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3 Oct

Well, I guess after 40 years, it’s not surprising to find that a detail from my previous post was incorrect. A classmate let me know that some Rome students participated in a Diet Rite commercial, not the Coke one. They were paid about $30 and the popular commercial aired for over 12 months nationwide.

People who don’t need it drink it
Folks not on a diet try it

People who’ve heard of it love it
You’re not on a diet; try it!
Everybody likes it – Diet Rite Cola

The Coke commercial was released in July, 1971, before we got to Rome, and per Coke archives, has consistently been voted one of the best of all time.

I’d like to buy the world a home
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow-white turtledoves

I’d like to teach the world to sing
In perfect harmony
I’d like to buy the world a Coke
And keep it company
 That’s the real thing

Interesting how both commercials included students and how both were filmed in Rome. Although I was not part of either commercial, I do remember returning to the US and seeing them both…two wonderful reminders of my time in Italy.

For those old enough to remember the commercials, are you humming???



The Tasting Addendum

30 Jul

I wrote to Emanuela and asked her to summarize the effect the different sides of the hill have on the wine. For those of you interested in this type of info, here is Emanuela’s answer:

“As you know, our estates produce wines very different from each other, and
this is due to different exposures and altitudes of the vineyards:
– The terraced vineyards of Tenuta Friggiali lie on the south-west versant
(the most ancient and celebrated) side of the hill in Montalcino, with a
downwards slope from a height of 400 a.s.l. until 300 meters a.s.l.  The
Brunello Tenuta Friggiali, made of 100% “Sangiovese” vine like any other
Brunello of ours, is aged 3 years in Slavonian oak barrels of 50 and 30
hectolitres and then one year in bottles before being put into the market.
It has an intense ruby-red colour with a tendency to the garnet, with a
noticeable warm scent of wild cherries, red and black berry fruit, liquorice
and chocolate; on the palate it displays all the attributes of a classic
Brunello wine: it has strength and elegance, harmonic body and breeding; it
is a traditional Brunello with a strong personality, fullness of flavour and
– the Pietranera is located in the south-east side of the hill.  Here the
vineyards lie on a plain and benefit from the steady and beneficial presence
of the sun, which makes the grapes grow and ripen earlier than they do at
Tenuta Friggiali.  These wines are therefore warmer, dryer, mellower, with
more tannins and a less marked bouquet.
I hope that my explanation is helpful for you!”

Must be the mellower part that Len and I like best! Thanks to Emanuela for the explanation and as a note, Tenuta Friggiali produces more wine than Pietranera, so you are more likely to find it in the U.S.



The Tasting.2

29 Jul

After our tour, Emanuela took us to the villa where we were spending the night.  She had shown us our room earlier, but we had not seen the rest of the house. We entered one of the dining rooms that certainly appeared to be expecting us!

Yes, all those bottles and all those glasses and just us…in our own villa! Emanuela, a sommelier with extensive experience in the industry, began by seasoning our glasses. As she opened and poured each wine, she explained details, patiently answered questions and sought our opinions. She seemed to truly appreciate our story about discovering and purchasing Pietranera so many years ago and our subsequent search that happily landed us in this room.

We were able to sample several different years of Pietranera as well as a super tuscan and their other Brunello, but the Pietranera Brunellos were our favorite. We think we could have picked them blindfolded…such great taste, nose and finish (that’s about my total wine repertoire) and of course, fond memories…Pietranera Brunello, you get our vote!

After about two hours, Emanuela needed to leave, but said the house and wine were ours to enjoy. Yep, the house and the wine.  Too bad our relatives and friends were thousands of miles away and unable to join us! “Oh, well,” concluded Len, “I guess we’ll just have to make the best of the situation!”

And so we did!



The Tour.1

26 Jul

“In the heart of Montalcino, one of the most evocative villages in legendary Tuscany, is located Tenuta Pietranera, a winery renowned all over the world.”  (introduction from the Pietranera brochure.)

Evocative…such a perfect word. Winding through the glorious hills of Montalcino truly evokes an emotional response…it’s difficult to take in, let alone describe, all the natural beauty…the endless rows of vineyards lined in precision; the soaring cyprus trees dotting the hillside; the olive groves more wild and less defined; and the ancient Tuscan structures lovingly restored and preserved…all flourishing beneath the tuscan sunshine. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, no picture can do justice to the majesty of Montalcino.

