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Report 1008: 'I Vincitori' Learn to Get Lost in the Hills and Valleys of Italy

By Marian from New Jersey, Spring 2006

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Page 11 of 15: Sant' Antimo, Montalcino, a Visit to Joanna, Bagno Vignoni (Tuesday , 16 May)

photo by MarcS

Bagno Vignoni, Il Barrino: A Nice Place to Take a Break

Sant'Antimo and Monte Oliveto Maggiore are the two abbeys in the "neighborhood"; I always confuse them in my mind. Today we head off to Sant'Antimo, which we see will be on our way to Montalcino.

After not too many wrong turns, we find the abbey, which is partly under reconstruction. But the inside is cool and lovely. Fields with grazing cattle surround the abbey. It's a peaceful location.

As we leave the abbey and drive in the direction of Montalcino, we pass sign after sign for wineries. Some of them are famous, some of them not. We stop off at the Ciacci Piccolomino winery, whose wine I "know" (well, sort of). Can we visit on the spur of the moment? The closed door says by appointment only, but I knock anyway: "Posso?" Yes, of course, they say. So a young woman takes us into the tasting room and we try a few wines; this is much more elegant (but not as much fun) as our visit to De Conciliis. I buy some everyday wine which will be drunk while in Italy, and a bottle of Brunello. This will give me three bottles to bring home --- Marian! don't buy anymore!

Next stop: The famous hilltown of Montalcino. We've not eaten yet, so we have a light lunch at a caffè, sitting out and enjoying the fine weather. There are a group of American tourists sitting next to us with very loud voices and accents that grate on our ears. We realize this is the first time on our vacation that we have run into our fellow countrymen. We are annoyed and disturbed by their loud and sometimes ignorant comments about their surroundings and the caffè's offerings. But we mustn't generalize.

Montalcino has so many shops, and of course we cannot pass them by! We get some wonderful little cookies at a pastry shop and, in a shoe store we've spotted earlier, I buy a pair of spiffy Geox sneakers, which I immediately start wearing.

We leave Montalcino and head home. On the way, I try one more time to reach Joanna (an ST friend who has recently moved to Castiglione d'Orcia). And she is in: Her house is on the way "home", and we are there in ten minutes. Last time I visited Joanna, this past September, construction had begun and now she's been living in her new home for a few months. It's lovely, with spectacular views. Joanna's friend Stephanie is visiting from Brooklyn; they are leaving the next day for Turkey to buy some rugs. We toast the new house, and friendship.

Now it's time to go and, at Joanna's suggestion, we stop off at Bagno Vignoni on the way. The main "bath" is right in the middle of the town; just at the edge of town is a running stream where we sit and let the water flow over our feet. Our feet dried, we head over to the charming "Il Barrino" (also recommended by Joanna) where we sit in the early evening light, drink prosecco and nibble on nuts. It doesn't get much better than this.

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