Touring Tuscany 


When given the opportunity to plan a three day road trip in Tuscany the options appeared endless and the choices confusingly abundant. To attempt to simplify the process we set the criteria to a circular drive, not too many miles, avoid the major tourist centres like Florence and Siena, which are destinations in their own right and choose somewhere interesting to stay. 

170622 1 Night 1 Pitigliano Medieval City

Our first glimpse of Pitigliano

170622 19 Night 1 Pitigliano The reason for the small trucks is clear170623 2 Breakfast at La Casa Degli Archi beautiful view170623 7 Pitigliano Synagogue and historical jewish quarter Bakery

So with our trusty rented Fiat 500CC we were off late on Thursday 22nd heading south from the marina to the town of Pitigliano. Our first view of this medieval town perched high on the tuff cliffs above the Lente Valley was one of excitement. We couldn’t believe our fortune in having selected a village so understated for its beauty for our first night. Leaving the car several blocks from the accomodation was a necessity as the tiny cobblestone streets barely accommodated the small trucks and scooters that wove their way amongst the people through the maze of streets. Our lodging  La Casa Degli Archi was literally at the end of the village perched on the corner of hillside. Expecting a standard room each, we were surprised to be accommodated in a spacious apartment complete with fully equipped kitchen and bay windows looking down to the valley below. with hallways carved from the tuff stone. It was so tempting at that point to throw the plans for the next two days out the window and simply take up residence. 
When we thought our day couldn’t not get any better we headed to the recommended restaurant for dinner Trattoria Il Grillo. Here we found the main room full but the restauranteur offered us to take up the table in the back room - really the staff table - but what a dining area it turned out to be for the night. Quiet, private, with walls that were over a 1000 years old, lined with shelves of wine from around the region. The local food was fantastic but we are certain our taste buds were heavily influenced by the atmosphere and service. 

170622 9 Night 1 Pitigliano Medieval City Water fountain

Before leaving Pitigliano on Friday morning we wandered the cobblestone streets. It is impossible to get lost as there are literally only a few streets to wander.  We visited the Jewish Quarter which was established here in the middle of the 16th Century and was once home to a large population of Jewish people. Today only a handful of Jewish remain but the Jewish association has set about trying to preserve their history within the town and it was a unique opportunity to walk through the tuff caves and see the remains of the ritual baths, baking house, kosher butcher, wine cellar and the Synagogue which had been restored in the 1960’s but unfortunately no longer holds services as there are not enough males left in the village.Pitigliano although definitely influenced by tourism had a real charm about it. Everywhere you wandered people were going about their daily lives, gathering water from the town fountain, sewing outside there homes, gathering on benches to talk and no doubt people watch as we the tourists past by. Definitely a special place to visit. 

170622 16 Night 1 Pitigliano By Night Light

Pitligano at Night

170623 11 Great lunch with passionate restauranteur Danny Eehgia Bistro Sorano

From Pitigliano we decided to take in the other two villages that form the trio of Tuff villages in this area. Tuff or “turo” is a volcanic porous rock that can be carved into buildings or to make building blocks. Both Sorana and Sovana are perched on hillsides and created out of the Tuff. Though impressive we all felt none could match the splendour of Pitgliano. We did however meet in Sorano new restauranteur Danilo who had recently opened his restaurant Eehgia Bistro and served to us freshly produced produce and pasta made by his own hand. All we can say it was certainly the best pasta. 

170623 13 Winery Visit La Biagiola

On route to our next nights accommodation in Montepulchiano we happened upon the winery La Biagiola. Our timing was perfect as the wine maker arrived just as we had decided the place was closed. The next hour was an entertaining introduction to the wines of  La Biagiola by a very enthusiastic if not somewhat eccentric wine maker who unlike others in the region was focused on white wine, the red just happens. Of course we found a few wines we appreciated so it was becoming apparent that it was fortunate that our vehicle was not a compact.

Grande Piazza Montepulciano 

170624 6 Wine Tasting Cellars Talosa Montepulciano

Our stay in Montepulciano was at Osteria Del Borgo with a terraced restaurant that looked out over the Tuscan Valley. The hotel was perfectly placed near the Grande Piazza making it easy to take in a stroll of the town square in the evening following our meal. The buildings in the sepia light always look magnificent.

Friday morning we headed out for a walk around the town area. We gave the Museum of Torture a miss and stopped instead at the Talosa wine cellars. Here beneath the floor of the tasting room is a historical cellar that dates back to the 1500’s. It must have been past noon somewhere as we did our first wine tasting for the day. Yes more wine in the boot of the Fiat.

170624 10 Flag Performance Montepulciano
170624 11 Flag Performance Montepulciano

Just as we loaded up ready to depart the beat of drums could be heard approaching the Grande Piazza. Thankfully curiosity got the better of us and we stayed to witness  a group of traditionally dressed flag bearers march into the Piazza. Their performance with flags given the weight, size and the influence of the wind their precision was most impressive. Another unexpected bonus experience for our trip. 

170624 18 Badia a Coltibuono Gaiole in Chianti Monastery Hotel Gardens

Badia a Coltibuono a converted Monastery  and Family Winery 

170624 29b Badia a Coltibuono Gaiole in Chianti Monastery Hotel Monk Cells now rooms170624 18b Badia a Coltibuono Gaiole in Chianti Monastery Hotel The Courtyard

Our final nights accommodation was at Badia a Coltibuono Gaiole in Chianti. Gaiole itself we discovered is an area you could spend days in alone, with walking tracks, numerous castles and of course wineries. Badia a Coltibuono was once an Romanesque Monastery that dated back to 1051 that has been transformed into a wine resort. We arrived in the afternoon in time to do the tour of the Abbey, enjoy a wine tasting of the wines produced by the owners of the establishment and finally to laze by the swimming pool amongst the immaculate Italian style garden. 

Kim and Barry were accommodated in a double room that was once the cells of the monks who were the original founders of the abbey. Andrew and I were across the XVIII courtyard, up some very aged stone stairs in the relative newer area of some several hundred years of age. The Abbey had we had time offered “Tuscan Cooking Lessons” but we instead we settled on a Degustation Dinner at the restaurant accompanied by the wines of Badia a Coltibuono (Abbey of the Good Harvest). 

170625 41 Fields of Sunflowers

Fields of sunflowers make you smile 

170625 44 Citroen Cars Lee made an old man smile

So all that was left on Sunday was the drive back to the marina. Well no trip is over until it is over and our final day proved to be as enjoyable as ever. We stopped in paddocks of sunflowers to take photos, stumbled apon a car show in the town of Massa Marittima where Lee made an elder gentleman's day by admiring his Citroen (something she has always wanted), ate lunch at a quaint cafe tucked down an alleyway and Kim put her Italian to the test buying linen from a local haberdashery shop, simple pleasures of travel.

170625 50 Back onboard Katherine with Basil Kim and Barry

Back in the marina the Fiat was somewhat bulging at the boot - where had all that wine come from!

Sadly not only was the road trip over it was time for Kim and Barry to depart back to the USA.

A drive through Pisa, a quick picture of that infamous Leaning Tower and a final farewell for this time at the train station. They were on their way home - or so they thought but that is a story for them to tell.

(For more photos click this link) 

170626 9 Pisa Leaning Tower and Cathedral
© SV Katherine 2018      Cover Photo: Katherine on Anchor Isle Tabarca Spain