Tuscany, Italy from Castelmuzio

Tuscany – our dreams……..

And now we are in to day 8 of our Tuscan dream.  We wake each day, look out at the view, and pinch ourselves to see if we are really here! The photo below is a view from our bedroom wondow!!

Front of our hosue - note terrace up top!


Gifts from our landlords. Yummmmmmmm


Our home village, Casgtelmuzio!!

It is so stunningly beautiful and special (note the olive grove in the forefront of teh above photo).  We look over rolling hills, green as anything, full of olive trees, crops that wave in the wind……… and the red poppies, just like we saw at ANZAC cove. 

Red poppies, Tuscany

There are lines of trees that look like poplars, but up close they are the same foliage and smell as macrocapas. Interesting.  And the other plant related thing, is geraniums (red) and hydrangeas (pink in pots) are very popular here.  I even saw a rhodo in a pot today! Not to mention…….. weeds are the same all over. Chickweed, milk thistle etc. Hee hee.

How to start to describe our time here…… (And before I start – I must apologise for the emphasis on food!)  At 7am the church bells start to ring again to let us know morning is here.  It is just breaking light and there is that wonderful smell of early clean morning over fresh fields. The bird song is glorious so we open the bedroom window to take all of this in.  (There is also a beautiful dog living next door, down below and at times she “chats” to her owner and we enjoy their exchange ……….. well, more accurately I might say I enjoy their exchange (so cute!), Peter is not so keen…….. J )

The house where we are staying…….  We are the first people to rent here so are enjoying the newness of a newly renovated house – including all new linen, crockery etc.  AND a dishwasher, a stove and a gas hob!  Tiny kitchen but a girl can create all sorts of things in there with this local produce! Maybe I should write a song about tomatoes……  The house is three bedrooms, two stories with a terrace upstairs – we’d call it a patio.  It has pots of red geraniums, a table and chairs and a sun umbrella on the Terrace.  We spend all the time we are at the house up here. We see the local “scene” from here – all the  locals coming out to have a chat with each other etc, also the main road intersection is here…….. so entertaining and quite educational. When I say main road, it is tiny as the village is very small indeed.

In the village there is 1 bank, 1 pub/diary/restaurant, 1 church and 1 COOP – a small superette. And that’s it! Other than the houses. All made of brick from old times and all lumped in and upon each other. So pretty and so lovely.  And the local people are all very friendly.

Bell tower of church from terrace at Castelmuzio

Donkey coming past our kitchen Castelmuzio

Me on terrace typing blog for you!

The COOP we frequent daily for drinking water, beer and whatever food we feel like………  Yesterday I asked (in some form of pigeon sign language!) for parma ham, which they slice to order.  But, I didn’t know how to order so as I saw her slicing MANY MANY slices I thought, oh well, sooner or later she will ask me how much of this I want. But then she wrapped it all up and I thought gosh – In NZ this would be $50! How do I say I don’t need all of this.  But it only came to a grand total of 2 Euros – like $3NZD! Did I smile and skip my way home to trial it! Mmmmmmmmmm – Mama Mia again! And with our visitors here for the weekend we ate it all and had to go and get more.  Being summer we are also enjoying fresh strawberries, cherries and stone fruit.  Juicy, sweet peaches……..

We have been taking daily explores from here (we have a lease car) to other villages and local sites.  Of most note are Montepulciano – known as the pearl of the “16th Century”. I could go in to the detail of the painters, the churches but I won’t……… they were amazing though.  But we did also go to a local Cantina – like a local vineyard “shop” in town.   Down down down we climbed in to rock caves – to see the most amazing HUGE barrels of wine …….. never have we seen such amazing things.  The sense and smell was unusual too – like a form of damp rock but with the feel of calming energy. Hard to describe.  And it was all so beautifully lit…….. ah…….. more romance!! (yes, we did buy some red wine there…..).  Yesterday we took Michele and Shaun there (friends from Rome who came to stay) and somehow we took a wrong turn.  We were in fits of laughter as we drove literally through the town on roads that at times were only just, by a mm or two, wide enough for our car – and they are TWO WAY streets! At one stage we could reach out through the window of the car through the door of the restaurant where people were eating.  Did I mention you are not allowed cars in the town unless you are a resident???  What a laugh. We went to a couple of cantinas there and tasted wine and had funny conversations with locals who don’t speak English.

