Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1905: Firenze, Cinque Terre, and Tuscany Hill Towns
By ktp from California, USA, Spring 2011
Page 4 of 5: The Hill Towns of Tuscany - Three Nights
Along the route to Volterra
The weather was starting to turn and our bright blue Alpha Romeo coupe was awaiting us in La Spezia. We had a wonderful breakfast in Sarzana at a roadside café off the autostrada.
About two hours later we were in a cold and rainy Volterra. The beautiful medieval town was shrouded in fog. The roman amphitheater and baths were wonderfully preserved and used to be the town garbage dump! We ducked into a take-away pizza shop where we at Schiacciata (thinner, crispier foccaccia) with sea salt and nutella, as well as excellent pizza. A fantastic and inexpensive dinner was had at Il Pozzo Oegli Etruschi. My husband raved about the stuffed wild boar. I had the zuppa Etruscha alla Volterrana, another fantastic peasant-type soup. The roomy Albergo Nazionale fit the bill both cost- and location-wise.
The next day we drove to a rainy San Gimignano, it was full of tourists and we didn’t stay long.
Monteriggioni was a lovely, well-preserved tiny fortress built by Siena to give warning if Firenze was on the attack. The Antico Travaglio bar crafted fantastic panini (mine was pecorino, tomato, and truffle oil) and we picnicked with our wine on a bench in the main square surrounded by turrets and olive trees.
We drove on to Siena, where we stayed at the clean and friendly nun-run Alma Domus. The staff was especially wonderful at this convent turned hotel just under San Domenico church, which looks awfully austere next to Siena’s main cathedral. The relic of St. Catherine’s mummified head is especially powerful.
We visited the usual sites, Il Campo, climbed the windy Torre Mangia, spent a lot of time in the beautiful cathedral, with its lovely mosaic floor, Pisano pulpit, Bernini chapel, and legions of popes staring down at you. The Alma Domus staff recommended Osteria Il Campaccio. This well-priced meal was stellar (my husband loved the pork with prunes).
The next day we drove to Montalcino (the town that produces our favorite Brunello wines) but found the shopkeepers and Italian tourists snooty. We moved on to lovely Pienza, with its perfect Renaissance square and idyllic views. We rolled into Montepulciano late and struggled to find a value hotel, but ended up passing Albergo La Terrazza and ringing the buzzer. Roberto and his wife Vittoria were the most enthusiastic and gracious hosts. We had a large sitting room, four-poster bed, parking and excellent breakfast for €90.
We expected to stay one more night in a hill town, but frankly, we were ready to be back in the city. We found that we weren't the "rent a villa in Tuscany-type" folks. We considered sleeping in Greve in Chianti but found it soulless and overpriced, although we did have good wine and a nice walk in nearby Panzano in Chianti.
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