Dreaming about an Italian vacation? If you’ve never been then you must! If you’ve been, then you’ll need little convincing to return. You could literally travel a lifetime and still not experience every angle of this beautiful country. I’ve already covered Rome in a day … so let’s get a move on and visit every wine lovers dream destination … Tuscany. Andiamo!
Like I’ve said in previous posts, create an itinerary before you leave home. We researched where in Tuscany we wanted to go, where we could find accommodation to suit our needs, how we would get there from Rome and what we wanted to see. We were definitely looking for a laid back vacation with a little bit of sightseeing, lot’s of wine tasting, great food and some off the beaten track adventures.
My advice is to choose a home base and do your day trips from there. This eliminates constantly packing and unpacking and gives you a sense of belonging … you get a feel for the culture and what it might be like to live there. You might find a favourite bar or caffè that you visit everyday for breakfast or an aperitivo … and the barista actually recognizes you! For this leg of our Italian vacation, we chose to visit Southern Tuscany and the wine route from Montepulciano to Montalcino. *map by Wine Words Wisdom (an excellent blog on everything wine)
A car is a MUST in Tuscany as public transportation is sparse and you’d miss the immense pleasure of driving your little, little car down all those winding Tuscan roads, and up those big, big hilltops where all the gorgeous medieval villages are found. This is a short breakdown on how to get there and where to stay.
1. Train from Rome (Roma Termini Station) to Chiusi – Chianciano Terme Station – 1 hr. 45 min. (less than 20 Euros pp). Purchase your tickets before you leave – Trenitalia.com
2. Rent a car from Aesse Car Rental located directly across the street from the Chiusi Station. This is a privately owned car rental company, very friendly, excellent service and no hidden fees! They also speak English. *advice – do not exceed the speed limit in Italy as there is electronic speed monitoring. You will only find out you have a speeding ticket once you get home and the car rental company has charged it to your Visa. We received this info before we left so luckily we had no surprise charges.
3. Book your accommodations at Airbnb. We found this little jewel right in the centre of Montepulciano for only $102 CAN per night.
This was our home base for 5 fabulous days! *advice – be prepared to walk … a lot! Montepulciano (and every other town in Tuscany) is built on a hilltop where no cars are permitted except by residents who have a business and need to make deliveries. Our gracious host arranged a van to pick us up from one of the municipal parking lots that surround the old city centre. We were dropped off in front of our accommodation and even helped up the 80 steps to our apartment. We were on our own when we left but at least we were heading downhill with our luggage … on wheels … must have wheels!!!! ps the wheels will get slightly destroyed by the cobblestones … but it’s worth it!
View from our hallway at the apartment …. stunning Tuscan countryside!
Don’t miss a cappuccino and pastry from Caffè Poliziano. This elegant Antico Caffè has the most beautiful terrace with a breathtaking view of both the village and the countryside. What a way to start your day! The caffè has been operating as a family business since 1868 and was a favourite of Federico Fellini’s.
Narrow streets in Montepulciano … full of shops and boutiques for everything from leather, fashion and ceramics to typical Tuscan wine and food.
On the road for a wine tour – Tenutta Valdipiatta … just a short drive away!
French oak barrels where the magic is made … loved the Vigna d’Alfiero Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2010. This wine is named after Alfiero Carpini, the first vineyard worker at Valdipiatta. After Alfiero passed away, the owner Giulio Caporali honored his memory by producing a wine with the grapes grown in the vineyard that Alfiero had planted 25 years before.
View of Montepulciano from the road.
Piazza Grande is the perfect place for an aperitivo before dinner. Twilights New Moon was filmed here.
The best thing about having an apartment is you can cook if you so desire … here’s our take on the typical Tuscan pasta “pici” … with a bottle (or two) of Nobile di Montepulciano from our wine tour at Valdipaiatta! But for a real Tuscan experience visit this crazy butcher ….
That’s the view from our table at Osteria Acquacheta (click on the link – the photos are great) where you will be served the original “fiorentina” alla brace … this gigantic Tbone steak comes from the Italian Chianina, the oldest and largest breed of cattle in the world. This mad butcher cuts your steak (must weigh at least 1.2 kg to be considered an authentic “fiorentina”) brings it to the table raw for you to view then cooks it over red hot coals before serving it rare and obviously to share! We ate the whole thing! Even better than the meal is the entire experience …. a must in Montepulciano. *reservations are required – make them as soon as you arrive in town as there are only two seatings every evening.
Another beautiful day in Montepulciano … next we will explore Piacenza for some vino, pecorino cheese and a visit to one of our favourite restaurants in Tuscany … it’s owned by a New Yorker and the Chef is from Glasgow, Scotland! Ciao belli … alla prossima!
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