Alberto Giorgi is a local farmer and a small producer of aglione. He grows fruit, vegetables and aglione -garlic- in the Valdichiana valley. His farms are located in Montepulciano and Chianciano.
Every Wednesday and Friday morning is a farmers’ market in Montallese. Alberto is always there with his market stall to sell fresh vegetables and fruits. His prices for the local food are good value for money!
Montallese is located in the province of Chiusi. It is a small village along the road.
Aglione is a giant garlic variety from the “Valdichiana Senese” area. The aglione is also called the “aglio del bacio” (kissing garlic). This garlic is mild, odourless and easy to digest.
The weight is about 50 gram to 1-2 kilos. But 1-2 kilos is more the exception rather than the rule.
Every year the seeds of the aglione (which are about 4-5 cm in size) are sown in September. The aglione bulbs are ready to harvest in June. Climate plays a crucial role at harvest time of the aglione. Many rainfall, pests and diseases can affect the garlic crop.
After the harvest time the garlic should be left out in the sun. The giant garlic is still green. Subsequently store your aglione in a dry and well ventilated place. You can last aglione for one year after it’s harvested, on the condition that the garlic is being kept in a dry and shady place.
Note: humidity can lead to damage of the aglione.
Flavor for foods
You can use aglione as a normal ingredient in all kinds of food dishes, such as sauces, dressings, vegetables, stews and meats.
The two most famous local pasta dishes from the Valdichiana are: Pici all’Aglione (pasta i pici with tomato-garlic sauce) and Pici con le Bricciole (pasta i pici with breadcrumbs).
This is excellent food you need to try when in Tuscany!
Here’s my story and a selection of images showing my quarantaine life in Montepulciano.
March 18 2020
My first face mask bought in the local pharmacy of Montepulciano.
At home in Montepulciano
March 21 2020
Prime Minister Conte announce the shut down of non-essential factories and that more severe measures are necessary due to the increasing number of coronavirus deaths.
All pharmacies, supermarkets, banks and public transportation will continue to remain open in Italy.
“Stiamo distanti oggi, per abbracciarci con più calore domani”.
Prime Minister Conte
March 26 2020
“Ai tempi del coronavirus restiamo a casa.” means: During the coronavirus outbreak we stay at home.
At home in Montepulciano
At home in Montepulciano
March 31 2020
“Musica che unisce”. Music makes people feel (more) connected. This virtual concert on Italian TV featured many famous musicians and singers including Andrea Bocelli, Irene Grandi, Diodato (winner San Remo 2020), Tiziano Ferro and many more.
Musica che unisce
April 12 2020
Eastern in Italy.
Eastern San Pietro
Easter mass in empty’s Sint Pieter church in Rome. “May God stop this tragedy, stop this pandemic,” the pope prayed.
My aperitivo used to be the highlight of my day. Another day has passed. So.. a good occasion to celebrate!
Virtual wine tasting
The Coronavirus made a Zoom boom generation. If you wanted to participate to a virtual wine tasting, meetings, yoga lessons or you just wanted to see friends and relatives it had to be on screen.
“In the times of a pandemic, when you cannot fly out to experience new cities, a virtual wine tour with Sylvia is what I needed. Her knowledge on the wine and history, her story telling and live videos of Montepulciano made me feel, like I was in Italy for a brief moment. Loved it! Thank you, Sylvia!”
Quarantaine pack from Holland
April 27 2020
I got some Dutch delicacies from close friends of mine.
Hagelslag (chocolate sprinkles), stroopwafels (caramel biscuits), cheese, drop (liquorice), caramel fudge … all yummy!
Together with the local products they have sent me wonderful CD’s from one of my favorite Russian conductors Valery Gergiev. I have seen Gergiev several times conducting the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra in De Doelen.
One of my best memories ever is the Tsjaikovski’s violin concert with Janine Jansen and Gergiev.
Pictures of Tuscany after the lockdown
Pictures of Montepulciano just after the nationwide lockdown of two months when Italy opened its borders.
The impact of coronavirus on daily life is enormously. Many people have lost their jobs, small business, some restaurants have closed.
We must stay alert and safe (social distancing). In supermarkets it is still obligatory to wear a face mask and to clean your hands.
During the coronavirus pandemic it is safely to run. I do solo running. Three times a week I plan my runnings.
