Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Today we leave Florence and drive to Casa bel Posto, an apartment just outside Cortona. The drive through the countryside is filled with farmland and abandoned buildings. The buildings are beautiful, mostly made of stone, and look like they are begging for renovation. It is hard not to dream about how life would be in one of these old buildings, farming the land and enjoying the Tuscan life.
Our hosts, Keith and Tania, have done just that. They decided to leave their home in California several years ago and move to Italy. They lived in an apartment in Cortona before buying Caso bel Posto, a rustic farmhouse surrounded by fields of sunflowers. The young couple has created a cozy retreat for travelers and their hospitality is as warm as the apartment.

At Caso bel Posto we are greeted by our host, Keith. Keith is the perfect host. During our stay he provided us with directions, suggestions for dinner and "must see" places as well as wine and Scotch. He was even there to help Kenny and Edwin buy freshly pressed olive oil from the local mill.

After unloading our car, we take to the hills for Cortona. This landscape is hilly and heavily planted with olive trees ready for harvesting. We park close to the escalator and begin our trek upward to the city. Our timing is lousy once again. Most of the businesses are closing for lunch so we quickly grab a table overlooking the piazza at the Ristorante La Loggetta. The food here is very innovative. We share a Mixed Plate full of delicious antipasti. My favorite is a pesto cheese thingy, served warm. The Zuppa di Pomodoro was delicious. I can't believe I didn't take a picture of it! The soup was served piping hot in a white bowl garnished with fresh pesto. It looked as good as it tasted. After lunch we stop for a cappuccino before heading back to the apartment to crash.

For dinner we take Keith's suggestion and go to Bastian Contrario. Leo, the owner, greets us at the door with a big smile. He quickly realizes we don't speak Italian and he doesn't speak English, so he gives us a warm handshake and shows us to a table. From here on out, Leo is in charge of our delicious meal. The antipasto platter included fried onion rings, fried cauliflower, fried artichokes, chicken liver pate (or whatever the Italian version is), ragu on crostini, mozzarella, proscuitto, melon slices, and more. This should have been enough for our dinner, but Leo wanted us to try more.For the second course, we followed Leo's recommendation for pizza and it was delicious - thin, crispy crust, tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and toppings of artichokes, olives, ham, and mushrooms.
Leo was soon back offering dessert, but we said no. Leo left the table only to return with a plate of panna cotta topped with strawberries that was light and tasty.
Just when we think we can't eat another thing, Leo returns with what Kenny thinks is a bottle of Chivas Regal scotch. Leo pours us all a glass and Kenny is the first to take a drink. The look on his face tells me this isn't scotch. Leo smiles and tells us it is vinsanto, a sweet Tuscan dessert wine, the perfect ending to a perfect evening. Thanks to all our new Italian friends for giving us a night we will always remember. Buona sera!

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