Friday, October 24, 2014

Tuscany - Montepulciano and Pienza

For some reason in my last week of my holiday, I didn't update my diary, so I only have photos to go on.  On this morning, I spent the morning repacking my suitcase, and packing a light back for 4 days in Italy, as after that, I was flying home.

Over the previous weeks, I had tried to change my flight so I could join Anne in Spain for a few days. Flight Centre in Blenheim didn't answer emails in a timely enough fashion, so what should have taken a couple of days, took 3 weeks, and by that time, flights to Spain had become expensive so I missed out. When I got back to Blenheim, NZ, I went into Flight Centre, and made an official complaint at the way it was handled.  They took the details and said they would get back to me. I never even got a courtesy of a reply. Nothing.  I will never book with Flight Centre again.  Their customer service absolutely sucks.  They blamed staff shortages, but in my opinion, that is no excuse. How long does it take to reply to an email?

My foot was still very sore, from the Plitvice Lakes, and I think I was still tired so appreciated a slow day.  I had kept all the maps of everywhere I had been, but they take up space and are heavy, so I spent some time photographing them. 

I can't for the life of me remember if Anne came home first and we went to the airport together, or if I met her at the airport.  I think I met her at the airport!  And we flew out to Florence.  We arrived quite late at night and got a taxi to the hostel.

Steven was there waiting for us and the hostel manager literally poured jugs of red wine into us until the early hours of the morning.  I was surprised I wasn't hungover the next day!

We left at a reasonable hour in the morning  - and got a taxi to our rental car place.  We picked it up from this garage where classic cars were being worked on. Steven is just checking one of his photos on his toy camera!

We then drove to my friend's place in Montepulciano.  Vicky and I worked together at ACNielsen many years ago, and she is now living here with her family. After a few wrong turns we found her place.  She then took us to the Montepulciano village where they were busy laying out the red carpet for us...

Montepulciano is a medieval and Renaissance hill town and comune in the Italian province of Siena in southern Tuscany. It sits high on a 605-metre (1,985 ft) limestone ridge, 13 kilometres (8 mi) east of Pienza, 70 kilometres (43 mi) southeast of Siena, 124 kilometres (77 mi) southeast of Florence, and 186 kilometres (116 mi) north of Rome by car.

Montepulciano is a major producer of food and drink. Renowned for its pork, cheese, "pici" pasta, lentils, and honey, it is known world-wide for its wine. Connoisseurs consider its Vino Nobile, which should not be confused with varietal wine merely made from the Montepulciano grape, among Italy's best.

The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, or the Duomo of Montepulciano, constructed between 1594 and 1680, includes a masterpiece from the Sienese School, a massive Assumption of the Virgin triptych painted by Taddeo di Bartolo in 1401.
The Palazzo Comunale, designed in the tradition of the Palazzo della Signoria (Palazzo Vecchio) of Florence

Vicky had a couple of things to do so we wandered around these buildings for 20 minutes or so and then met up with her again to go and try some wine...

We then wandered up the hill...

to get some amazing views...

On the way back to the car, we came across a wine shop selling vintage wines for 25 euros a bottle.  I bought one for Anne 1985 vintage. I'm still wondering what it'll be like!

The streets were really narrow and a car tried to go past.  I jokingly said I needed to lose weight and the lovely driver called out - 'no no - my car needs to lose weight'.  I want to marry him. And live happily ever after in Italy. Drinking red wine in the sun over those gorgeous views.

When we walked back into the square we found the red carpet hadn't been rolled out for us afterall, but for a whole lot of motorbikes - Hmph!

Vicky then drove us to a tiny little medieval village between Montepulciano and Pienza. called Monticchiello.

Those poppies growing wild - are just lovely.

The Village was really beautiful.

And the food was amazing at La Porta.  I'm still disappointed I didn't do Vicky's recommendation for dessert.  In fact, I'm craving it now. The restaurant specialised in Tuscan food of the area, and it was lovely. You can see the menu at the above link.

After lunch, Vicky left us to wander around the village, and said she'd meet up with us for Icecream in Pienza at 4pm. So we wandered around this tiny village.

I'd love a car like this. Betcha it would run on the smell of an oily rag...

The buildings were lovely...

At the top of the hill was an open air art gallery which looked great.  There was also a tower, but that was closed.

On the buildings both here and in Pienza were these metal rings.  I never did find out what they were used for, but wondered if they were there to tie up horses?

Views to die for...

On the way to Pienza we stopped to take photos several times as the landscapes were amazing..

Our first view of Pienza...

The view from Pienza that we had just driven in...

Old cobblestoned streets and architecture.  Pienza, a town and comune in the province of Siena, in the Val d'Orcia in Tuscany (central Italy), between the towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino, is the "touchstone of Renaissance urbanism"

In 1996, UNESCO declared the town a World Heritage Site, and in 2004 the entire valley, the Val d'Orcia, was included on the list of UNESCO's World Cultural Landscapes.

Here's one of those dodackies again that I don't know what they're used for...

Vicky and family.  They've grown up a bit more now..

Can I come and Nanny for you Vicky?

After sadly saying goodbye, we drove to Siena.  It took a while to find a park - the city is so confusing, but we got there in the end, just on sunset...

We dropped our bags and and went for a stroll, for a short while just to get bearings for the next day, and to find something to eat!

No comments: