Well, everything you’ve heard about this region is true, it’s absolutely beautiful. We had nice weather today although a bit cloudy at times which made picture taking a challenge, but even these photos can’t hide the gorgeous countryside.
We left Lirici after our nice breakfast by the port and took off for Siena. We thought long and hard about it but we decided to forego Florence this trip. A common issue with driving into Italian cities nowadays is that if you want to get to the city center where everything interesting is, they are frequently deemed restricted areas and unless you live there or are entering in a tourist bus or other similar vehicle, you can’t park in there are must find another way in. Florence is like this now and since I have been there before (it’s amazing) and Jack wasn’t feeling that he just had to see it, we thought we’d skip the crowds and hassle with the car and go instead to Siena and then do a drive from there through the back roads of Tuscany into Montepulchiano to stay for our last night before Rome.
Siena is also a city center restricted zone so we saw a parking space a half hour walk from there and we nabbed it. We somehow found our way through hills and winding tiny alleys to the main plaza.
As you can see, it is huge. There were restaurants lining the side of the square not shown in the picture and we were lucky to find a table for lunch. Jack was very pleased with his first pasta of the trip. The long walk was worth seeing this very nice city but the best was yet to come.
Glorious countryside for miles and miles. The hills were a bit brown and some crops turned under for the winter but those are small complaints. It’s simply beautiful and the pictures really don’t do it justice.
What could top that you say? In my opinion, it was the incredible medieval city of Montepulchiano. (I know it’s a mouthful). I couldn’t get a good shot of it, but you turn the corner on a little two lane road in the countryside shown above and there it is, looming on top of a hill, ancient looking in all it’s glory.
I wanted in! We did have to deal with getting a place to stay though and by now it was about 5:30. Luckily we saw a tourist office so we thought we’d go in and ask for a recommendation. They were so accommodating, the woman working there spoke wonderful English, she asked what we were looking for and then said the city was booked but she has some other options and she got us a room in the Hotel Panorama (the name says it all) on top of another hill 2k from the city. It’s the nicest room we have had yet on the road trip for a price less than what we have paid for several others and who could possibly say anything but good things about a place with this vending machine?
Yes, those are full bottles of wine in there. 🙂
After dropping our stuff, we rushed back to the city since I wanted to see all I could while there was light and so we parked the car and starting walking up, up and more up.
This was an alley with an unusual sort of brick ramp as well as steps.
Just one example of many such passageways.
Obviously, the people this passage was built for were quite a bit smaller than Jack.
This is the medieval tower house with a bell that chimes every hour. The facade of the church is stone that is simply worn from age.
I can’t say enough about this town, I loved it. The tiny shops lining the tiny streets were full of real quality wares, not the normal tourist stuff. Amazing leather goods, the nicest original jewelry I have seen yet on this trip, a ceramic shop with hand painted bowls, platters etc. with Tuscan scenes. The kiln for firing the work was in the shop and the small items we bought there were sold by the artist herself.
And the wine! We had a wine in an outdoor bar right across from the the tower in the photo above that was superb and then we went to a tiny store and bought some bottles that the owner recommended. When I mentioned to her how lucky she was to have a shop in such a beautiful place she said, “Oh, we live here too (she and her husband) and we don’t even notice it anymore”. I don’t know how this is possible.
Before I end this entry, I have to recount a little happening from last night that was kind of funny but also reminder for travelers abroad. Jack and I were pretty tired from the trip from France, train and auto etc., so when we got to Lirici we wanted dinner and it was getting late and was dark. He needed to charge his phone so he left it there an we took off to walk several blocks to the port area for dinner. After dinner, he had a idea for a shortcut and so we went back another way. Well, you can guess what happened next, we got lost. Lirici is a small town and it shuts down pretty early on Sunday night, very few people were around, it is built on a hill so we were trudging uphill looking for a way to get over to where were thought we needed to go, after realizing we really didn’t know where we were, we also realized (while walking past an ambulance office filled with people who might be able to help us ) that we did not know the name of the street we were looking for and that we had forgotten the name of the hotel (booked through booking.com on Jack’s phone which we did not have). We were lost and we didn’t know what we were looking for! Obviously a cautionary tale since I think we are pretty capable travelers for the most part. Well, we turned back around and retraced everything and were able to get back to where we had dinner and then find the hotel. I was just glad we didn’t have to ask for help and admit we didn’t even know the name or street of the hotel we were looking for!