Italy (Part 02): Tuscany—Montepulciano & Siena
After an early breakfast at Hotel San Pio in Rome, we set off for the Tuscan countryside. On the way to our home base of Siena we stopped in the sleepy winemaking hill town of Montepulciano. We wandered up crooked streets to the Piazza Grande, the main square at the highest point on the hill, where the commanding Palazzo Comunale and its tower beckoned us inside. While the top of the tower was closed due to rain from the previous day, we were still able to climb to the terrace atop the building. We had the terrace to ourselves for a solid 15 minutes which allowed us to fully taken in 360-degree vistas while talking about nothing and soaking up the sun.
It’s easy to get swept up in the sightseeing and logistics of traveling, but sometimes moments hit you hard when you realize where you are or what you’re doing. It was on this terrace where we were able to finally take a breath and realize we were in Italy and fully appreciate that fact. With that realization we made our way back down to the piazza and got lost in the back streets of the town, stumbling on small parks, beautifully-crafted arches, and even a small art gallery. After some more exploring our stomachs began to rumble, so we made our way back to the center of town for lunch at Fattoria Podernovo where we split a classic Italian meal of bruschetta and antipasto before indulging in some gelato.
With full bellies we made our way back to the car to continue our journey to Siena. We arrived shortly thereafter at Hotel Athena, an inn just inside the medieval walls of the town, and went out to explore as soon as we dropped our bags off—but not before grabbing a handful of the delicious Italian candies at the front desk! We made our way toward the Piazza del Campo and found ourselves in the middle of an expression of Sienese culture, as uniformed residents marched around and dexterously flung flags to music.
The town’s main square is like a brick and travertine beach with residents and tourists alike laying, relaxing, eating, and playing games. The perimeter of the square is lined with restaurants and gelaterias and comes to an apex at the Palazzo Pubblico with its towering Torre del Mangia. We took a moment to join in and found a spot in the piazza to rest our feet for a bit and enjoy some gelato from Brivido Gelateria.
With dusk approaching we decided to grab some dinner and ended up at Alla Speranza for raviolis, pasta, and tiramisu. To go with the day’s theme, we decided not to rush ourselves and flowed at a true Italian pace for the meal—we had to have been there for at least two hours! In fact, we were there for so long that it got cold enough for the staff to turn on heat lamps and provide us with wool blankets which added to the intimate, slow-paced atmosphere as we enjoyed each other’s company.
As the evening drew on we finally retired to our room to get a good night’s sleep for tomorrow’s day trip to the birthplace of the renaissance—Florence!
Trip gelato count: 6