Peter in underground wine Cantina - note size of eth wine barrels!!! Established in 1300s!

Just so close to where we are staying (4kms) is San t’anna in Camprena. It is an old Monastery which was used as the scene in the filming of the “English Patient”.    We went to visit and now it is a Guest Stay so visitors like us can only see a small part.  You can see the original frescos from the 1300s…….. It was so beautiful.  The church there has a lot of multi coloured marble pillars and the marble was also used to make frames for the huge paintings in there – it is all marbled pink, orange, white etc. So pretty – and so clever – that is a heavy picture frame to hang!

Old Monastry filmed in the English Patient! Monastry, Peter and our lease car! With olive trees of course!


We have also visited many other local small towns and villages.  We are so grateful we are missing the main tourist season – we are on the cusp of coming out from winter.  It is so good.  We only come across the occasional tour bus etc.  And the funniest thing yesterday.  We were sitting on our terrace, sipping a red wine, when a group of cyclists came by.  They called up to us for directions “Pienza?” – which is a town about 8kms away – and I could actually give them directions……. They were German but once again hand signals sufficed “Right and Right and Over Hills…….”.  What a hoot – a kiwi giving touring directions, to Germans, to a small town in Tuscany from a village in Tuscany………  we did giggle about that.

Michele and Shaun at PienzaAt Monticchiello Village

Me at monticchiello


We have also been to Trequanda, Pienza, Monticchellio, Montepluciano, Chianciano Terme, Sarteano, Chiusi, and San Casciano dei Bagni.  We went off to here as we had heard they have thermal pools and for free.  Imagine our surprise when we got there to find the pools were 14 Euro for the afternoon – each person!! So instead we went to the top of the town, overlooking an amazing valley of olive groves and crops, and had lunch in a most amazing restaurant! Once again for me esp. There I had the best ever gnocchi  with a sauce of fresh truffle and an equally strong garlic to match!! My first time trying fresh truffle.  I had tried truffle oil etc before but this was ………….. yes, as good as they say it is.  All served in a restaurant that was literally carved out of a hill – a cave – with views to die for.

We took Michele and Shaun to a tiny hill top village called Montichillo – it has an old castle, a large church with great frescos and in the whole village there are 3 restaurants/cafes, 1 artist shop and 1 womens clothing shop.  Imagine my surprise when I bought here, in the middle of no where, a cardigan, matching tank top and a winter shawl. Very pleased with myself I was.  Then we took Michele and Shaun there the next day and Michele also did some buying.  The owner shook my hand!

The four of us had lunch there in a tiny restaurant that was a cave.  Shaun and Michele both said it was the best pasta dish they had had since living in Italy for 18 months.  It was hand made spaghetti with duck ragu. I had an amazing tortellini, handmade, filled with speck, cheese, truffle and nutmeg. Wow! Michelle and I had shared an entrée of white cheese, wrapped in prosciutto then baked in hand made puff pastry – we all loved those.  Peter and Shaun shared an entrée of wild boar prosciutto which they had “dressed” in lemon juice and olive oil.  Also very nice.

We have had four visitors here for the weekend – Michel and Shaun as I said above, and also Christine and Stephen – Peter’s sister and her husband.  Chris and Steve are over here for a holiday and it just so coincided that we were all here in the same place together.  We are lucky with the three bedroom house so we could all stay together. We took them to our “local” for dinner last night – and it was great. Had a lot of fun then came home to sit on the terrace, watch a lovely moon rise and have a night cap. All lovely. Before they all arrived on Friday Peter and I went to Pienza where the weekly Friday market was on.  We would have been the only non locals and I think the youngest there! Certainly it seemed all the local elderly ladies were out doing their weekly shopping.  Stalls included shooes (10 euro, 15 euro a pair) clothes, pots and knives, a pharmacy / grocery type stall, a large fish stall with all manner of fish, a plant stall and two produce stalls. I managed to communicate well enough to buy garlic, lettuce, fennel bulb, asparagus, potato, tons of sweet juicy tomatoes and strawberries.