Back at the estate, Emanuela begins our tour. She explains that in 1985, Giovani Peluso, an attorney from Naples, purchased four hectares of land for hunting…yes, woods for hunting.  Sometime later, observing that both land and vineyards were being snapped up, he and his wife, Marisa Centolani, began acquiring hectares of vineyards. Today, the Peluso Centolani family own and operate Tenuta Friggiali, Tenuta Pietranera and Donna Olga. If you picture Montalcino as a mountain, the Friggiali  and Donna Olga vineyards are on the west side where the land is hotter and higher. The estate is also on the west side. The Pietranera vineyards are on the east side of the mountain where the soil is more volcanic. There the grapes ripen faster and must be picked sooner. Unlike some of the huge vineyards, their grapes are all hand picked by devotees. (Pictures courtesy of the estate.)

Once in the cellar, the grapes are separated from the stalks, squeezed and put in vats where alcoholic fermentation takes place. There are very specific rules that govern the length of maturation, types of barrels, and continual testing and control before the sangiovese grapes ultimately transform into Brunello wine.

A few facts about Brunello wine: in 1888, the first wine to be called Brunello was bottled by Ferruccio Biondi-Santi; a Brunello must come from a single harvest of select sangiovese grapes from the same vineyard – no commingling of grapes or vineyards; it must be aged in oak casks for at least two years and aged in bottles for at least 4 months;  it becomes available for sale on January 1 of the 5th year after the harvest; today, there are 208 Brunello estates of various sizes in Montalcino, and some of the wines never leave Italy.

If you appreciate Brunello wines as we do, you might like knowing that years 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2010 are five star years, but as of this date, nothing beyond 2006 has been released. As each new vintage rolls out, you might just want to grab a few to store for future years.

Our tour let us experience a factory that is immaculate, serious, personal, professional, tranquil, modern yet old world, and tended to with love and care. Here one truly understands the meaning of “labor of love.” No detail is too small or overlooked and nothing is left to chance. Patience is abundant as nature slowly takes its course.

At the center of the Pietranera vineyards, there is a 700 year old oak tree. Each year, some Pietranera followers can be seen sitting under the tree tasting the new vintage surrounded by the beauty and peacefulness of the landscape.  A future trip perhaps?

After about an hour, Emanuela concluded our tour with a few simple words: “Are you ready to taste?” We just smiled.



The Montalcino Experience

26 Jul

On July 1, I wrote about our drive to Montalcino, home of Brunello wines in Tuscany. For us, this was a much anticipated part of our trip. We had discovered Pietranera Brunello wine in 1999, and now had the opportunity to visit the Tenuta Friggiali and Pietranera estate. The posts that follow are the rest of the story, starting with The Tour and concluding with The Morning After. Hope you enjoy!

The Tour.1

The Tasting.2

The Tasting Addendum

The Villa.3

The Owner.4

The Dinner on the Hill.5

The Morning After.6



In the Neighborhood

14 Jul

Meet Wanda, (pronounced Vanda). She lives directly across Via Mazzouli from us. When I say across, it’s not as in the States…her front door is literally 15 feet from ours. You can see in the photo of the hail storm just how narrow the street is. I am hanging out our window and her front door is the dark brown one. There are no sidewalks…each of our front doors opens directly onto the street. The main reason we chose the house on Via Mazzuoli is that we wanted to live in a neighborhood and meet the neighbors…and that we did. I have come to realize that the lady I heard the first morning was Wanda. Because we all leave our windows open, the sounds bounce off the buildings, thus my analogy of waking up in a movie.

Wanda and her husband Vincenzo have been our “go to” people. Each morning, I push open the shutters and see Wanda in her kitchen with the TV on behind her. “Buon giorno, Wanda” I call, and she comes to the window. We talk about the weather, things happening in town, whatever, all in Italian. Each time we plan to drive to a town, she is our GPS planner, and unlike our TomTom, she is dead on accurate. She says, “nell’indicazione di”…” and we’d know which direction to head. Simple.

One day,  we had a power outage…everything went dead, but Wanda to the rescue. “Aiuto, Wanda!” (I need help!) She came over,  flipped the circuit breaker and we were back in business.

Vincenzo’s main job seems to be taking care of his car. Watching him back into his garage is incredible…barely room for the car, let alone space for him to get out! The front of his car nearly touches our front door as he backs in, but of course,  it never does.

They have been in their home for 40 years. When I asked Wanda how we would keep in touch when I am in Chicago, she told me “through the post office…you need to write me letters!” No internet at their house, and not because it’s not available, but because they choose not to have it. I told her  I’d have to write in English but I’d put my letter through and send along an Italian translation…hoping it actually translates correctly.

