Travels with Tim and Lisa

"If my discoveries are other people's commonplaces I cannot help it – for me they retain a momentous freshness" (Elizabeth Bowen)

Sansepolcro, 22.10.05

Posted by Lisa Hill on September 10, 2006

 It was ‘Moving Day’ so we had to be out of the house and elsewhere while Donatella cleaned La Rocca after the previous tenants had departed, so we headed off to Sansepolcro, birthplace of Piero della Francesca…
At the civic museum we saw pictures by baroque artists Santi di Tito, Raffaellino del Colle and Luca Signorelli, and of course more wonderful paintings by Piero della Francesca. The most famous one is The Resurrection, with its very muscular Christ and sleepy disciples, but I liked the Madonna della Misericordia, which is on a large panel that features a massive Mary holding her skirts wide, above some devotees. It is perhaps rather odd to contemporary eyes, but it was apparently painted to show Mary as a protector against the plague.
 The weather fortunately stayed fine while we strolled around this lovely town, described rather ungraciously in the guide book as ‘industrial’. In a side street there were players rigged out in 14th century costumes, having a break from rehearsals, and other interesting things like the plaque recording the 1944 vote for the republic. This little commemoration made me wonder why we don’t do something similar at home. Australia is the only place in the world to federate and establish a democracy without a civil war or two, and we should perhaps be more publicly proud of it.
 There was also a very pretty little church called S.Agostino, but our favourite find was of course the statue of Piero della Francesca in a gorgeous herb garden – a botanic garden really – where there were American women peacefully painting the scene. Despite a fairly determined search we couldn’t, alas, find the house Piero della Francesca was actually born in.
We had lunch at a fine restaurant recommended by Donatella. Signor Ventura looked after us most hospitably, and Tina, Thorolf and I had truffles again, this time with agnotelli. Tim, perhaps saving himself for the few remaining shreds of truffle back in the kitchen at La Rocca, had a splendid carpaccio of veal instead.
Not content with a feast for lunch, back ‘home’ in Monterchi we decided not to experiment with a new stove on our first night, and had a fine dinner in the restaurant on the piazza instead. We had rustic Tuscan vegetable soup with cannelini beans, followed by fillet steak with shavings of truffle nero and a garnish of tiny onions. For dessert I had pannacotta with chocolate and Tim had creme caramel. Feeling rather mellow after an Apero as an aperitif and two bottles of wine with the meal, we finished off with a Bowman single malt Islay and coffee. It’s a good thing we didn’t have far to walk home!
La Rocca was more comfortable than La Duetta. Just across the corner of the piazza from La Duetta, it was also within the walls in the centre of old Monterchi. Because it’s an old fortress, it had sensational views of the Umbrian and Tuscan countryside in all directions. Inside, it was lighter, brighter, and, thanks to central heating, warmer. La Duetta’s log fire was enchanting to start with, but I was getting tired of mucking about with the wood and cleaning out the grate.
Inside and outside, we now had 360 degree views and the whole place was much more spacious for four people. The bathrooms were more modern and the bedrooms were comfortable, but the general style is the rustic Tuscan stuff you’d expect, simple stuff in dark brown wood, but not terribly well made. Cabinetry is perhaps not a Tuscan strength..

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