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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 12 of 15: Marian's First Solo Spin in the Val d'Orcia (Wednesday, 17 May)

photo by Marian

Monte Oliveto Maggiore; Tower

I get up first and have a nice breakfast at the bar. So far, since arriving in San Quirico d'Orcia, I've visited Pienza, Montepulciano, Sant' Antimo, Montalcino... Now I feel that if I take another trip to a larger town, I will get the "If this is Tuesday" syndrome. I know, I know, I am taking "Slow Travel" a bit literally, but I really have no desire to see anything else outside of this little area. Marc and Cheryl, however, want to go to Cortona, so they do. We are all happy that we have two cars.

I hang out in town in the morning, and go back to the Dedalo shop we visited on the first day. This is where I make up for all the shopping I have not yet done. Several sets of linen placemats in coordinating colors, complementary napkins, several small hand-painted ceramics with scenes of the area (including a dainty little bell!), a cheese grater that fits into an olivewood holder ---- pretty little things. I also buy some packaged seasonings at the nice little "Non Solo Latté" shop on the main square.

I have lunch at the Bar Osenna, up the street on the other side of the piazza, which has a garden in the back. Not bad, but not great. What shall I do now? I'll take a ride north into the Crete Senese, and stop off at Monte Oliveto Maggiore.

I drive up through San Giovanni d'Asso, continuing on to Asciano; I am surprised to see that this latter is a fairly large town, and somehow not appealing as a place to stop and walk. Then back down through Monteroni d'Arbia to Monte Oliveto Maggiore and the abbey. Having survived the roads of the Cilento hills, I am not intimidated even by the signs that promise twists, turns etc. And I am fine. The Crete Senese, with their oddly creased appearance, are beautiful in this season.

I arrive at Monte Oliveto rather late, and am a bit tired. So I am not happy to see that I must walk down a treacherously paved hill to get to the Abbey (my feet hurt!). Somehow, in my tiredness, I misread the signs and enter through an exit. This may have been a good thing, as I suspect that the closing time may have passed.

The structure is very large and very beautiful. Up and down, up and down to the various chapels and exhibits. But I've seen enough, and it's time to return home to San Quirico. We've made a dinner reservation next door at Il Tinaio, where we ate the first night with Jim, Diana, Maureen and Franco. So I want to get home in time to rest and shower. Driving home is, again, a piece of cake.

Dinner is lovely. Another bottle of wine, the same Rosso di Montalcino that we enjoyed the first night (but less of it!). The waiter is again gracious; he has been greeting us with a smile every time we pass him in the street. That's the thing about staying in a town the size of San Quirico d'Orcia; you feel that you know some of the people and that they recognize you. It makes, somehow, for a very pleasant feeling.

And so to bed. But not before our usual sitting-in-the-living-room time. We read, or write, or knit, or watch television in the smaller salotto. The "public rooms" in our apartment are so big, that one evening I sat down to read and it was a full fifteen minutes before I realized that Cheryl was sitting at the table at the other end of the room, knitting. Yes, I am often oblivious, but the room is that big.

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