The Daily Diary of a Wandering Restaurateur
Winter Planning Session: Out and About in Tuscany

The plan was to catch the street market in Sinalunga this morning. Margene is looking for a hat (a fedora specifically) and we are always ready for porchetta (roast pig), a staple at Italian street markets. The day was foggy but living on the coast as we do, naively figured it would burn off in an hour or so. We forgot that while that may be true on the coast, we are a long way from the ocean in Tuscany!

We found Sinalunga easily enough, but there was no trace of the market. Usually they are set up in the city center but we drove all around and came up empty. Either we simply missed it or the markets are discontinued in the winter season. Either way, no porchetta today.

We did stumble on a for-real shopping mall, the first we have seen in Italy with the exception of gallerias in Milan and Rome. They had a huge COOP supermarket in the complex where Margene was able to find her favorite chocolate wafer cookies. Now if her stomach will only heal enough to eat them ...

We drove over to Lake Trasimeno in Umbria (our old stomping grounds) but couldn't find anyplace that wasn't socked in. So while burning fossil fuel is the American thing to do, we thought we would give up on this futile effort to see some of the sights and just head back to the house. Imagine our surprise when we got there and discovered that Montepulciano was probably the only place in the area that had sun! That was the good news. The bad news is that everything in the valley was still socked in, so there was no purpose in attempting any more exploring today.

We were ready for lunch, but where to go? With the Osteria closed for the next ten days the choices were limited. We certainly didn't want to climb the steep slope to the Piazza Grande so we took the easy way out and tucked in to the tiny Sax Wine Bar next to the Osteria. How bad could it be?

I should have known that every time I ask that question, I invariably get the answer. Don't get me wrong, it was adequate ... but without a real kitchen -- a fact we didn't discover until we were seated and the owners were eyeing us expectantly -- I knew it wasn't going to be anything memorable. Margene had some ribollita and I tried their pizza.

OK, so Sax is not going to be our new favorite place. But we had to wonder how a place that could seat a max of 16 people inside (and maybe 8 more on the terrace in good weather) could afford to keep the doors open. So while I can't give rave reviews to their cuisine, I will give them a lot of respect for hanging in there.

So we returned to our little hidey-hole on the top floor of the palazzo and assumed our normal positions -- Margene on the couch with her quilt and her Kindle and me in the corner tapping out deathless prose on my trusty computer. Wifi has made that process SO much easier than when we first started coming to Europe and had to do it all with dial-up. You needed a phone line, of course, and very few rental properties had phones. That is still true. Evviva per il progresso!

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