Pici pasta are thick homemade spaghetti. In Italy it is a first course. The pasta is also known as Pici Senesi. They are originally from southern Tuscany around Siena. Hence the name Pici Senesi.
In Montalcino they are called “i pinci”. Montalcino is a hill town and comune in the province of Siena.
It is not difficult to make fresh pasta i pici. Still me, as a foreigner in Italy, I am not used working with flour and water. I don’t have the technique of pasta making, unfortunately. I prepare more easy, healthy and quick meals.
The ingredients of the pasta dough for i pici are simple: flour, water and olive oil.
With your hands flat you roll the pasta from the center outwards.
Pici is a fat and rough pasta. There are many varieties to choose among i pici:
Pici all’aglione –tomato and garlic sauce- Pici ragù –meat sauce- Pici al ragù d’anatra –duck sauce-
In supermarkets you can buy fresh pici. The pici from the supermarkets are delicious as well. I eat them often with “ai frutti di mare” (fish) or with fresh made Pesto Genovese.
Of course fresh pasta tastes better, but with a little creativity and flexibility you can make the best pasta dishes at home!
Restaurant La Solita Zuppa
The owners of restaurant La Solita Zuppa are Andrea with his wife Lorella Casagni. Andrea is a top chef and sommelier. La Solita Zuppa is a Slow Food restaurant in Chiusi città, the old town.
La Solita Zuppa offers traditional dishes. On the menu you can choose from many pasta dishes with typical and local ingredients.
Every morning they make their own fresh pasta. When I visited La Solita Zuppa Andrea had prepared the pasta dough for me to roll out.
It was a nice thing to do! For a moment I felt like an Italian “mamma” with many pasta making experience.
Having dinner at restaurant La Solita Zuppa is perfect for an evening of typical Tuscan plates. The atmosphere is cosy. The service is friendly and professional.
The dishes they offer are delicious and based on its long history and location. And if you love wine you should check out their wine list. Most of the wines are local and match excellent with the food they serve.
After weeks of lockdown they have opened their restaurant since May 27. It is recommended to make a reservation in advance. La Solita Zuppa is closed on Tuesdays.
La Solita Zuppa is famous for their Lampredotto sandwich. Lampredotto is a local Tuscan street food specialty. It is the fourth stomach of the cow. Tuscany has a tradition of eating internal organs. They use these organs to create delicious dishes with a strong and spicy flavor.
Personally I don’t like Lampredotto. It has a rich fatty texture.
But the tradition of food is important for the locals. It is a way of life and history. Most of the people in Tuscany love eating Lampredotto.
Chiusi is near Montepulciano. In a relaxing countryside sits the ancient city of Chiusi. It is situated on a hill overlooking the Val di Chiana valley and the Umbrian hills.
Chiusi città is the old town and Chiusi Scalò is the modern area.
The story of the Tuscan town Chiusi is closely linked to the Etruscans. In every corner you can breathe in the Etruscan presence and there are many details that refer to king Porsenna.
The burial place of the legendary Etruscan king Porsenna would have been beneath the town of Chiusi. As we know now, the underground routs, the labyrinths, were part of a water supply system dug by the Etruscans.
Chiusi is an appreciated city by visitors. In the ancient town you find a number of historical and archeological sites. One of the most interesting museums to visit is the “National Archeological Museum”: Museo Nazionale Etrusco. The museum reconstructs the history of Chiusi and its territory through numerous finds from the Iron Age to the Lombard age.
It is one of the most important museums in Italy for its knowledge of Etruscan art.
How do I reach Chiusi
There are different ways to get to Chiusi. By car and by train. Chiusi Scalò is an important train station. Operated by Trenitalia, from Rome and Florence are several train services.
It is very easy to find a taxi in Chiusi Scalò. There are also busses that take you from the station to the centre of Chiusi.
One of my favorite gelateria in Chiusi Scalo is Green Bar in Via Cassia Aureli I, 107. This gelateria is at walking distance from the train station.
Lago di Chiusi
Chiusi’s Lake is only 5 minutes drive from the centre of Chiusi città. You can bike and hike in this wonderful nature area. For food lovers I recommend restaurant Pesce d’Orco. They offer traditional fish “pesce di lago brustico” from the Etruscan civilization. Yummy!
