DAY 2 (May 9 and Oct 21 | 2021)
The impressive region of the Val d’Orcia which inspired many Renaissance painters (as well as 21st-century photographers on photo tours :-)) is dotted with many small villages, castles, abbeys, and photogenic hamlets. This part of Tuscany, unlike the Chianti region, is not conducive to growing grapes but it’s perfect grazing ground for sheep and produces the famous Pecorino, a cheese made from their milk. This cheese is being offered at different degrees of ripeness — from the first creamy ricotta-like stage to the hardness of the aged cheese which is reminiscent of aged Parmesan cheese in texture but with a richer flavor — all of it is lovely (and ubiquitous in Pienza).
Our current home, the small hilltop village of Pienza, is known as the “Ideal City.” It was built within just a few years based on the vision of Pope Pius II, a local boy made good, as a unique monument to the Renaissance ideal of balance and beauty. By now you probably know that we adore this small town. Of all the Tuscan hill towns we like Pienza the best as it is more intimate and less crowded than its more famous neighbors, Montepulciano and Montalcino.
The “Cipressini” (little cypress trees) of San Quirico d’Orcia are one of the most photographed locations in the world. So much so, that there’s now a copyright restriction on this scene which prevents it from being (ab)used for the likes of toothpaste commercials.
We never tire of shooting this intriguing scene. The beauty of the trees, the wide-open space around them, and the big sky lure us back year after year and each time the visual experience is different and always awe-inspiring.
The cypress is, of course, iconic for Tuscany — an ancient tree dating back to several centuries before Christ when it was imported from Asia Minor.
RECIPE for DAY 2
I wouldn’t call Tuscan cuisine especially sophisticated but it’s lovely in its simplicity and richness of flavors.
One of the tastiest treats we’ve ever experienced was Benedetto’s Bruschetta. Make it tonight as an appetizer. You’ll love it!
Benedetto cut generous slices of crusty Tuscan bread (any nice crusty bread will do — even sourdough works), toasted it, rubbed both sides with cloves of garlic, and doused it in grass-green fragrant Tuscan olive oil from his father’s orchard. We thought we’d gone to heaven. “Would you care for a second slice,” he asked and did we ever. :-)
LOVING THE VAL D’ORCIA
Watch Gerald’s appreciative description of the Val d’Orcia and the bubbles rising in his glass of Prosecco. :-). We love that he uses the word “sublime” for this beautiful landscape.