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   Via dei Gatti
Friday, May 13 2011

location: Il Riccio, Montepulciano, Italy

Despite the slope of its steeper streets, Montepulciano is not a difficult village to explore on foot. What with all the secret ninja paths, it takes little time to get from an one point to another. As we looked for a place to get my morning espresso, we passed Caffè Poliziano, which Gretchen remembered as having a few much-coveted balcony tables with sweeping views of the Tuscan countryside. We went in and found a table unoccupied, like a floating atom of hydrogen in an oxygen atmosphere. So we quickly stabilized this unstable situation by occupying the table. When a waitress eventually materialized (nothing happens very quickly in Italy), Gretchen and I both ordered the house variant of the caffè freddo that was bigger, more expensive, and also more delicious. It was so good that we eventually ordered a third one. And when noon came and the kitchen opened, we both ordered lunches comprised of pasta and tomato sauce, because that's mostly what vegans eat in Italy.
Montepulciano is not a big place and there's not all that much to do there except walk up and down the streets in between bouts of leisurely eating and drinking. The go-go-go educational imperatives of Rome had been replaced with the sort of relaxing serenity more associated with Costa Rican beach vacations. And so it was that some time passed and then we dined again, this time at Ristorante Ai Quattro Venti, where we both had a lupper of rich Tuscan soup near a table of loud Americans, the young women of which would not have been out of place at a San Diego Gordon Biersch (and I don't mean that in a good way).
After lupper we strolled around the the southwest end of Montepulciano, past an old fortress and down to a church called Santa Maria dei Servi.

The place Gretchen wanted to go for dinner was Trattoria Diva e Maceo, in the lower northeast end of Montepulciano. She'd misread the time it would open, and we got down there at least a half hour early. So we wandered around the streets and secret ninja paths of that neighborhood, encountering so many cats on one side street called Via Delle Cantine that we referred to it thenceforth as "Via dei Gatti." On another sidestreet we found numerous ceramic signs reading "Attenti ai Gatti," serving as a sort of Italian mezuzah.
When Trattoria Diva e Maceo finally opened at 7:30pm, we took a seat, ordered pasta and a half litre of the red wine, and soon discovered that, while their bread isn't very good, everything else is. At a neighboring table sat a group of Americans. A youngish woman placed everyone's order in an Italian that lacked even a pretense of getting the accent right. Her young daughter seemed destined to throw a series of tantrums for the entire meal until pacified by some sort of electronic entertainment on a tiny screen.
Later that evening, Gretchen decided to go off to see an opera we'd seen advertised near Piazza Grande. I stayed back in our hotel room drinking the leftover Gewürztraminer from last night (it seemed kind of acrid by this point) and trying to jailbreak my iPhone, something that should theoretically be doable with the help of a Windows-based computer, though I couldn't manage to pull it off.

From our window at Meuble Il Riccio: architectural palimpsest, a building covered with grape vines, and a balcony garden.

More from our window: a room supported by an arch.

A lion atop a column gets restored in the lower northeast end of Montepulciano.

View of Tuscany looking southeast from Caffè Poliziano.

A piegon in a square hole in a masonry wall near Caffè Poliziano.

A Tuscan knoll (looking east), viewed from the southwest end of Montepulciano.

A lovely series of columns and arches in the government building off Piazza Grande. Notice how some of the columns are embedded in the wall.

Friendly cats in a window along Via di Cillano, near the beginning of "Via dei Gatti."

Looking west from northeast Montepulciano.

Gretchen and me, with the camera looking northeast.

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