Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 673: Tuscan Rambles
By Doug Phillips from Canada, Spring 2004
Page 9 of 17: Day 8 – Saturday May 8: Valdipiatta, San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, Latte di Luna
Tomas and BW in the hillside cave at Tenuta Valdipiatta
Today we intended to spend the day in the area northwest of Siena, but we got waylaid a short distance from our apartment. As we were going up the hill to Montepulciano, we noticed, not for the first time, a sign for Tenuta Valdipiatta, one of the recommended vineyards on our list. We decided on a short detour, turned left onto an unpaved road and drove for about a kilometer until we came to a small group of buildings. We entered one, were shown into a tasting room and were introduced to Tomas, a marketing agent for the vineyard.
We enjoyed a tasting of several different wines, all of which were very good. Then Tomas offered to show us around the property. I don’t know if everybody gets the same reception at Valdipiatta, but ours was a very pleasant and amiable experience. Tomas showed us all areas of production, unlocked the heavy wooden doors and took us into the caves in the side of a hill where the wines were stored in large oak casks - see photo. Tomas was friendly, informative and accommodating. We were at Valdipiatta for about an hour and a half. We bought two bottles of excellent Vino Nobile, including a Riserva, both of which we brought back with us. Later in our holiday, we saw Tomas walking with friends on the Corso in Montepulciano. He stopped and we chatted for a couple of minutes. Nice guy.
So there we were, back on the winding hills of central Tuscany after a mid-morning wine tasting, trying to make our way to San Gimignano. We headed over to San Quirico d’Orcia, turned north on the SS2 and drove in the direction of Siena. On the outskirts of Siena, we took the Poggibonsi Nord exit, drove several kilometers on SS429 until we reached Poggibonsi; and then followed the signs to San Gimignano.
Even in early May, San Gimignano was busy with tourists like ourselves, especially since it was a weekend. I have read somewhere that the best time to visit San Gimignano is in the late afternoon or early evening when most day-trippers (like us!!) have left but that wasn’t an option. The most striking features of the town are the medieval towers, which survived partly due to the onset of the Black Death in the 14th century.
We found a spot in the busy parking lot, entered the town via the Porta San Giovanni, walked up the Via San Giovanni to the pair of linked central squares: Piazza della Cisterna and Piazza del Duomo. The village is tiny, around 750 metres from end to end, and everything worth seeing is within easy walking distance. We toured the Civic Museum and enjoyed a pleasant lunch at Osteria delle Catene.
In the late afternoon we departed San Gimignano and headed back in the direction of Siena. We stopped at the tiny walled hamlet of Monteriggioni, famous for its perfect ring of tower-studded walls that earned it a mention in Dante’s Inferno. There cannot be many smaller places in Tuscany than Monteriggioni, but it is well worth a visit.
Our morning dalliance at Valdipiatta cut into our visit to this area. I also had wanted to visit Volterra. Next time.
It was after 6:30pm when we left Monteriggioni. We had no plans for dinner, but on the drive back, we decided to press our luck and try to get into Latte di Luna in Pienza for a second time without reservations. We parked in the now-familiar parking lot outside the walls and hurried to the restaurant, making it for the 7:30 opening. Our luck held and just as we were seated others were being turned away at the door. This time our table was beside a pillar.
After another excellent meal, we decided to return to Latte di Luna a third time. Before we left, we made reservations for 8:00pm the following Thursday.
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