Saturday, June 8, 2013

REGGIO EMILIA, CHIANTI COUNTRY and SIENA


Hotel Posta in upper right corner
Thanks to a very reasonable Luxury Link package we had 3 days in a junior suite at the Hotel Posta in Reggio Emilia.  It became a hotel in 1515 but the building's history dates back to 1280.  It has been beautifully modernized inside and sits at the corner of the biggest piazza in town.  The central area of Reggio Emilia is filled with pedestrian walkways and public squares and most of them are filled with people on foot or bicycle – especially on Fridays and Saturdays when almost every square hosts a market.   
Wheels of parmesan cheese

The area is best known for the production of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.  It is only produced in this general area and they claim  “The secret of such goodness originates in the place of origin, in the natural feed, and in the high quality milk with no additives.”   There are strict regulations regarding the feeding of the 270,000 cows that produce the milk that goes into making the cheese.  It takes almost 160 gallons of milk to make one wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano.   Once the cheese is made, it ages for a minimum of 1 year but usually 2 years or more.  So think of this the next time you sprinkle your pasta with parmesan cheese!  
Our 1st floor corner unit in Chianti country
With our host at an Italian winery 
We went from one extreme to the other: the heart of a busy city and one of the oldest hotels in Italy to the quiet Tuscan countryside and one of Italy's newest hotels in the Chianti area.  Our big studio apartment with full kitchen overlooked a beautiful pool.  Here we enjoyed the beautiful Tuscan countryside, quaint little towns and a couple of real Italian family run wineries.  
Piazza del Campo site of the Palio de Siena horse race


Palazzo Pubblico on Piazza del Campo built 1338-48
The charming town of San Donato
We didn't have to travel far to our next destination outside Siena.  We spent a day in the city best known for its massive cathedral and the Palio di Siena - the annual horse races around the Piazza del Campo.  On 2 separate days every summer, 10 jockeys riding bareback circle the sloping piazza 3 times in about 90 seconds. The race is fast and treacherous, and horses often reach the finish line without a rider.

Siena's Duomo (cathedral) was built in the 12th and 13th centuries.  The sanctuary is huge and the walls and ceiling of the library are covered with magnificent frescoes. 

Siena's Duomo
Cathedral Library















Every town - no matter how small - has a big church
Since we have been to most of the major cities of Italy in the past, this time we are enjoying driving the backroads and visiting tiny, hilltop villages with the ruins of ancient churches.  It has been an unusally wet, cool spring but the rains have finally eased.  Vineyards, green meadows and bright flowers sparkle under blue skies.


I love the picturesque windows