Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Straight pool in the heart of Tuscany

Siena, Italy - Piazza del Campo
viewed from the Arch
 I have the pleasure of sometimes working in Siena, Italy.  Siena has become one of my favorite places in the world, and if you ever go to Italy I recommend visiting this incredible town.  To this day, the city projects a medieval aura through architecture and tradition, perhaps most evident during the two horse races that are run each year in the middle of the city on the Piazza del Campo.

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All that is great, but there is ABSOLUTELY NO POOL OR BILLIARDS in Siena.  The closest pool hall is about 20 km away in a town called Poggibonsi.  A couple of weeks ago, I made my way to Poggibonsi to try to find me some pool, and was lucky enough to meet a great player there, Vittorio.  

Vittorio's game is straight pool, which.... I suck at.  He trounced me a few times that night, but we exchanged information to try to match up in the future (oh and he also trounced me at 10-ball).
The next day, he contacted me saying that he would be having a few people over for lunch that Saturday at his house.  Awesome!!!

I went over there, through buses and taxis - he lives in the Tuscan countryside, absolutely amazing views from his place- lots of Chianti wine and olive oil is produced around here, as you can see :)

Vittorio's olives
View from Vittorio's driveway
The house is about 200 meters from a small castle, the Castello della Paneretta.  Vittorio's house actually incorporates an 11th century tower which served as outpost to another castle which no longer exists.

Il Castello della Paneretta

Vittorio's 11th century tower

The house was amazing - especially the setting for his beautiful 8-footer - you can see some of Vittorio's collection, including a crossbow, various pool trophies, porcelain dishes etc...

Vittorio destroying me at straight pool

A classy chalk holder

Check out his pool lamp : the fixing is made from an old yoke from an ox cart.  Fits in great with the fireplace, the house, and the entire countryside for that matter!

Coolest lamp fixture I've ever seen

Vittorio cooked up some amazing food - part of it traditional italian, but also RIBS.  Yes, ribs - and he did have to specify "I did not make these special for you, I have been planning on trying to make ribs for the last three months"!  Indeed, ribs are hard to find in Italy...

Ribs cooking in the fireplace :)

In addition to the ribs, some fantastic turkey and chicken, beef steaks, prosciutto, artichoke paste, potatoes, peppers, and myriad other traditional Italian food was served.  It was a feast.  

The other meats

 The wine :

Non-traveling wine
See the label?  That's the castle pictured earlier in the post - talk about local products!

Turkey and chicken, cheese and prosciutto, bread, honey
After lunch, we went to the tower, where we proceeded to jam out a bit, me on piano, Vittorio on drums and a friend of his on bass.  It was OK, but I really suck at playing the standards, even with the fakebook.  Turns out Vittorio is an excellent jazz drummer as well.
After that short jam session, we shot some pool.  Scratch that, we shot a TON of pool.  Plenty of straight pool, plenty of one-pocket, a couple other silly games, but we played for hours and hours.  took a bit of time to get used to the table, but I got in stroke after a bit and enjoyed every second.

While Vittorio and I were indulging in our addiction to billiards, a couple of the other guests went out into the woods to pick mushrooms - they came back with a nice, full basket of all different kinds of mushrooms.   Vittorio went through the lot and threw out all the poisonous/untasty ones and this is the filtered result.

Mushroom harvest!
Vittorio drove me back to the bus station in Poggibonsi just on time for me to catch the last bus to Siena.
Back in Siena, I sat down at some random restaurant and wound up talking the whole time to this guy from Ecuador who was telling some crazy stories about how he was in jail in Tijuana and how he got stabbed in the back in Ecuador.  Great stuff!  All in all, that was one of the best Saturdays I've had in a while.
Cool thing is that Vittorio has a buddy in Siena that is willing to drive me over to Poggibonsi whenever so that we can all shoot some pool!