Sunday, June 5, 2011

On the way to Tuscany

After nine months in Italy and about the same number of trips back and forth to Rome, we finally had the chance to take the little detour off the freeway to Subiaco Abbey. At least I thought it was a little detour. At the end of the day, it actually took about three hours, but it was three hours well worth it to see this amazing, 6th century monastery rising out of the cliff with an interior completely covered in frescoes. St. Benedict holed up in a cave here for a few years, founding the abbey, before moving down the mountains and founding the abbey at Montecassino (of WWII fame). We were headed up to Siena, only a four hour drive away, so we had some spare time for me to cross Subiaco off my list. Parking at the bottom of the hill, we walked up, up, up, then entered through a narrow, twisty staircase to a little piazza next to the abbey. The engineering of the building is fascinating as it's built on top of Benedict's cave and the walls seem to just grow out of the rock. Since we had Scully with us, we took turns going in. Mom and I visited first, and after passing the monk at the entrance, there were no other monks around, no arrows pointing the way, nothing. We visited the chapel next to the entrance, peered down a hall that seemed to be admin offices and rejoined Nathan to take over dog watch. Nathan disappeared for quite awhile, then came out with a confused look on his face, saying, "You know there's a whole lot more than that chapel, right? And was there ever! At the back of the chapel is a staircase down into Fresco Wonderland, complete with St. Benedict's cave, a tucked away staircase up to a small chapel, and more stairs down a Rose Garden and some exterior frescoes. In this land of frescoes, Subiaco is king. Sadly, no photos allowed - but I did take one of this warning, located outside the entrance door:
No Hussies Allowed
Continuing on to Siena and our hotel, we dropped off the dog at the hotel and headed into Siena for dinner. When I visited with my friend back in February, we'd lucked into this fabulous restaurant. Locals sitting next to us informed us that this restaurant was one of the two best in Siena...and gave us the name of the other one. We headed to this other one, Tre Cristi, for dinner, especially after reading rave reviews on Trip Advisor. It was very good, but none of us would classify it as our best meal. With one big "but"...absolutely the best grappa we've ever tasted. Grappa we've never even imagined existing. Grappa that tastes like butter. Grappa that we've now been completely unsuccessful in tracking down to pick up a few bottles ourselves, so if anyone knows where to buy 10 Year Reserve La Centenara by Aquileia, let me know! 

The best part of the evening was getting to the Campo right at dusk, that magic hour when the buildings glow.

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