- Fizzy Thoughts: Italy Trip: Day Twelve

Italy Trip: Day Twelve

Friday, October 05, 2007


We backtracked south on the A1 to get to the hill towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino. Montepulciano is the highest of Tuscany's hill towns at 2000 feet. We walked around and checked out the shops and the piazza before stopping for an excellent lunch at Trattoria di Cagnano. Both the pasta and the pizza were really good. On the way back to the car we passed this kitty who was posing in his window for the tourists.

Next, it was off to Montalcino (or Monty-whatever-you-call-it, as we overheard one tourist say). They were having a festival inside the fortress that seemed to be all about the local foods. We tried lavender honey and chocolate. Mmmmmmm. We walked up and down the steep streets checking out the town. Both Montepulciano and Montalcino are famous for their wines, but we actually went a whole day without tasting a drop. The heat was getting to us, so we drank lots of water and coca cola light (how American).

After Montalcino we drove south (only 6 miles from Montalcino) to the abbey of Sant' Antimo to see the monks chant vespers. Okay, they're Regular Canons, not monks. But if I say Regular Canons will you know what I mean? The Abbazia di Sant' Antimo was built around 1100 and the outside has animals carved here and there. If you don't look up it's easy to miss all the details. The inside is very plain but beautiful, especially the wood ceiling.

We watched seven monks chant vespers at 6:30pm. We were trying so hard not to giggle beforehand because we felt so out of place. We were convinced we stood out like the pagans we are. There were people there who come to worship, in fact they outnumbered the tourists. Many of them were known to the Regular Canons, who came up to speak to them before the service. The ceremony was impressive, even though there was an occasional yawn amongst the Regular Canons. One even sneezed from the incense, then whipped out a hankie and blew his nose. After filing in from a side door, they began by chanting the liturgy. Throughout the chanting they would bow towards the altar. After awhile one Regular Canon filled the incense burner and lit it, then waved it around so it got all smoky. Then the head guy (what do you call a head monk?) in the green robes did more chanting and incense waving at the altar before they finished and filed back out. The whole ceremony lasted about 45 minutes. (And looking back on the trip, it is one of the most memorable experiences...sitting in an ancient abbey watching an ancient ceremony). No pictures were allowed during the ceremony, so you'll have to check out their website for pictures.

Then we drove home, ate leftover pizza and went to bed.

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