We stayed 2 nights in Montalcino. On the 2nd day, Good Friday day [I know, I posted the evening scene on the last post...sorry, bad planning], we hiked from Montalcino to Castelnuovo dell'Abate. This hike included instructions like:
"You arrive at a driveway lined with cypresses (the tall skinny trees). Just past the second cypress on the left..."
"Stay with the main road where it turns left at the farmhouse on your right. There is usually a chained barking dog here."
The countryside is practically littered with agriturismos--farms of various types that offer a twist on the bed-and-breakfast model. Here's an intersection outside of Montalcino with signs to all the local attractions and agriturismos. [The recycling bins are positioned there so that the residents in the area can deposit their recyclables there--no curbside collection.]
Just outside of Montalcino are the ruins of an Etruscan settlement:
(Yeah, I'm not sure what all it says, but basically there was like a fortress part of the settlement for defensive purposes. And the image that came to mind was of Legolas and Gimli...)
Probably about a mile and a half before reaching Castelnuovo, up in the hills, Eliza and I came upon a large group of what appeared to be an Italian version of boy/girl scouts (there were both), in uniform, aged in the mid-teens maybe (Eliza can't tell any more), sitting in a circle on a hilltop around a crucifix and a priest (monk? Eliza can't tell that either) wearing full length white robes. Eliza didn't take photos, obviously. Anyway, proceeding on past the group and down the other side of the hill, we saw yet another group sitting in the shade off the trail, holding a service of sorts. And they were being passed by yet another group coming up the trail. This group was curious: there was a strict looking teacher in front, with a boy in civilian clothing, a girl in civilian clothing with a head scarf over her head (sort of like a hijab), and another girl wearing a super tight white t-shirt and a little black mini skirt. A boy right behind them bore a crucifix. They were followed by maybe 50 more scouts in uniform. Eliza was puzzled by the civilian clothing, especially the seemingly inappropriate mini skirt. And then she realized: the 3 in front were Mary, Joseph, and Mary Magdalene (the mini skirt).
Anyway, it turns out that there's a big Catholic student/scout center just outside of Castelnuovo because of the abbey there. But it was quite a display--all those students schlepping crucifixes up a rugged farm track up steep hills for Good Friday services of sorts.
The Abbey of Sant Antimo apparently was initiated under Charlemagne in the 9th century. The abbey became really powerful over the next couple of centuries until Pope Pius II "reorganized." The abbey was unoccupied for over 500 years until it was re-populated in 1993 with a small community of French Cistercian monks.
In Castelnuovo, I spied a monk loose from the Abbey. Is that allowed?!
And then back in Montalcino, for dinner...Eliza ordered pasta. There's a hand-rolled pasta from that area called "pici." Because it's hand-rolled, it's thick-thin (Knittah perhaps would compare it to a hand-spun) and in this case it was prepared very simply with tomatoes, garlic, and a bit of basil. Eliza says that it was heavenly. And is it not beautiful?!