Tag Archives: Arezzo

A field of sunflowers

A field of sunflowers

Who doesn’t smile when they see the face of a bright yellow sunflower?
I told my friends on the trip to Tuscany the only picture I really wanted was one standing in a field of sunflowers, and they came thru for me.

One day we agreed to venture down the dangerous white road (dry gravel road with a 30 degree grade) to visit some of the nearby towns. Along the way we spotted fields of tall sunflowers stretching their large faces toward the sun.

When we found a perfect field we turned off the highway onto a ribboned path between two flowered fields. A farmhouse sat nested in the flowers to our left. We were definitely trespassing. And I believe we could not have been the first carload of American women to do the exact thing.

No place to turn around so the girls directed me back out.

Tower of the Truffles – Torre del Tartufo

Tower of the Truffles – Torre del Tartufo

Torre del Tartufo - Arezzo, Italy

As we walked the grounds just minutes after we arrived my friend Lisa quietly admitted she was thinking on the plane…”it is such a long trip, what if I really don’t like this place? Judi, this is truly the most beautiful and peaceful place I have ever seen. I am coming back for my 60th.” Within five minutes she was already planning to return.

That is the feeling that I felt my first trip with Kelly in 2010 to Tuscookany’s Casa Ombuto which is located just a thirty minute drive from Torre. Both locations are wonderful with spectacular views and restored villas that make you feel as if you are living a true Tuscan lifestyle.

Tuscookany staffs each villa with about six people. The manager, Barbara is the perfect hostess and sees to your every need. She dines with you several times and makes herself available to arrange a trip or answer travel questions. There are two housekeepers whom you seldom see. They tidy your room daily and do your laundry if requested. There is a groundskeeper you might see pruning the bushes or stoking the wood fired hot tub. Of course there is your Chef and their assistant. That is it. And, after dinner, everyone leaves the villa. The only sound you might hear is that of a wild boar.

This trip we took the Seven Day Italian Course. While this sounds like an intense amount of cooking we actually were only in the kitchen about four hours a day for four days. The rest of the time we spent relaxing by the pool, having massages or site seeing in the towns nearby.

Barbara greeted me with hugs and tears. She was pleased to see me return and made certain I was well taken care of. She placed me in what is known as the “honeymoon suite”. It is a very large room with a fireplace and an iron canopied king bed. All of the bathrooms are marbled floor to ceiling with large wooden beams that remind you of the rustic barn like feeling of a true Tuscan building.
The floors are stone and several large windows that are kept open allow the mountain breezes to waif through your room day and night. No air conditioning is needed in the warmest of temperatures.
This is truly a slice of heaven on earth.

Poolside at Torre. The honeymoon suite has the four windows with white curtains.

An Arezzo adventure…

An Arezzo adventure…

A page from my personal journal dated Thursday, June 10th, 2010

It is already Thursday and our one totally free day here at Casa Ombuto.

Awoke a bit later this morning for no particular reason other than…..I could!  Showered and readied for our adventure with Kelly and Elizabeth, who were waiting in the cantina eating breakfast when I arrived.  The fresh papaya yogurt, fruit and granola have become my staple breakfast and are good and healthy.  To be honest, aside from the wines served to compliment each meal, I feel as if we have been eating quite healthy….oh, except for the desserts. But then, it is a recipe WE have personally prepared and it IS vacation. I really enjoy the bean dishes served and the wonderful soups as well. We were ready to begin our exploration.

We set off in our yellow Fiat Panda with sweet Elizabeth scrunched in the small back seat.  We were all very excited to visit the ceramics factory in Arezzo, Ceramiche Tapinassi.  (Check out their link www.ceramichetapinassi.it)  We headed down the winding narrow dirt paths toward the village of Poppi and the road that would lead us to the next village of Arezzo.  Kelly was getting really upset with Tanya, our TomTom, as the touch screen was very temperamental.  We decided to wing it as the factory is only fifteen minutes from the center of Poppi, so Tanya went back into her box.  After only two roundabout missed turns, we found the showroom just beyond the Lorj Designer Clothing outlet store. (This could really be trouble after the ceramics shop).

