I realize this is a funny title, especially if you grew up Southern Baptist like me! But it describes our last day in Central Tuscany perfectly.
Abbazia Sant’ Antimo
We had heard of a beautiful church out in the fields about an hour from Montepulciano. We set out and took many, many winding steep and narrow roads as the rain and fog moved in. We even stopped a few times, sure that the GPS had the directions wrong as the lanes got narrower and narrower. We were a little frantic as the clouds parted and we finally looked down into the valley on Abbazia Sant’ Antimo.
The church is said to have been established by Charmlemagne in 781 and continues to be a monastery to this day. It was still raining, and we were hurrying to see the church before it closed.
It is hard to even describe what happened next. We stepped inside this ancient church – out in a field and very simple – no spectacular art or even electricity – just gray light streaming in from cut-out windows high overhead. There were monks dressed in white who were just starting their Sixth Hour (1 pm) Gregorian chants. It was so moving that I instantly had tears in my eyes, and we just sat and prayed while they chanted.
Frank and I couldn’t even talk for awhile afterwards because the experience was so meaningful. They finished the service and closed the church, and we just stood outside in the drizzle reflecting on what we had seen. There are churches that are far more magnificent, but sometimes God works best in a simple setting where you can just concentrate on Him.
& Then Wine
We were only a few miles from Montalcino, so decided to stop there for lunch. Montalcino is famous for its wine (even more famous than Montepulciano). They make brunello wine and have very strict standards. Usually this wine is one of the most expensive on any menu.
The vineyards on the way to town were lush and manicured. It was impressive just to drive around. But we headed to town. It was cold and pouring down rain by then, but thankfully we had read the Rick Steves guide so knew that we could pull up right through the narrow arched town gate and park smack dab next to the fortezza (fortress). And that INSIDE the fortezza was an enoteca (wine bar). It was a cozy spot for a plate of pasta and a tasting of these famous wines.
For 9 Euro, we had a small sample of three different wines (don’t worry – the whole thing was less than a full glass of wine). We learned about the grape (only one kind is used) and the strict rules for brunello – and which years were good and not. It was a lot of fun – we liked them all. The enoteca included a shop, so I browsed and found the wines we sampled. Two were 49 Euro per bottle and one was 89 Euro! A pretty good deal for a 9 Euro tasting.
A Taste of Venice
The sun came out, so we explored the town and landed at the historic Caffe Fiaschetteria, which dates from 1888. The story goes that the creator of Montalcino’s brunello wine loved the Florian Cafe in Venice (where Frank and I had our first toast on our wedding day). So he opened a cafe just like the Florian in his hometown. We had coffee and tea and reminisced – we have now been married for 3 weeks!
We have loved this region. I knew Tuscany would be pretty, but I am in awe of just how scenic it is. We are reluctant to leave but are moving on to Umbria next – just over the mountain and down the road. Stay tuned . . . .