Category Archives: il Sasso

39 Days


It’s been a long journey. I’m having difficulty remembering that five weeks ago I was a student at BABILONIA in Taormina, Sicily. I’ve traveled, made new friends, seen new places, revisited and glorified in the treasures of Tuscany, delighted in the company of Telma, reveled in the remembrances with Sally and Johanna. It’s been a long and wondrous journey.

As I sit in the Doubletree near Heathrow, I’m reflecting on these past weeks with gratitude, anticipation, and wonder. I’ll share some secrets.
. . .I was brought to tears walking down a small vicolo, alleyway, in Modica, after acknowledging to myself that I can do something I’d never imagined possible. . .speak, and almost, sometimes, understand Italian.
. . .I adore Italy and all things italian. . .even half-italian, like Don.
. . . I believe this will be my final 39 day trip for a long time, for a variety of circumstances.
. . .i can travel through 3 climates with a carry-on bag that’s been crushed and filled with things I never intended to buy.
. . . We shared this trip with Nana Weinberger. Her ashes lie under a lemon tree in Sicily, in the Ionian Sea, in the Alacantara Gorge, in the garden of Bristol Cathedral, and on a beach in Sicily. She was a traveller and we intend to keep her traveling!
. . .I missed my mother on her birthday, November 8.
. . .I worry about my family when I’m away.
. . .Im extraordinarily grateful for opportunities. It’s really about seeing the possibilities and having the courage or stupidity to follow through.

A few outtakes of photos. . .









Con Te parterĂ². . . Time to say goodbye. Wheresweinberger closes today, until the next adventure. Where?? When?? Chissa!. . .Who knows?!

We Did It Again!


Telma and Luisa have completed another course at il Sasso! It was a great week. . .4 days only because of All Saints Day holiday. . . .filled with condizionale, pronomi, vocabulario, congiuntivo, and conversazione. Are we ready to do it again?? You betcha!!

Our teaches are great and they need the occasional break from those of us who stumble and fumble with La Bella Lingua.


Sara, on the right, will be offering Skype lessons beginning in December. So if you’re a wannabe Italian I can put you in touch with her. She’s a fabulous teacher!

Afte our last class we went off to another one of they well-known restaurants in Montepulciano,


It’s a bustling Tuscan spot, close tables, excellent food. Folks drive for hours to get here, and by the time we left there was a line outside.


Telma was happy and well-satisfied after her meal and wine. . .


Then it was time for some goofy fun in the piazza. We were greeted by new statuary.



Fun for me took another turn when we returned to our favorite ceramics shop owned by Giovanni, near the Duomo.


At the bottom of the stairs we thought we were looking at an Etruscan tomb, but it was actually an ancient kiln for a bell.


I was taken by some turquoise pieces that will find their way into our new home. No, I didn’t buy ALL of them! But I did alert Don to watch for a rather large and heavy shipment!!


So, with some sadness but anticipation to return di nuovo, again, we say farewell to il Sasso and Montepulciano. But to paraphrase some infamous words, We’ll be back!!


Cucinare di Lillian


Lillian Gattavecchi runs the tiny cucina, kitchen, at Gattavecchi, a ristorante and cantina nestled beneath a centuries old chiesa, church. The wine cellar is a former monastery with barrels that hold 3300 bottles each, and an Etruscan tomb lies beneath that.

But what beckons me to Gattavecchi is Lillian. . .her warmth, smile, and cooking. We were fortunate that during this week, as in my last trip to il Sasso, a cooking class was planned with Lillian, so off went Telma and Luisa for a culinary adventure.


Greeted by Lillian’s son, who gave us a tour of the cellrs, we were treated to their vernaccia (grapes are grown near San Gimagnano), cheese, salami, and marmalade. Then it was time to hit the kitchen and make la cena, dinner, complete from antipasti to dolce!

Our antipasti focused on zucchini, both fried and grilled. Nothing leaves Lillian’s kitchen without a touch of fantasia.

Lillian, who is exacting in her kitchen, sharpened each knife to perfection. I’ve never had a knife simply float through a tomato and create a perfect slice!



We prepared a pork tenderloin which received chestnuts, both as a roasting accompaniment and a cream, sauce. It took four of us to peel all those darn boiled chestnuts, which by the way, were the sweetest I’ve ever eaten.


The fun continued with making pasta that incorporated Vino Nobile.


Under the tutelage of The “Mrs. Patmore” of the kitchen, we successfully rolled, floured, and cut out pasta into tagliatelle, although Lillian proclaimed that there were a we pieces of papardelle that snuck in!





The final results. . .



Well-sated after the sumptuous meal, with coats on and saying farewells, Lillian would have none of that. Back to the table we went for a pecorino cheesecake that was light and flavorful. Then, with gift bottles of Rosso in hand, we found our way back to the car and drove home over darkened Tuscan roads.

Thanks, Lillian for another memorable evening and delicious food. I’ll try to recreate it in Pennsylvania, but it will only be a shadow of its former self!


Taking on a Second Job


The sun shone beautifully for our second day at school.


Class is going well for each of us, with lots of new vocabulary, verb forms, music, and some “Italianisms” thrown in to help us sound Italian!

Today was our long-awaited lunch at Gattavecchi which we planned months ago as a “must-do” on this return trip. We ate there together last year, I had a cooking class, and also returned multiple times by myself for lunch, for the view, and for their free wi-fi!!

I literally bumped into Jonathan, the owner as he was coming out of the bathroom and I was going in. Nice, huh. . .a bathroom bump. Anyhow, we chatted, and I told him that Telma and Luisa would be coming tomorrow evening for a cooking class with his wife Lillian, one of my FB friends!!

The vino Nobile Riserva was wonderful, as was the fresh mushroom sauce served over pasta made with vino Nobile. Che bella!!


A large group of Russian tourists took up nearly the entire second floor, and it was fun to hear jonathon explain the wine in Italian and then have his words translated into Russian.

After our sumptuous lunch, we were in the mood to shop, so off we went to some of our favorite stores. Mimi and Coco’s is a vey sweet shop with beautiful and unusual handmade items.



Suits her perfectly, wouldn’t you say??!!

After a few more stops we worked our way down the hill, back to the car, and set off for Pienza.

Yes, it’s Tuscany and postcard beautiful!

New addition to Pienza. If we’d known, we could have invited her on our spa day!


WIth some cheese, porchetta, salami, and bread in hand, we headed home across the now-dark countryside, hoping no cinghiale, wild boars , would cross our path.

Compiti, homework, is finished, and now it’s time for a few small bites, some Internet surfing, some studying, and then bed. Telma remarked that this is starting to feel like a “job”.. . .out the door at 7:45 am, busy all day, coming home after dark.

Hey, if this is a job, I’ll sign up for life!!