Every year in September is a run and walk around the lake: Giro Lago di Chiusi. It is a 18k run. A nice run experience! And if you don’t run you might participate to the organized walk.
Last week I visited Pienza in the Val d’Orcia. Pienza is a tiny village situated 20 km from Montalcino and a few km from Montepulciano.
This period is a unique chance for me to visit places in Italy without lots of tourists. Italy has opened its borders to European tourists from early June but the Coronavirus still keeps tourists away. Some Italian visitors from other regions arrive in Tuscany but not (yet) people from other countries.
Few people were around in Pienza. Pienza is a popular place to travel. For many people Tuscany is a dream destination for its beauty, scenic landscape and historical villages. Tuscany is so special and unique. It’s not surprisingly that Val d’Orcia has been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Capella della Madonna di Vitaleta
Pienza is the most renowned village in Val d’Orcia. In 1996 UNESCO declared this town a World Heritage site.
Pienza was redesigned in the late 15th century by Pope Pius II (Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini). The original name of the village Pienza is Corsignano. Pope Pius was born here. He decided to change Corsignano into an ideal city to be called Pienza.
Today Pienza houses wonderful buildings like the Palazzo Piccolomini “Pope’s palace”, the Cathedral and town hall. These attractions are definitely worth a visit.
How do I get to Pienza
Pienza is located only 12 km away from Montepulciano. You can reach this village easily by car. There is free parking outside the historic centre. For example in the Via della Madonnina. Here you find enough parking space.
Parallel to this street is a wonderful walking path to the centre. The views over the landscape are stunning.
You can also take the bus from from Montepulciano to Pienza and vica versa. By bus it’s about 25 minutes travel time.
The town Pienza is as small town with a population around 2300. In the main street Corso Rossellino is a pretty strong smell of cheese. The Pecorino cheese of Pienza is one of the best and popular Tuscan cheese. Many tiny shops in Pienza sell this amazing Pecorino cheese.
You should taste it, it’s really yummy!
Cheese farm in Pienza
The Pecorino cheese is a soft or semi hard sheep cheese produced in Pienza. It is one of the most delicious Italian cheeses made from sheep milk (ewe’s milk).
Personally I know Fattoria Pianporcino in Pienza. This cheese farm produces different Pecorino types like Pecorino fresco, Pecorino semi-stagionato and pecorino fully stagionato.
The owner of Pianporcino is Giuseppe Bussu (on the right-hand side of the picture).
This photo is from before the Coronavirus.
For a cheese tasting and visit reservations are recommended. Especially now with new measures and restrictions.
Pienza is also called a “Slow Food” place for food and wine lovers. In the historic centre are many wine shops “enoteche” where you can taste the local wines (Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino).
The restaurants offer traditional local dishes like Tuscan pasta “i pici”, antipasti and different types of cheeses.
Pienza is also a romantic destination with the two streets called Via dell”Amore and Via del Bacio.
Instead of taking your car to Pienza, you can also rent a (FAT) e-bike in Montepulciano to get to Pienza. There are amazing bike routes from Montepulciano to Pienza.
The trails are suitable for families, beginners and cycling enthusiasts. You can rent (FAT) e-bikes and mountainbikes at ByeBike and Urban Bikery in Montepulciano.
The trail types are mostly asphalt and dirt roads. You ride along the hills overlooking the amazing views of Val d’Orcia. Really recommended!
The Covid-19 measures in Italy are somewhat eased since early May. Restrictions on travel within the same region will be dropped on May 18. Shops, restaurants, hairdressers and bars are being allowed to reopen. Two weeks earlier than planned.
Movement in your own region is permitted. Without any “autocertificazione”. Finally we will be able to visit friends as long as they live in the same region.
Both regional and international borders will open from June 3. The Italian government wants to allow travel between the regions and the Schengen countries. People will be permitted to enter Italy without any restrictions. Tourists can travel to Italy again. Awesome!
I am excited that things are getting back to normal. That gives me hope. As in the lockdown period it seemed impossible. But just the idea of having a fresh pizza with a huge beer in a trattoria makes me feel very happy.
Bars have already reopened for take-away service. I love an Italian coffee after lunch. Recently I got a take-away coffee at the Piazza Grande. The coffee was good and it was nice talking to the locals again. Nonetheless… nothing beats an Italian coffee ” al banco”.
