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Report 673: Tuscan Rambles

By Doug Phillips from Canada, Spring 2004

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Page 6 of 17: Day 5 – Wednesday May 5: Siena and Montepulciano

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Montepulciano, from our balcony at Villa Nottola

We were on the road to Siena by 8:30am. Instead of taking the Autostrada, we drove west over to San Quirico d’Orcia and took the SS2 up through Buoncenvento, approaching Siena from the south. As we approached the city, heavy traffic and road repair work moved us along like a cork in a stream. We spotted the train station on our right, turned off and luckily found a parking spot.

From there it was a ten-minute uphill walk to inside the medieval walls of the city. We made our way to the Campo where we enjoyed the view and toured the interesting Civic Museum. The weather was cool and wet, not suitable to enjoying the Campo from one of the many restaurants.

We had an enjoyable lunch at the Antica Trattoria Papei in the market square behind the Campo. The service was very casual and entertaining. We wanted some wine with our lunch, but thought a full bottle was too much, so we asked for a half bottle. The waiter brought a full bottle to the table and indicated how much we should drink by pointing to an imaginary line.

After lunch, we toured the Duomo and walked around the busy shopping district in the streets surrounding the Campo. Our first purchase on entering the city earlier in the morning was an umbrella. On entering any store in Siena, and likely most other cites, there is an umbrella stand. You leave your umbrella at the door and retrieve it on the way out. A small indication of the civility of everyday life in Tuscany.

We returned from Siena in the late afternoon. Once away from the city we again enjoyed the drive through the small towns and beautiful countryside.

For our evening meal, we drove up the hill to Montepulciano - see photo, parked within a few steps of the Porta al Prato and walked up the rain-slicked Corso to the restaurant in the Caffé Poliziano. There was only one other couple in the restaurant, and we had an enjoyable meal with very attentive service. I asked the waiter to recommend some nearby vineyards. He gave us a short list of the highly regarded properties. I checked out his recommendations in Carla Capalbo’s The Food and Wine Lover’s Companion to Tuscany and decided to visit some before we left.

Brunello wines from the area around Montalcino enjoy a very good reputation. The better ones can be quite expensive. Vino Nobile wines from the area around Montepulciano are just as good, to my untrained palate, and are much more affordable.

I was a bit surprised to learn that there are more than fifty wine-producing properties in the area around Montepulciano. The wines at Villa Nottola are reasonably priced and very good. We purchased several bottles in the cantina below our apartment, one bottle of Vino Nobile even made its way back to Canada. We also bought two litres of olive oil at the cantina, used up one while there and saved the second for Canada. If you have never been to Italy, you might find olive oil a rather odd item to be mentioning, but you’ll understand when you get there.

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