What are you doing New Year's Eve?
As we anticipate and prepare for Music and Markets New Year's Jazz in Italy
trip, we're happy to see that ejazz travel
has picked up the story.
Joining the festivity of Umbria Jazz Winter has been such fun, and we always look forward to celebrating with fellow music lovers in the picturesque hilltop town of Orvieto.
Twice a day, a jazz band - such as Cool Bones from New Orleans - takes to the streets, followed by music-loving crowds. And all day long terrific musicians from around the world, from solo pianists to jazz combos, share their music in memorable venues around the city.
A favorite of mine is the intimate Emilio Greco museum, where the artful installation of his work in this palazzo, with walkways and even a spiral staircase up to the ceiling, allow you to view his sculptures from different directions. What a pleasure to walk or sit amongst the art and be surrounded by visual beauty while listening to outstanding jazz.
Monday, 10 July, Siena
On to Tuscany today, first stop: Monte San Savino, where we check in to the charming little Logge dei Mercanti, a beautifully restored boutique hotel in the walled village.
Then to our destination for the day – Siena, Tuscany’s top medieval town.
Tall buildings line the cobbled streets, their shadows providing welcome shade, as the summer scorch continues. We walk through different contradas – the town is divided into 17of these proud neighborhoods- each with a distinct banner and heraldic symbol, such as the turtle, the caterpillar, the tower, the eagle, or the dragon.
We stop for a quick lunch at Osteria Da Trombicche on Via delle Terme, where we’re the only non-Italians in the classy hole-in-the-wall wine bar, and make our choices from the display by the counter – panzanella – a hearty Tuscan bread, tomato, cucumber, and herb salad, faro (Tuscan grain rather like barley) salad, farfalle pasta with tomato and basil, meatballs, and grilled zucchini or sundried tomatoes, both slathered with peppery olive oil. Along with crostini crunchy slices of bread - topped with mushrooms, and a glass of Chianti Classico, we’re fortified for an afternoon of exploration.
Siena’s Museo Civico, in the 13th century city hall, showcases fabulous art in a superb setting – there’s nothing like seeing an art treasure right where it was created to be. The renowned Allegory of Good Government and Bad Government frescoes still impart their wisdom today. The refreshingly cool (air conditioned!) bookshop is a treasure as well, with many unique books featuring Italy and art. We come out with a list of books to order when we returned home (no more room in the suitcases!).
The awesome Duomo, built in the 1200’s, is next. As often happens, the exterior is under renovation, and is covered with scaffolding.
Those of us who are trying to stay cool in spaghetti straps are handed mandatory blue paper ponchos to cover our shoulders in the place of worship.
The amazing inlaid marble mosaic floors, of which only a portion is visible during most of the year, always grab my attention, and the striped interior and exterior, inspired by Orvieto, where we were yesterday, is eye-catching as well.
We love illuminated manuscripts, and often seek them out in libraries and churches in our travels. The Piccolomini Library, adjoining the cathedral, houses precious illuminated choir books, their vivid jewel tones illustrating the chants on the massive pages Brilliantly colored frescoes of the life of Pope Pius II, Piccolomini, line the walls above the intricately carved bookshelves. Painted by Pinturicchio between 1502-07, they’re probably based on designs by Raphael.
From music to markets - a good wine shop, or enoteca is a valuable find in Italy, worth returning to for friendly education and good buys. In Siena, we always look forward to stopping at Enoteca Palazzo Piccolomini on Via Rinaldini, a side street radiating from the lovely central piazza, the Campo. Armed with Financial Times wine writer Jancis Robinson’s article recommending a few classic Brunellos, we enjoyed an enlightening chat with the knowledgeable and helpful owner, leaving with some well-priced bottles, and anticipating our next visit.
We stop for dinner at Antica Trattoria Botteganova, on the Chiantigiana Road just north of the town. We had read several rave reviews of this Michelin-starred, rustically elegant restaurant, and appreciated the delicious and beautifully presented meal, but the contemporary takes on Tuscan cuisine were a bit much for us. We had thoroughly enjoyed our dinner yesterday at Sette Consoli in Orvieto, where the cuisine was similar, but with more authentic tastes of the region.