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Campanae Mundi da Vinci

posted Jul 17, 2011, 5:02 PM by Jen Hayes   [ updated Jul 18, 2011, 3:24 AM ]
Wednesday was a whirlwind of a day.  We began with an hour’s drive out to the hills of Umbria to Monsanto Winery, where we got to take a tour and learn more about the winemaking process.  A system of tunnels winds below the winery and connects to the family’s private cellar, where thousands of bottles are stored.  Dust covered bottles dated back to Monsanto’s first vintage in 1963, and one tunnel was lined by a series of wine-filled enclaves, each with a dated wrought iron gate and a name.  Our guide explained that each child born into the Monsanto family is given 100 of the best
bottles of wine from their birth year’s vintage, saved until they turn 20, then handed over for the child’s use or collection.  Talk about a birthday present!  We tasted through a flight of wines after the tour: a partially stainless-steel fermented chardonnay, a Chianti classico, and finally a cabernet sauvignon named Nemo, from the Latin for “no one.”  The name was chosen as a reflection of the cabernet’s status as an uncommon grape to be grown in the region; a stranger in a strange land.

San Gimignano
From this easy start to the day we continued on, flying through Siena and San Gimignano before we could catch our breath in Vinci, where we were to perform our concert of the day.  We set up in the beautiful Chiesa di Santa Croce, the church where Leonardo da Vinci was baptized.  After dinner we were waiting outside the church when two large Hungarian bands passed through the streets, led by majorettes and trailed by a crowd of enthusiastic listeners.  The band stopped just in front of the church, and we were thrilled when many of the crew put their instruments away and joined our large audience.

Many of us may have been hot and tired before getting on stage, not to mention full from a delicious dinner of pasta, barley salad, veal, pork, tuscan beans, and more.  But the excitement and interest of the audience revived our spirits.  William introduced our group in fluent Italian to the assembled crowd as we stood smiling behind him.  He conducted the down-beat of Call to Celebration and we were off to a beautifully-played concert.  After we played the last notes of Con te Partiro, our final piece, the church was filled with applause and many curious Italians came up to the tables to get a closer look at the bells and to try them out for themselves.  Our Italian vocabulary is slowly building, but there was plenty of miming and gesturing to bridge the language gap.  Smiles beamed on both sides of conversations as meanings became understood and bell techniques were shared with intrigued audience members.

After the concert we were greeted with a welcome spread of pistachio cookies, doughnuts, coke, and vin santo -- as our hosts put it, a perfect blend of Italian and American, the same as our concert.  Slowly we regrouped at the bus to pack up our equipment and begin the ride home.  When we reached the villa well after midnight we sat down to glasses of wine, but soon retired to our individual rooms to get some much-needed sleep.  Everyone wants to be awake for chocolate tasting tomorrow!