The ceramic factory showroom was vast and well appointed.  The staff spoke very limited English, but wherever we go, it seems we do just fine and there is normally one person with some grasp of the language.  All three of us slowly searched each room for our treasures. They actually produce what is known in the states as Vietri.  After completing the tour, we returned to each room to make our choices.

Can you add a spigot and a lid? Of course they can...perfect and functional for my kitchen!

In the main showroom a beautiful olive oil jar painted in traditional Tuscan colors with golds, blues, yellows and green had caught my eye. The jars were labeled “small, medium and large”…..actually more like “large,  way large and mucho grande” would have been a better description. The prices listed on the sign included shipping. I decided on the small one that would  sit nicely on my kitchen counter.  It would be a functional olive oil jar with a spigot for filling bottles or bowls.  I was so excited.

Kelly found some beautiful cream colored pieces, and pale green and blue.  She

Kelly found pale cream, blue and green serving pieces to compliment her dinnerware at home.

decided to mix and match the colors and found some very functional trays, dishes and cups.  Elizabeth made her selections in pale yellow and gold.  She found a killer bowl with a handle. Magnifico…….we were all so happy and amazed at the prices plus a five percent discount arranged by Barbara from Casa Ombuto. Shipping fees were not that bad and the safely packed wooden crate will arrive in five to ten days.  We knew the prices plus the shipping were well below the retail price back in the States, so we were all very excited with our purchases.

My purchases will be safely packed and shipped in this wooden crate.

We a stopped at Osteria IL PORTO, where we had a beer and gnudi Di ricotta e spinach burro e salvia( (ricotta and spinach parcels with a light sauce of butter and sage) and insalada.  Light and delicious.  The portions in Italy are much smaller than we would ever eat  at home. Very wise those Italians!

A short drive back to the village and over the bridge to the mountain.  We were home in fifteen minutes with much of the day to spare.  Laundry to do while Kelly napped.

We are responsible for dinner tonight as Laura and the Casa Ombuto staff are off shopping for tomorrows buffet and our farewell dinner. So, Elizabeth, Kelly and I decided we would drive into Poppi for something to prepare for a meal.  Once in town. I suggested we pick up several pizzas to go, some beer and have a gelato while we were waiting.  The girls were thrilled with the plan, and we placed an order for several unusual pizzas, one with green beans, buffalo mozzarella and olive oil, the rest were pretty normal except the veggie had artichokes.

While we were waiting we happened upon a local shop that had more great ceramics.  We decided we would come back into town in the morning to buy some gifts.

When we arrived at our Tuscan  home with pizzas and beer, our new friends were pleasantly shocked. Eleanor, Jim, Tom and Rosemary had purchased some cold cuts, crusty bread and potato chips. We set up a casual buffet on our cooking counter, pulled up the bar stools, grabbed the wine  bottles and glasses and shared our fare with everyone.  After dinner, we cleaned up the kitchen and moved to the outdoor table where we drank our wine and shared more experiences.  It was a beautiful evening until the wild boar  began to screech. We decided it was time to lock up and and move inside.

Kelly and I walked back to our suite  arm-in-arm and settled in for the night.  We agreed tomorrow will be an emotional day.  The friends we have made and the bonds we have shared will be long lasting I believe.  Better get some sleep……as I tuck myself in to my lovely bed  with the wonderful down comforter and soft white sheets.  Buene notte…

Preparing for the Jaust…Arezzo, wine tasting at Villa La Ripa..olive oil and cheese farm

Preparing for the Jaust…Arezzo, wine tasting at Villa La Ripa..olive oil and cheese farm

An entry from my journal dated June 8th, 2010

We spent a complete day away from our Casa Ombuto home today.  After a healthy breakfast we loaded onto a small tour bus arranged by Casa Ombuto’s Manager,Barbara and headed toward the medieval town of Arezzo, about a half hour drive.  It was cool enough for a light sweater.  It was interesting to watch the bus driver maneuver the small dirt roads, especially when cars approached us, and once again to view the countryside from the bus!  ( I had to keep my eyes on the road when we were driving our Fiat.). Because it was a weekday the motorcycles were not flying past us.  Our tour guide Eleanora gave us a Tuscan history lesson, which was very interesting and informative.  The best thing I learned was that Italy is a younger country than America…..it became an independent country in 1860. They had just celebrated their 50th anniversary June 2nd….Italy’s Independence Day. That makes me better understand why the regions are so proud of their own heritage, telling you at every opportunity that the Romans are the true Italians, or the Napolitano’s or Venitians’, depending on where you are at the moment.

