Gladiator, The English Patient, Under the Tuscan Sun, even Twilight. There one thing that all these movies have in common: Tuscany. And after seeing each of them I dreamed and imagine what it would be like to walk the streets the characters in them did. So Tuscany was on my bucket list, but I had never hoped to get there so soon. Seems like dreams can come true, with a bit of planning and will, plus, of, course, some money. So after a short stopover in Siena, we headed for the Tuscan hills.
Since we were going to do this, we decided we’d do it properly. Rent a car, sleep in the countryside and wonder around. We stayed in an idyllic place. San Giorgio Agriturismo. A farm build round 1400, obviously refurbished, but kept in perfect conditions. Everything was very rustic, but extremely comfortable. Vaulted ceilings and wood beams, stone pavements, green shutters, old furniture, cool rooms to escape the summer heat and a huge fireplace in the shared kitchen. Plus a fenceless garden, a pool with a view to the hills and even some sheep grazing nearby. And the best, the absolute best thing about this farm, were the fireflies. Yes, fireflies! It was for the first time in my life that I saw such a wonder. I had seen one in Cinque Terre and got totally excited, but to sit by the pool on a starry summer night and be surrounded by flying lights is absolutely amazing (It’s important to know they only appear in the period before the harvest of the wheat, sometimes in June-July.)
We only spent two days in the Tuscan countryside. On the first one we did a little tour, with the main points of interest Pienza, Montepulciano and Montalcino. But on our way there we stopped countless times only to take photos of the golden fields, green cholines, olive orchards, perfectly aligned cypress trees, the farms and villas perched on the hills, the clouds, the sky and pretty much everything else. We took a longer break in a magical place called Bosco della Ragnaia. That’s a forest full of messages, sculptures and elements with all sorts of more or less hidden meanings. During the day it’s an interesting experience, but I suspect during the night the place can get slightly creepy.
Pienza was a very pleasant surprise. Even thought I was looking forward to the other two stops with greater interest, I think this quiet little town was my favourite one. Narrow carfree streets, pots of flowers, green shrub and all sorts of vegetation on the doors and windows of the houses. On one of the sides of the city there’s an allet that starts at one ends and finishes at the other and offers a panoramic view to the entire valley below. At Gelateria BuonGusto we had an awesome icecream, made, if you can believe it, out of kiwi and spinach. And keep in mind I hardly tolerate spinach, let alone love it.
Montepulciano is slightly bigger, has a central square that’s pretty minimal and sober, but interestingly shaped, narrow winding streets and lots of stores that sell the very appreciated wines produced in the area. What’s nice about these little Tuscan cities is the fact that they are set up high and therefore offer a great view to all the surrounding area. Especially true for Montepulciano.
We ended the day in Montalcino. We got there around 8 pm, so pretty much everything was closed and the atmosphere was kind of numb. There were some people hanging out on the terraces, we saw a nice church and a castle. But the most spectacular thing about Montalcino was, by far, the sunset. To see the fiery red sun sink into the green and golden hills is not half as bad. It made for one great finale for our daytrip.
The second day, we said goodbye to the pool and countryside peace and started off towards Florence. We made a long stop in San Gimignano, the town with the most medieval towers to withstand the years. Apparently, in medieval times, in Tuscany, everybody used to build a tower to prove it’s importance and class and, in case of conflicts between rival families, the losers tower would be destroyed. If in Siena you can see lots of remains of ancient towers, San Gimignano proudly shows of 14 ones that are still standing. Before departing, after plenty of tower gazing and climbing, we treated ourselves to an amazing icecream, from Gelateria Dondoli.
And than we were of to Chianti. The initial plan was to take our time with the road, admire the scenery, stop for photos and such. The only problem was that, due to some mix up in routes and wrong estimations of the hours, but mostly to the fact that we had to take the car to Florence by 6 pm sharp, or otherwise get penalized, we had to make and extremely swift journey through the famous Via Chiatigiana. What we did see as the car was flying by on the serpentines, was an extremely picturesque road that was going up and up and looked more like the mountains, than the hills. There were lots of coniferous trees and the air was nice and fresh. Every now and then, the trees gave way to carefully arranged vineyards. Anyway, give the very abrupt and unsatisfying end to our Tuscan trip, we concluded we had to come back at some point to finish what we started.