Tuscany (Part 2)
After a lazy breakfast in the hot sunshine we bid our farewells to the wedding party and set off for a thirty minute drive through the Tuscan countryside to reach the villa at Montecastello. Set in the foothills at the end of a 5km dusty gravel road and with just a couple of near neighbours it was idyllic.
In the heat of the afternoon sun we chilled out on the patio under a large umbrella looking across towards the distant towers of San Gimignano.
Later, as the afternoon drew on and the temperature dropped a bit we headed back down the road to Colle d’Esta, the local town just a short drive away. We parked in the new town and took an elevator up to the old town perched on a rocky escarpment with wide views.
We wandered around the quiet streets, poking our head into the church and a small gallery.
Back in the new town we had a quick stop at a grocery store where we stocked up on a few bits and pieces, including some delicious looking steaks to put on the barbeque.
Back at the villa it was a pleasant temperature outside and so wit There was the most glorious sunset and we stayed outside as the light faded and the dancing lights of the fireflies appeared.
Wednesday - Pienza, Querico, Montalcino
Wednesday was another bright, hot day and we were off fairly early on a long drive through the Tuscan countryside to the hilltop village of Pienza south of Siena in the Val d’Orcia.
Photo: David Bramhall
The town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and we enjoyed a wander through the sunny streets to the central Palazzo Piccolomini overlooked by the Duomo. This offered a cool sanctuary and the cracks in the starry vault caught our eyes as we wandered through the still place. Next door the much plainer San Frecesco was less ostentatious.
Outside we took a stroll through the delightful, narrow backstreets before returning to the main Piazza and taking a look around the Museo Diocesano in the Palazzo Vescovile which houses a number of equisitive renaissance artworks, the huge cope of Pope Pius II and several wonderful illuminated manuscripts.
Our walk took us then back along the front of the town with the church spire ahead and gave picturesque views out over the Tuscan countryside.
Our next stop was San Quirico d’Orcia down in the valley below Pienza.The little town was bedecked with flags but it was quiet in the heat of mid-afternoon. We headed down to the beautiful Collegiata which was rebuilt in 12th century over an 8th century original.
Further down the road we stumbled on a bust of the famous Italian racing driver Tazio Nuvolari, commemorating his participation in the Mille Miglia which passes through the town every year.
The day’s final stop was in Montalcino, another impressive Tuscan hilltown, this time with a substantial fortress, the Rocca, at one end. The views out over the town and the rolling hills were emphasised by the roiling cumulunimbus clouds which were building ever higher.
We headed up to the austere dumo but as the skies greyed and rain started to threaten it seemed prudent to seek shelter in the Museo Civico e Diosecano d'Arte Sacra.
After looking around the collection of religious art and statues we headed down to the fascinating Etruscan archaeological collection which was really well laid out and had some interesting artefacts.
The day finished with more drinks on the terrace and a slightly muted sunset.