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james 05-01-2007 04:14 AM

Southern Tuscany
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We spent a few days south of Siena, and you cannot imagine a place more different than Florence; it's a world apart. It is quiet, rural and the people are happy to talk with you; the food is great and the countryside is beautiful. Miles and miles of wheat fields cover hills and valleys, making it incredibly green in the spring, golden in the autumn, and brown after the fields have been tilled and before the next year's wheat germinates. In a time when a lot of our food comes from far away (melamine from China in our our pet's food), it's very comforting seeing your bread and pasta grow. Where there isn't wheat, there are vines (Chianti colle Sense) and olive trees.

There are sheep for the percorino, and artichokes, which have a natural rennet for making cheese, plus wild truffles and onions. There are grain mills and fortified granaries -- speaking a food supply, at least we don't have to build a fort around the mill, tracing back grain and milling. Geologically, the area has great clay for making terracotta (the urns held the olive oil) and natural hot mineral spas.

The area was on pilgrimage route, and there are stories, paintings and poems about the great food going back almost 1,000 years.

If you are looking for a place to balance the mass tourism of Florence, it's great. And of course we found a wood-fired pizzeria for dinner one night.

jengineer 05-01-2007 08:27 AM

Re: Southern Tuscany
Wow - the pastoral shots look fake!

james 05-01-2007 08:43 AM

Re: Southern Tuscany
It's almost a joke. You turn a corner and the girls yell out -- that's a postcard, no that one -- that's a postcard. No that one.

For those of us with kids, we joke that the oil, grain, etc. are one of the circle of life kinds of things.


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