This day, they were going to visit Vincenzo’s sister who was having arm surgery, and she yelled up, “Judita…we’ll be away for a few days.” Boy did we miss them!

Other people in the neighborhood include these two ladies, who in the beginning just sort of laughed each day when we greeted them. Once they realized we’d be around for a while, they started to talk to us…well, at least they stopped chuckling about us! Check out the blue plaid skirt…I think I wore the same one at St. Luke’s elementary school. In fact, she looks like the nun I had in 3rd grade!

Then there are the regular chair sitters…they wouldn’t agree to the photo unless Len sat with them.

Here we are having our morning cappuccino made by Angelino at Trattoria Tacconi.

And of course, the local bread maker….he makes and sells bread to all of the restaurants in town. One of the good things for us is that we actually don’t like the bread in Tuscany as it has no salt. Better in Roma and best in Napoli! But given all the pasta, gelato and meat we are eating, it’s good not to like the bread.

Living in the neighborhood is delightful and very interesting. Everyone is so friendly and the locals have truly made us feel welcome. Thank, you, Wanda and all our new friends!



Italian Doors and Flowers

11 Jul

Doors and doorknobs…something special in Italy. Hard to pass one up without commenting. Sandy, so glad you mentioned how much you like them. I do as well and thought I’d display some. The size of many is difficult to comprehend, often even difficult to capture in a picture.

In addition to interesting doors, there are flowers, flowers, everywhere! How they love their geraniums and sunflowers. The hard part about capturing a field of sunflowers is that they literally follow the sun, and it seems every time we drive by a field, the sunflowers have turned their backs on us!



Day in Roma

8 Jul

We saw much of Roma today from the seat of several buses and trams. Frankly, quite proud of ourselves, we took a bus and tram to Trastevere to visit the campus of John Cabot, a four year degree granting school, as well as another bus to Monte Mario, to visit Loyola University’s Rome Campus. Each are very different, but either will offer Benita a marvelous time abroad should she pick one for her junior year.

After our visits, we took another bus to Piazza di Spagna, the site of the Spanish Steps, and had a drink in the Hassler garden bar for very sentimental reasons. When I lived in Roma my junior year, my parents stayed at the Hassler when they came to visit. Then, when we returned for my parents 50th anniversary, it was the first place I took Len. Each time we have been here with Benita, we have gone to the garden bar, and one of our Christmas cards was a picture of us taken here.

The Hassler also has the only exact replica of the Naples statue of Romulus and Remus, but it has one slight defect to make it different from the original.

And who can resist photos of some of the great doorknobs in Roma…



So, from Roma, we head to Chicago tomorrow. This is truly arriverderci for now, but stay tuned!

Ciao, ciao!

Judy and Len

Ristorante IL Cacciatore

7 Jul

Wanted to mention this restaurant for friends we met in Cortona before you leave…go to Cacciatore’s for lunch or dinner. We actually ate both there the day we left. Facing the Commune, it’s down Via Roma on the left. The owner, whose name I believe is Alesando, is as friendly as can be and the food is delicious! We had a pizza for lunch, then went back for the steak and grilled veggies for dinner.




7 Jul

We arrived safely in Roma, however, finding the Avis drop off at the airport was not fun. What we now know is that you have to go to Garage B, and it’s there. We went way out of our way, but they did not charge us extra for the late return, nor did they charge for our non functioning GPS Tom Tom, so in the end, we came out OK. Funny thing, Paula, we had the most trouble with what you found easiest!

We are staying at the Hotel Villa Pinciana, near the Borghese gardens. Funny thing is, we so wanted outside space or at least a balcony in Cortona and here we are in Roma, at a hotel surrounded by outside space, where I am writing, as well as the only room with a balcony. Strange how things work out! That’s our balcony, behind the flags, and the open space is where we are sitting as I write.

Just had a wonderful lunch of pumpkin stuffed ravioli in burnt butter and fresh sage.

Since we’ve been to Roma many times, we don’t need to head out in the heat and see the sights. Benita is hoping to spend her junior year in Roma, so we are checking out the Loyola Rome Center as well as the John Cabot school, both offered by Marquette. I attended the Loyola Rome Center 40 years ago (EEEK, I think I was only 5…a protege!) but the school has moved- I think they could no longer deal with the beer machines in the classroom wing…seriously, we’d drop in a coin and out came a beer on our way to class…there will never be a time like those late 60’s early 70’s again !!!)

So, two days in Roma and then on to Chicago! Benita, we can’t wait to see you!!!


Judy/Mom and Dad

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