We flew to Italy on Tuesday morning to meet Renée and Lisa for what we're calling the 30-40-65 tour, celebrating their milestone birthdays along with Gene's this year. We actually managed to connect with them at Rome airport, pick up our rental car and find the way to Villa Cicolina, a charming small hotel just outside of Montepulciano in the heart of Tuscany. Easier said than done I may say, since the weather gods have not yet given up on us. It stormed the entire way. The hotel is very pretty, the gardens are gorgeous and everything is wet.
This morning we woke to thin sunshine but sunshine nonetheless, and it stayed reasonably nice most of the day, allowing us to drive to Pienza, stroll around the town, take a tour of the Piccolomini Palace and drive a pretty little strada bianca to Montichiello, where we had lunch on the terrace of La Porta...until the black clouds came back, finally gathering enough strength to drive us inside to the accompaniment of thunder and lightening. We felt sorry for ourselves but the bike riders dripping inside the now crowded trattoria were pitiful.
We are in landscape that could be the background of every Renaissance painting you've ever seen. You know what I mean: the scene outside the window behind the Mona Lisa or the Lady with the Ermine. Rolling hills with towers at their peaks, lines of umbrella pines silhouetted along the tops of hills, cypresses lining narrow white roads, this is a landscape that appears entirely unreal, that must have been laid down by a long dead artist.