Sunday, November 15, 2009

San Galgano Abbey

About forty kilometers (25 miles) south-east of Siena towards Grosseto in the isolated valley of the river Merse (Val di Merse) among the Siena hills, are the ruins of the mediaeval Cistercian Abbey of San Galgano.
The community of Saint Galgano became the point of reference for all the territory and of interest of the Siennese Republic. The Abbey (Abbazia) of San Galgano was built along the classic gothic forms of all Cistercian constructions, as a daughter house of Saint Bernard's Clairvaux. It was Tuscany's first pure Gothic church, and later the model for Siena Cathedral. It has the typical Cistercian plan based on a latin cross with three aisles, rich in carved capitals and rose windows, with a cloister, halls, and, atypically, a bell tower. The richness of S. Galgano and its good relationship with Siena attracted the incursions of the Florentine armies which, together with other political events, resulted in the rapid decline of the abbey beginning in the first half of 15th century. By 1550, only five monks were in the abbey and they sold off any remaining treasures plus the lead roof, sealing the fate of the building. At the beginning of the 17 C only one old and poor monk still lived between its already ruined walls. On 6 January 1786, the 36 m bell tower collapsed, sweeping away a great part of the roof of the church and in 1789 the great Abbey was definitively abandoned and become an enormous quarry of stones and columns for the builders of the area. Fortunately, from the beginning of the last century, much restoration and maintenance have been undertaken. Today it hosts nightly musical shows and concerts... visit this undiscovered jewel with us!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Tuscany

This is the most important thing on a Tuscan table along with wine.

Tuscan extra virgin olive oil is the highest quality olive oil in the world. Tuscany produces extra virgin olive oil to such a high degree that its olive oil has been given its own label of origin, in the same way as renowned wines are defined by their regional origin.

Extra virgin olive oil is the premium of all the olive oils. To register as extra virgin, it must prove to be free of any defects. Extra virgin olive oil is officially defined as an oil "obtained from the fruit of the olive tree that has not undergone any treatment other than washing, decontamination, centrifugation and filtration and has a maximum acidity of 0.8%". Only four olive varietals are allowed: Frantoio, Moraiolo, Leccino and Pendolino.

Frantoio Sanminiatese is a small family-owned olive oil factory in the heart of Tuscany. They produce four types of extra virgin olive oil. The Oleum (the tallest bottle in the middle) is my favorite, it's an unfiltered extra virgin olive oil obtained from highly selected olives.
Visit the Annessi family with us and get to taste their labor of love and passion. Viva l' Olio Toscano!


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