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Report 1918: Navigating in Tuscany and Liguria

By BOB THE NAVIGATOR from usa, Spring 2011

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Page 3 of 4: Montepulciano and Southern Tuscany

We drove to Tuscany with lunch in Siena. Paul had never seen it and we all count it among our favorite Italy destinations. There is nothing quite like lunch and people watching in the Campo.

We arrived in Montepulciano at 17:00 and found our apartments (Politian Apartments) in the south end of town. Be sure you have good driving directions, which we did thanks to the thoughtful owner, Giacomo Stuart. We had both of his apartments that are side by side in one building. This may be one of the best values in all of Tuscany. The views are terrific and Giacomo is a big help. Both apartments also have internet stations. We paid less than €900 for both.

We spent six nights in Montepulciano -- a definitive Tuscan hill town of about 12,000 people. Two of our days were spent exploring the town itself (read your guide book for highlights). We found the town to be most enjoyable. Be sure to catch the orange local bus service to get an overall look and feel for the town. It runs every 30 minutes and stops at about a dozen places in town, including the corner of Piazza Grande, the heart of town. It is definitely a real “hill town” that will test your legs. Some of the highlights for us included:

  • Wine tasting, all over town, but especially in Piazza Grande.
  • The wine bar at Locanda San Francesco
  • Memorable meals at Osteria Acquacheta, Café Poliziano (lunch twice), and Ristorante Al Quattro Venti
.

The most enjoyable part of the trip for me were the three days trips we had planned from our base location in Montepulciano. If you only had three days to spend in south Tuscany, and love rural landscapes, small medieval villages, and good Tuscan food, then here are three great days for you to consider:

  • Montepulciano in the morning, lunch at the wonderful Osteria La Porta in Monticchiello /monticchiello.en.php, and then a tour of La Foce gardens at 15:00 (only on Wednesdays). Call ahead to book space on her lovely terrace. Be there by 12:30.
  • Begin in Pienza in the morning, and then drive north via Santa Anna in Camprena (English Patient site) to the charming village of Castelmuzio and Locanda di Casalmustia for lunch.

    We discovered Castelmuzio thanks to Isabella Moricciani who was kind enough to show us her spectacular new rental place in the village, Casa Moricciani (also has two smaller apartments). Not cheap, but this is the nicest place I have seen in rural Tuscany, and well located for exploring much of south Tuscany. End your day with a visit to the Abbey at Oliveto Maggiore after 15:00. Take your camera to capture some spectacular Tuscan landscapes.

  • Start the day in Bagno Vignoni, then to the Abbey at Sant Antimo, and then take the white road from there to the tiny village of San Angelo in Colle for lunch at Trattoria Il Pozzo. My veal dish with porcini was among the best I can recall. End the day in the wine city of Montalcino, a long but great day in Tuscany.

These three days will give you the best of rural scenery in off-the-path Tuscany and some great food as well, minus the tour bus crowds.

Our last day in Italy was a Sunday and we decided to drive to lovely Orvieto. We were there before 10:00 and drove straight into the city and parked behind the fabulous Duomo — very easy. The girls explored the ceramic shops of Orvieto, we toured the Duomo once again, all before lunch. We then drove to our hotel near FCO — less than two hours from Orvieto. It was the Hilton Garden Inn near the airport. It is a bit of a maze to find it, but not hard if you follow the arrow signs on your right as you approach the airport. After check-in, Paul and I returned the car and caught the Hilton shuttle back to the hotel. It is only five minutes from the terminals but you need to know where you are going. The hotel was OK for an airport hotel but not cheap at €220.

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