On the Road with Mia Mamma – Pienza and Proceno

I misplaced my camera the day before Mom and Paige (dear family friend and Mom’s traveling companion) arrived. As it happens, Paige is, on top of all her other admirable qualities, a very fine photographer.  I didn’t lose my camera on purpose. Really. But you may notice an improvement in the photos taken during my camera’s hiatus and a corresponding decline following its reappearance.

Pienza

On their first full day in Italy, we took off for Pienza, a southern Tuscan town that’s an easy and beautiful hour’s drive away.

We stopped at a roadside bar for caffè, and Mom loved her latte macchiato (steamed milk with a shot of espresso). During her week in Italy, she ordered one whenever we stopped for coffee. It never came the same way twice!

We spent our time in Pienza wandering around with delicious leisure. We found the Duomo and Palazzo Piccolomini, then a good restaurant for lunch. We did a little shopping and Mom bought some Pecorino, the cheese that would have put Pienza on the map if the Pope Pius II, who designed and bankrolled the town in the mid-1400’s, hadn’t done it first.

Proceno

On our way back, we stopped in Proceno, a gem of a little hill town about 15 miles from Benano. It’s just on the other side of Acquapendente and is built around a castle. Acquapendente is a historic center of trade along the Cassia, the Roman road running roughly between Rome and Genoa. These days, we think of the Cassia as the road to Tuscany and Acquapendente as a very pleasant and useful mid-sized town.

We walked Proceno’s picturesque but nearly empty streets. We were there in the afternoon, which is a sleepy time for these small towns that take their lunch breaks very seriously. Shops and other businesses usually reopen around 3:30 or 4 and stay open until 7:30 or 8:00.  It takes some getting used to – I always seem to get somewhere in the middle of the down time.

For anyone keeping track of such things, ordering coffee in Italy is an art.  Here is a primer on Italian coffee drinks.