“leisure” time

Since half of Monday classes were cancelled due to the weather event, they were made up on Friday morning. I had one coaching with Felice, and am starting to work on my second big aria for MOS, “O, ma lyre immortelle” from Gounod’s opera Sapho.

Felice knew right away that I presented him with a transposed version (originally in D flat, I had it transposed down a half step to C). You can’t get anything by these guys. But it’s just more comfortable for me and I won’t have to fret over the high notes since they are not so high. 

At 13:00 (1:00) I met my old friend Simone and her mother-in-law Manuela  in the Greve town square for lunch (I had misunderstood that Alessandro, Simone’s husband, was not coming to Greve – he works  a hotel (in fact, the hotel where George Clooney was married last spring – and can’t have weekends off, so Simone brought Manuela).

The best place in town is called Terazzo – because it is one flight up and you dine on a terrace overlooking the square. We all started with the freshest tomato and mozzarella salad I have ever tasted…of course dressed with Tuscan olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar. My main course was lemon risotto…risotto flavored with basil and on top, the thinnest ribbons of lemon rind you can imagine. Manuela and Simone had angel hair pasta with a black truffle sauce…this is a regional specialty.

This was accompanied by a bottle of pinot grigio from the Alto Adige region. Simone got a kick out of that since this particular wine is from the Venice area. For dessert Simone and I both had pineapple carpaccio…can you imagine? Very thinly sliced pineapple topped with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. Manuela had pane cotta w/blackberry sauce. Whew! We were sated.

Simone and Manuela are staying at a converted farm house (converted into an albergo, hotel) near Panzano, another small Tuscan town in the Chianti region. Since I have no car, and neither do they, the hotel’s driver Daniele has been engaged to cart us around. After lunch, Daniele picked up the girls, and also gave me a ride home so he would know where to pick me up later in the evening for dinner. Obviously, this is a Tuscan culinary tour for the girls, and I was invited for this incredible dinner at a supposedly world-famous restaurant called Antica Macelleria Cecchini. If you care to learn more, you can see the owner’s website – he has several published cookbooks and I think a cooking show on Italian TV.  www.dariocecchini.com

When we entered the tiny restaurant at the street level, all we saw were coolers filled with beef-beef-beef. Oh, Tuscan beef (along with Tuscan olive oil, Tuscan wine (Chianti) and white bean soup) are regional specialties. This small room also had a sort of appetizer buffet with crostini (that is simply small toasted bread rounds with olive oil, and sometimes with toppings such as tomatoes or pate), salami, olives, and wine. It was quite crowded with tourists and we wondered where we would be actually eating. At 7:55, we were all escorted to a beautiful terazzo upstairs to find two very long tables that seated about 20 people each…and our places were waiting for us. This meal was served family style, and the prix fix menu (50 EURO) was incredible. Already on the table were carafes of wine and water (when you order water you must specify “still” – no bubbles; or “gas” – with bubbles); large pots of raw vegetables (carrots, celery, fennel, onions) and of course, bread.  Then the waiters brought out a huge assortment of beef cuts…tartar, seared rump, T-Bone, etc., all cooked quite rare. Apparently this is the only way they serve beef in Tuscany. 

Following the beef festival, there was a baked potato course with “burro del chianti” (flavored butter), and for dessert, a sort of cake that at first reminded me of cornbread since the platter was covered with these square yellow things, but it was a sort of orange flavored cake…very light and refreshing after such a heavy meal. 

There were American tourists to our right (from California, and one woman from Amherst, MA), and to our left an Italian couple, Andrea (that’s the husband) and Simona – Andrea is a urological surgeon in Florence. Very interesting people.

At about 10:15, Daniele appeared to drive Simone and Manuela back to their little Albergo, and me back to Greve (about a 15 min. ride). For all these rides, I only had to pay Daniele 20 Euro (about $23)…SO worth it.

This morning, Simone and Manuela and I will go on a tour of the Chianti wine district, and Simone has arranged for the tour to pick me up here at the flat (and bring me home tonight, of course). A girl could get used to all this chauffeuring!

Tomorrow, the MOS participants and Jack will take a day trip to Florence (about 30 min. away). I would LOVE a day off to just sit still and rest and study my music; however, Florence is one of the most beautiful and historical towns in Italy, if not the world, and I can’t miss it.

So far I am staying healthy and rested…and regularly icing my bum ankle. If I wear my orthotics all the time and be careful about too much walking, I can manage.

Will write another blog entry later after the wine tour. Good thing I like to drink!

Ciao for now…J

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