Our intended destination Monday was Montepulciano.  We ended up in The Twilight Zone.

What a contrast to the packed streets of Rome and the Amalfi Coast this summer: Montepulciano was literally empty.  The first half hour we wandered the city and didn't encounter a single soul.  It was surreal.  Here is this incredible, ancient, walled city and we had it all to ourselves.

The people in this picture are my parents.  The only people in the town square.
This became a problem when it came time for lunch.

We eventually found a fantastic osteria and Joey's mood improved considerably.  Once she drank her wine, Mallory's did too.  

After lunch we set off in search of wine tastings.  We followed the signs to a huge door off the main square.  We rang the doorbell and were greeted by a surly middle-aged woman in a tracksuit.  She allowed us to tour the winery and then poured several different vintages of Montepulciano for us to taste.  When we asked her how old the winery was, she nonchalantly replied, "1,000 years."  Oh, is that all?

We found another open shop where the very friendly shopkeeper filled many, many glasses of wine.  Good thing we'd all had pasta for lunch!  

After another breathtaking sunset we got back in the car and headed toward our villa.  We stopped at one more winery along the way, where we bought some incredible Vin Santo.

That night Joey treated us to another yummy home-cooked meal.  We all turned in early, happy tummies full of food and wine.

Click here for all my pictures from Montepulciano.


The view from Mom, Dad and Mallory's cottage window on Sunday morning.
Our cottage is in the bottom right of the photo.
The next morning was Sunday, so we decided there'd be no better place to attend Mass than the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi.  One of the best things about the cottages we rented was its proximity to so many cool small towns in the Umbrian and Tuscan countryside, and we reached Assisi in less than an hour.

After Mass we ate lunch at a little trattoria, then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the maze of Assisi.  We drove down from the beautiful town on the hill to its outskirts in a futile search for gelato, then headed back to our villa for the evening.

Looking up on the Basilica from the outskirts of Assisi

All the cool air and walking wore Mom and Dad out, so Mallory, Joey and I played cards and drank wine.  A little later Joey whipped up the first of many fabulous meals. 

Click here for all of my pictures from our first two days in Italy