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Report 673: Tuscan Rambles

By Doug Phillips from Canada, Spring 2004

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Page 4 of 17: Day Three – Monday May 3: Montepulciano and Cortona

photo by The steep Corso in Montepulciano

Montepulciano, from our balcony at Villa Nottola

After looking at and driving past Montepulciano several times in our first two days, my BW and I decided to start our day with a visit to the town. We parked outside the walls and entered the town via the Porta al Prato. We had a short conversation with two American couples traveling together, but in separate cars. They kept in touch with walkie- talkies – certainly made a lot of sense.

Each of the hill towns in Tuscany is distinct. Montepulciano has a very particular layout as it has been built on a high geological ridge. There is a very long main street leading from Porta al Prato which climbs approximately 1.5km and 60 meters in elevation to Piazza Grande. The town is organized around the main street, the Corso - see photo, in a series of very steep, short narrow lanes.

Montepulciano is the most commercial of the hill towns we visited, but it is still worth a visit for the spectacular views from the town walls and the experience of walking up the main street. There are also several shops to sample and buy salumi and a wide variety of wines.

After a couple of hours, we drove east through Acquaviva and Pozzuolo, turned north on the N71 and headed to Cortona. The road approaching Cortona provides several attractive views of the city before it begins to wind up the hill. We parked outside the walls in a large tree-lined lot. When we were in Tuscany in early May parking was usually not a problem. Plus, it was inexpensive or often free, depending on the time of day and location. The most we paid for parking was €4,00 at Montalcino. At other hill towns the most we paid was €1,00. I think in the busier seasons, parking is very likely more problematic and expensive.

We walked into Cortona up the Via Guelfa to the Piazza della Repubblica where enjoyed a cappucino al fresco before spending the next few hours exploring the town. Cortona’s chief beauties are its magnificent views – its hilltop site provides a vast panorama over swathes of Tuscany and Umbria – and its picture-perfect medieval streets. Late in the afternoon we enjoyed another cappuccino outside the Teatro Signorelli, in a setting identical to one from Under The Tuscan Sun. During our wanderings we came upon the highly recommended Osteria del Teatro, which seats only 30 people. We decided to extend our visit to include dining at the restaurant.

Again, at 7:30pm and without reservations, we showed up at the door and were fortunate enough to be seated. We shared our table and a very good meal with an American mother and daughter, whom we had met earlier in the day. They were traveling through Italy by train – Cortona was on their “must see” list. We were able to recommend a familiar wine for our dinner, a Vino Nobile from Villa Nottola.

After dinner we had about a 30-minute drive back to Villa Nottola. While many of the east-west roads in our area of Tuscany were fairly busy during the day, they were almost deserted in the evening.

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