Pope Gregory is entombed at the cathedral in Arezzo

When we arrived in Arezzo we went to the cathedral where Pope Gregory is entombed. He is actually laying under glass with a mask that is made of wax and then covered in golf leaf over his face, a very small man.  He died over two hundred years ago and his body remains in tact, quite amazing. Some of the portions of the churches architecture date back as far as 13 th Century.
We walked thru the town to the square where they were preparing for the medieval jaust, erecting bleachers for spectators.  The family crests of the most important families in Tuscany were hanging from the buildings surrounding the square.  Piero Della Francesco, Leonardo da Vinci, Raffaello as well as Guido Monaco, were born within 100 kms.
The next stop was a wine tasting…..can we go 24 hours, or even 12 without wine?  Not in

Tuscany!!! We stopped at a true villa, Villa La Ripa, which recently discovered Roman remains prove that this is one of the oldest vineyards in the entire region.  The chateau is located on the limestone plateau which produces some of the appellation’s finest grapes. We enjoyed a tasting of two wonderful wines and the owners explanation of his grapes and his efforts to produce an “excellent” wine.  I purchased a case of his award winning Cabernet Tatania for our cellar.
On to the beautiful town of Anghiari where we visited an olive oil mill. Fredrico took us up the stair to the actual mill where two large limestone presses smash the olives and turn them into a pulp which is then placed on round disks that act as filters which are stacked five high and moved to the press where the oil is extracted.  The Bartolomei family has produced olive oil for generations right in this factory that dates back to the 13 th century. We shared a tasting of infused oils of lavender, thyme

One of two limestone wheels used to crush the olives turning them to pulp.sage, black and white truffle and many more. We had a bowl of pasta with pesto and a delicious vino blanco.

Kelly and I were excited to visit our next stop…..Busatti, a very fine quality fabric factory, where we were allowed to see the ancient carding looms weaving the wools of the Appennines, which stretch between the Tiber and the Arno rivers. The showroom held beautifully set dinner tables showing not only the finest linens I have ever seen, but, dishes and flatware as well.  Any piece you would purchase here at the factory would sell for twice the price in the retail market in the US, so of course, I was excited to choose a beautiful table cloth and napkins which will become

One of several carding looms at the linen factory of Busatti .

an heirloom piece I expect.
Our last stop of the day was to the cheese farm.  Our bus was greeted by several shepherding dogs who were happy to receive a belly scratching by most of us as we exited our bus.  Eleanora gave us a lesson on the making of pecorino cheese and ricotta, both made from sheeps milk.  The owner looked on as she spoke no English. After the factory tour we sat at their farm table and sampled the cheeses and some wonderful breakfast cakes and cheesecakes made from the cheeses produced by the farm.
Everyone dozed as we took the one hour ride back to Casa Ombuto, tired from our Tuscan tour. We rocked slowly as the bus made it’s way back through the mountain passes.  Barbara and Eleanora fed us the minestrone soup we had prepared the day before with bread, our extra salad noicesse and a lovely dessert Laura had prepared for us. We all turned in early so we would be ready for our two session cooking lessons tomorrow, French and Spanish cuisine.
It was a fun filled day.  I feel as if I am learning so much about the simple age old things that American marketing has tried to convince us is ….” made better in the USA “.  We would never have been able to walk amongst working looms snapping photos back home.
Well, it.s off to sleep…..I miss you all so much, but I am living a dream…..buene notte.

Villa La Ripa dal 1558 Arezzo