresso or American or Cappuccino) and pastries. Cornetto is a croissant like pastry. The pastries are magnificent. Crispy and light. Normally you pick what you want and eat and then go to cash register and say what you had and pay. Some bars require you to pay in advance and take the ticket to the bar and order your food.

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Cornetti (multiple cornetto)

  • Gelateria – Italian ice cream. These places have a large number of types of ice cream. They are all made fresh and served soft. You can ask for a sample of several types and then choose what you want. You can get your gelato in a cone or a dish. Some places even make fresh waffle cones. Gelato is generally lower in calories, fat, cream, and sugar than other styles of ice cream.
  • Auto Grills – These are restaurants on the autostrada. They have surprisingly good food. You can get a panini, pasta, or sweet rolls. They also have tourist things like bags of pasta, candy and cookies.
  • Fruit & Vegetable stands/stores – Most large and small towns have these. Stop and buy some fruit to eat. Grapes, strawberries, peaches, apples or what ever is in season. Smell the fruit! You can actually smell fruit that is in season and ripe. Choose the most aromatic ones.

Choose wisely and enjoy the food. You don’t need to speak Italian. Just read the menu. Most items are listed the same as in nice Italian restaurants in the states. Point to what you want. Ordering the house wine is usually a treat in Italy. It is very good and inexpensive. It doesn’t come in a bottle but a litter or half litter pitcher.

Enjoy

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Auto Grills, Autostrada, Bars, cornetto, Enoteca, Europe, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italy, Panini, Pastry, Ristorante, Trottoria, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Montepulciano Pictorial

Montepulciano is another mountain town known for its wine and grape named the same. It is a medieval and Renaissance hill town in the province of Siena, region of Tuscany. It has a population of only 14,000 people. The montepulciano grape is well-known worldwide. It produces one of Italy’s best wines.

This is a town of small streets and stairs like all of Italy’s hill towns. You can find many enoteca to taste its great wines.The word enoteca means wine repository.It is a type of wine store that originated in Italy. You can buy wines but also taste them. Some  even have small plates of food.

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Wonderful small streets

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Enoteca

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Inside enoteca at a tasting

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Unfinished church (no facade) in piazza

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Lunch outside at a small trattoria

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Ancient gate in original wall

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Small street

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Stairs

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Some of that famous wine

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Famous Tuscan crostini

Like all the small hill towns we have visited, Montepulciano is wonderful and very romantic. There are several parking lots outside the town that are numbered. Get lost and ask the way to your parking area number. Montepulciano is very near to Siena, our next stop.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Driving in Italy, Eating Italian, Enoteca, Europe, Food, General Travel, Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Parking Garage, Siena, Small Towns, Trottoria, Tuscany, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cortona Pictorial

We drove from Assisi to Cortona. Cortona was made famous by Frances Mayes and her book and movie Under the Tuscan Sun. Cortona is in the Province of Arezzo, region of Tuscany.There are 23,000 people there. It is a mountain town like so many small towns in Italy. Another town of small streets and many stairs.

The house that was in the movie Under the Tuscan Sun is there as well as the real house of Frances Mayes.

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Our wonderful small hotel outside Cortona

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Yes there are stairs

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Looking into the Main piazza

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The main piazza and church

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The church steps where the Christmas scene took place in the movie

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As we were having a glass of wine at an outdoor bar, we heard music

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Suddenly a medieval band appeared

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The King and Queen

Cortona is fun and alive. The small streets can get crowded as there are many tourists. Stop near the main piazza at a bar and have a drink or lunch and sit outside. You will feel the life of Cortona as it passes by. You may be as lucky as we were and see a medieval band march by.

Come for the romance, the food, the wine and the people. This is Tuscan wine country. It is not only Chianti but Montepulciano and Brunello. Stop at an enoteca (wine tasting) and try some Tuscan wines.

George & Jo Anne

 

Categories: Chianti, Cortona, Driving in Italy, Enoteca, Europe, General Travel, Italy, Montepulciano, Mountain Towns, Romance, Small Towns, Tuscany | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Where to Eat in Italy

French wines are usually made to accompany food.

French wines are usually made to accompany food. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

People that have been to Italy often ask us what is the difference between the types of restaurants in Italy? It can be confusing so we give you this guide.

Italy has fantastic food everywhere. We even stopped at an “Auto Grill” on the autostrada (highway) and had a great espresso and pastry. Other times we will get a Panini at the Auto Grill. Not like our turnpike rest areas. In Italy there are several common types of places to eat and a few others in certain areas.

Types of Restaurants in Italy:

  1. Bar – A place to eat or drink. In the morning you go here for coffee and pastry, at lunch you go for sandwiches (Panini). In the evening you go for a drink and a snack. Many bars also serve gelato. Bars are cheapest if you stand and eat. Sitting at a table costs more but allows you to relax and observe Italy and its great people.
  2. Tratteria – these are small private owned eating cafes with great food at reasonable costs. Lunch and dinner are great. Usually Italian favorites as well as local dishes are served. The atmosphere is simple but comfortable. A version of these are Pizzeria Trattoria. These include pizzas along other dishes. Some have outside and inside seating available.
  3. Ristorante – These are for lunch or dinner and are nice but expensive. The atmosphere is classic and the food is great. You can also find Pizzeria Ristorante’s. The wine lists are more extensive and the atmosphere is more formal.
  4. Osteria  – These are places that usually serve wine and simple food with limited menus.
  5. Enotecca – Small wine bars that allow tasting local wines (for a charge) and serve small dishes or sandwiches or Tapas like foods. These are a great way to get to know local wines.
  6. Rotisserie – Small restaurants that specialize in roasting meats on a spit.
  7. Agritourism – Usually a farm-based establishment with a B&B type hotel and food grown or raised on their farm. They sometimes have stores to buy products and take home. One near our home in Italy has a vegetable and fruit market as well.

Pizza is everywhere! You can have it in Trattoria’s or Ristorante’s. The bread in Italy is great. It is crusty on the outside but soft or airy inside. Always stay away from touristy places serving hamburgers and hot dogs. The food won’t be good and prices will be high. Enjoy your trip, taste Italy’s great food & wines. Sit back and smile as you watch the Italians strolling with family at lunch time or in the evening. Lunch usually ranges from 12 noon to 3 pm (shorter in the north) and dinner from 6 pm (for tourists) to 11 pm. The south of Italy eats much later than the north. The south also serves more fish than the north. If you happen to be in the north of Italy in the fall, DO NOT MISS the truffles.

Remember Italy is the land of romance. Sit back and enjoy yourself. Stay away from the American Fast Food places. You are in Italy enjoy its great foods and wines. Save the fast food for when you get home. Do NOT go into eating establishments in Italy and be in a hurry! Use a bar if you have to eat fast. Good food takes time to prepare and serve properly.

George & Jo

Categories: Agriturismo, Auto Grills, Autostrada, B&Bs, Bars, Bread, Cooking, Enoteca, Fast Food, Food, Gelato, General Travel, Italian Facts, Italy, Pastry, Pizza, Ristorante, Romance, Truffles, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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