Y2Knit is a bicoastal company run by two sisters, Jill and Susan Wolcott. Jill lives in
In addition to the knitting workshops, which I’ll cover in a future post, Susan and Jill filled the week with interesting activities without venturing far from Montisi. The theme of the week seemed to be living your passion. All of us are passionate knitters, and thanks to Jill and Susan’s local contacts in Montisi, we were able to meet and interact with several people who are just as passionate about their work.
Elizabeth Cochrane is a British artist who has lived in Montisi for several years and has become a valuable member of the community. She paints the gorgeous Tuscan landscapes, and specializes in painting clouds. Liz also devotes time to helping tourists enjoy Montisi. She served as translator for several of our activities, and also welcomed us into her home and studio. In the picture, Liz has her back to the camera as she translates for Marco during our tour of La Grancia, a former estate which is now used for winemaking and renting apartments to visitors.
For a small town, Montisi has an abundance of excellent food. Tina Hilton, an editor and yarn rep, did most of the cooking for us, and all of the food was wonderful. Three meals especially stood out. One dinner was cooked for us at the villa by Alessandro, a local chef. It included picci, a Tuscan pasta which is like a thicker version of spaghetti. I bought a package to bring home, it cooks for 22 minutes, which is unusually long. Montisi also has two wonderful restaurants that serve locally produced food. Alberto owns La Romita, a hotel and small restaurant that is part of the “slow food” movement. He cooked and unobtrusively served us a wonderful dinner of several courses; a highlight was the chestnut pasta.
Alberto also owns a frantoio, or olive press, which is used to make olive oil from the local crop. His passion really became apparent when he talked to us about olive oil, with Liz as his translator. After explaining how the oil is made, Alberto gave us a tasting of two oils, one ordinary extra virgin from the supermarket, and the other last year’s locally produced oil. He showed us that the supermarket oil had a somewhat rancid smell and taste, while the local oil smelled like freshly cut grass, and was a natural green color. The day we left Montisi was the first day of this year’s olive harvest, and unfortunately none of last year’s oil was left to be sold, so we were not able to buy any. Montisi produces only enough oil to be used locally and does not export it. When I get home to Sigona, my favorite produce store, which sells a variety of Italian olive oils, I’ll look for some Tuscan oil that smells like fresh grass.
On the other end of town from La Romita is Da Roberto, a beautiful restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining. Roberto served us a stupendous lunch, starting with panzanella (Tuscan bread salad) and ending with tiramisu. Roberto does not believe in using vinegar in his salads; he says it’s a “trick” that masks the natural taste of the food. He also doesn’t use alcohol, another “trick”, in his tiramisu. I don’t usually like tiramisu, but this was wonderful, full of chocolate, espresso, and cream.
The next day Roberto, who speaks fluent English, put on a wine tasting for us in his garden. We tasted a white, a rose, and two reds, all produced by small local vineyards. Roberto spoke to us for two hours about the wines, food, and other fascinating topics.
We took several walks in and around Montisi. The longest walk was a 6-kilometer round trip, much of it uphill, to the nearby town of
We also enjoyed meeting a genuine celebrity, although I have to admit I had never heard of her before, not being a Harry Potter fan. Miriam Margolyes is a British actress who played Professor Sprout in Harry Potter, among other roles, and some of our group recognized her around town. She came to visit us at the villa and talked to us about her home in Montisi and the new movie she’s about to shoot with Tom Conti and Daryl Hannah. Miriam is on the left in this picture.