Gatherings of large groups are still banned. Unfortunately some important summer events have been cancelled. For example Umbria Jazz in Perugia. The festival will return in 2021.
Over de last few weeks I have been busy with setting up my wine business. I am working on a new online wine project. It is something that I have created together with a little help of my friends.
It will be a project with my own “Italian” identity. It is a personal investment in local wine. I find it a bit scary to invest in this period. We live in a difficult economic situation. But I must do something. And this is what I like too! I don’t know if I’ll have success but I keep up the good spirit.
vineyards in Montepulciano
Besides this new project I have published a new virtual wine experience page on my website. I organize from mid June free online wine tastings at the winery of Gattavecchi. Every Thursday and Sunday in the afternoon.
I will use the Zoom application for the virtual wine tastings. More information about this will be followed.
I had a long period of knee problems. My right knee is doing much better. I go often by bike and I do my exercises to strengthen the muscles that support my knee. I am ready for a new running schedule. My trainer has sent me a new program for the upcoming two months. The priority is to restart. The runs are short and I have no idea how the results will be. But I am happy to start running again.
Virtual wine tasting
Last Saturday I had my first online Zoom wine tasting experience with a group of American people. I have a friend in NYC who organizes online meetings with friends. This time I was invited as a guest speaker.
Through the virtual wine tasting experience I showed two video’s of Montepulciano. I told the story of the winery and the wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. I enjoyed!
The meeting took about 1 hour. Talking to people on the other side of the world was great. A feeling of not being alone for a moment. I did this online wine tasting from my home in Montepulciano. Next time I’ll do the virtual tour in the winery.
Last week I have seen our Prime Minister Conte on TV saying that the measures will be more relaxed from May 4. What changes?
Sometimes it’s a bit confusing for me to understand well Italy’s new rules. But in general I know what I may do and what is still prohibited.
We will still have difficult months ahead. To protect ourselves we must maintain social distancing, wear masks and gloves in supermarkets and shops.
Here a fewnew lockdown rules:
We may walk, bike or go for a run more than 200 metres from home. Totally my thing!
We may travel in our region. In my case: Tuscany.. not too bad.
We can visit relatives. Count me out. I have no relatives in Italy.
The parks and factories reopen. Ok with me.
And there will be take away food. Restaurants will offer pizza for take aways only. Yummy, finally a good pizza!
Pizza at Rosso Vivo
It is a small return to normalcy. But all with social distancing, masks and subject to local and regional rules.
On May 18 team sports can train again, museums, libraries and retail stores will reopen. Dining in restaurants from June 1 and reopening of bars, hairdressers and beauty centers.
My life in Montepulciano
The battery of my car is low. Today I have tried to start my car. It wasn’t easy as it sounds. Fortunately my neighbor and the *ACI were willing to help me to get this problem solved.
To give the battery a good charge they advised me to drive for at least 30 minutes. So I drove to Pienza and back to Montepulciano. It seemed everything normal, but it wasn’t. I was more than happy!
Road to Montepulciano
Luckily we have good weather in Tuscany. I am working on new wine projects -to be continued- and I do a lot of workouts at home. I didn’t stop tasting wines as well. I love my daily appetizer. I love wine.
As we are allowed now I went this afternoon for a short bike ride today: Montepulciano – Acquaviva – Montepulciano. This is my cycling route nearby my apartment. It’s about 20 km total downhill and uphill. A wonderful bike experience that I will repeat soon.
In this period I should have been in Rotterdam for family matters, but my Transavia flight from Perugia to Rotterdam has been cancelled. My travel ticket is refunded.
May 4 is “Remembrance Day” in Holland. It’s a day when the Dutch can remember and commemorate the soldiers and civilians who died in WWII and other conflicts.
Tonight I saw one of my best friends in Rotterdam “Paul van de Laar” on the Dutch television (NOS website) about 75 years of liberation. He is director of Museum Rotterdam.
May 5 is liberation day. Another good friend of mine in Amsterdam has made an amazing website with images from Haarlem then (WWII) and Haarlem now. Take a look at this website.
I would like to go to Holland soon. Maybe when the phase three begins we can travel? I hope we can keep the virus down. Because if the curve sill start to increase again it will take much more longer before flights restart again… please no!