Campania is a wonderful wine region in southern Italy. It has an old wine tradition. It was one of the most famous wine regions of the Romans.
The vineyards in Campania are mostly inland, not directly along the coast. The soils are influenced by volcanism.
It were the Greeks who introduced Vitis Vinifera in Campania. Grapes such as Greco di Tufo, Aglianico and Falanghina have all Greek origins. But, it were the Romans who introduced the wines from Campania everywhere in the world.
Naples is the capital city of the Campania region. It is Italy’s third largest city. I know “Napule” quite well. I have wonderful memories of Naples. In 2003 I stayed a month in this unique city to learn the Italian language. It was great fun spending the Summer there!
Winery Villa Matilde
The wine tasting in Campania was in the winery Villa Matilde in Cellole in the province Caserta close to Benevento. 80 km drive from Naples.
The family Avellone is the owner of Villa Matilde. It is a three generation family wine business.In the sixties Francesco Paolo Avellone started with re-planting of old vines. He had a passion for ancient historical wines. With his wine projects he gained support from local farmers and friends.
The vineyards of Villa Matilde are in the limestone massif Mount Massico, the Roccamonfina volcano. Today daughter Maria Ida and son Salvatore are responsible for the production of their wines.
In the wine shop we had a lovely wine tasting. We didn’t visit the vineyards. But it was a nice experience. Maria is really a wonderful host!
The wines in Campania are produced by Italian autochtone – unique grape varieties, such as Falanghina, Aglianico, Piedirosso, Fiano and Greco. The Agliano grape is cultivated everywhere in Campania. Aglianico is one of the great grapes of Italy. The wines made from Agliano are full bodied. It is worth a try!
The grape variety Falanghina is one of the most important white grape varieties in Falerna del Massico. It is born from ancient vines by the Greeks about 3000 years ago.Falerno del Massico DOC is the modern Falernum with whites from Falanghina.
The extinct Roccamonfina volcano contributes volcanic soils to Villa Matilde and the other Falerno del Massico regions vineyards. The taste of the wine is fresh and mineral. Very pleasant to drink. It is one of my favorite white wines now!
They also produce a wonderful rosato wine made from 100% Aglianico grapes.
Amy and David are friends of mine from the US. They live in an apartment in Vomero. A chic neighborhood just outside the city centre of Naples. It is a wonderful location. The views over the Gulf of Naples and the Vesuvius are amazing!
I met Amy and David at the Wine and Food Experience in Montepulciano last year. They work at the United States Navy base. Tuscany wines are their favorites. As soon as they can they come to Montepulciano to get some Vino Nobile and Brunello bottles to bring home!
Together with people from the United Stated Navy base we did a cooking class. Two ladies from Naples prepared delicious local dishes for us. We were allowed to watch or even to help them!
Antipasto: mignon mozzarella di bufala, bruschette with cherry-tomatoes and basilicum, local cheeses and cold cuts
Primo piatto: pasta with pumpkin, pancetta and ricotta salata
Secondo piatto: stuffed involtini with white wine sauce
Contorno: garden peppers with black olives
Dessert: almond cake
Wine: “Falerno del Massico DOC” from Villa Matilde; Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2017 from Gattavecchi.
Virtual wine tasting
The best way to discover the Italian culture obviously is through the wine! Sign up for the Sylvia Italy’s virtual wine tasting.
Between San Quirico d’Orcia and Pienza is the Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta. It is an amazing territory, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta is a tall bright building surrounded by cypress trees.
How to get there
To visit the chapel by car you need to follow a dirt road until you reach a free parking place. From the parking place it is 10 minutes walking to the chapel. The chapel can also be reached by a hiking trail through the hills.
Spring 2020 | Val d’Orcia Tuscany
The surrounding landscape is really awesome. The rolling hills of the Val d’orcia offer an incredible sight. It is one of the most wonderful places in Tuscany!
The chapel was built around 1550. The “Capella della Madonna di Vitaleta” used to be the home of the Madonna sculpture made by the artist Andrea della Robbia. The chapel was restored in 1884 and the statue was moved to the Church of San Francesco in San Quirico d’Orcia where it can be seen today.
Spring 2020 | Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta
San Quirico is a small and nice hill town in Tuscany.
San Quirico d’Orcia Tuscany
The chapel is locked, you cannot go inside. It is private property. The facade is decorated with stone from Rapolano and a small rose window.
The Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta is one of the most photographed locations of Tuscany. I have visited the Capella della Madonna di Vitaleta two times within the last months. Last spring, just after the lockdown and today September 20.
September 2020 Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta
September 2020 Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta
I am determined to visit the chapel again, perhaps accompanied by a good red wine in the neighboring fields.
September 2020 | il Convento Rosso di Montepulciano DOC
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!