Today we said farewell to Chris and Steve who went off to Florence. Shaun and Michele and we went on another tiki tour looking for local markets.  We found one in a small walled village and imagine our surprise when the first stall there was baskets of crocheted sunflower arrangements!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You will all be disappointed to hear I didn’t get a photo of them for you!

Then another lunch in a café that looked ……. Well ……. Old……… whatever.  But once again amazing food.  The others who ordered soup were not so pleased but I had two primis (entrees).  First a tiny camembert type cheese wrapped in parma and oven baked served with green salad and second, a broad been puree timbale with some sauce and onion rings.  They were so beautifully presented and tasted so gooooooooooooood………

But before we went to that town we had called in to Pienza – a very close town to us with lovely wee shops, set up for tourists and visiting locals really. Shops are mostly local produce and wine. Cheeses, pastas, dessert biscuits, meats etc.  Also local lionen – which is very good quality and beautiful.  I succumbed and now have a large table cloth and matching napkins in my luggage.  Shaun spied a whole pig cooked and being sliced so bought some – and we sat in the square eating hand fulls of sliced pork.  We did get a few very odd looks from other tourists – but is was very delicious.  It was black pig with black hair.  Tickles my sense of humour how they describe the pigs by their skin and hair colour!

more phots but not in order………  sorry……..

jo, chris and michele - after dinner at Castelmuziotypical house and garden...Peter in Castelmuzio Streetsan casciano dei bagni town with local road signs


Typical view in Tuscany......

So that’s us so far.  I can’t really describe how beautiful it is here.  I hope the photos describe some of it for you. We hear NZ is very wet and hope not too many of you are too badly affected. So take care, keep warm and we’ll be back with more news soon.  We are off to see Florence and also Siena this week so we expect that to be quite different to life in sleepy villages in the country side……. Love us. xx

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This entry was posted on May 30, 2010 at 7:21 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Tuscany, Italy from Castelmuzio”

  1. emelini Says:

    I just about feel like I’m there with you! Until I look out my very wet window and come back to reality. Thanks so much for keeping us so well informed. LOVE it! Have some more Parma Ham for me 🙂 xx

  2. Simon Says:

    OMG! Will you both have any energy left by the time we get there? Thought it was high time I caught up with the blog, now that it’s less than 3 weeks (that was yesterday) until we fly out, headed in your direction. Your descriptions of the food, and the meals, make me so envious we can’t make it to Italy this time. Still, looking forward to catching up with you both somewhere.

  3. Diane Green Says:

    Hello there. I am writing you from Canada. I was quite surprised to come across your blog as I will be renting Casa Castelmuzio for 4 months next year! I am so glad it really is everything the website says it is. I was wondering if you could give me the names of some of the restrauants you have written about as they sound wonderful. I will be staying at the villa from September 10, 2011 to January 6, 2012. I am hoping to take some cooking classes and some painting classes while there as it has always been my dream to paint landscapes in Tuscany.
    Your pictures are wonderful and your descriptions of the villages and food are amazing, I cant wait to experience it too. I have been hesitant to send Lucia my deposit because I wasn’t sure if the house was as nice as it appeared on the website, but now you have set my mid at ease so i will email Lucuia for instructions for sending the deposit right away.
    Another strange thing happened today…the web is a wonderful resource. I dont know if you have heard of Debbie Travis, she is English but now lives in Canada and has had several decorating shows on TV. Well it turns out she has a villa very close to Castelmuzio and she brings groups of women there for a girls week of relaxation and bonding. She also has fallen in love with this particular area of Tuscany. I have been a big fan of hers from the date her first show aired in 1995. It really is a small world isn’t it?
    I just wanted to write to say thank you for setting my mind at ease about the house. I hope the rest of your trip was as memorable!

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