Europe 2012: Day 59 — Siena, Montalcino, Montepuliciao, Pienza


Saturday, 8/04/12

Woke at 7am.   Sunny and hot.

The breakfast buffet at our B&B was very good!   It had the basics:  coffee, tea, juice, pastries, cereals and a nice location on the patio.

Our breakfast table on the patio of our hotel (Florence, Italy).

My breakfast — coffee, toast, and jam is a good start to the day!

Yesterday we booked an “Art and Gourmet” tour of Tuscany.  Here is the description from the flyer:

  • A day amidst art, culture, wine and delicious food… Do you fancy an unforgettable experience in the most impressive places of Tuscany?
  • Join us and visit wonderful cities, taste the best wines, cheeses and typical products in one single day.
  • Siena: a medieval town, treasure of tradition and history.
    Pienza: a papal town famous for its Pecorino cheese.
    Montalcino: a winemaking town renowned for its Brunello di Montalcino all over the world.
    Montepulciano: a Renaissance town with a great wine tradition thanks to its vintage wine Il Nobile di Montepulciano.

We were to meet our tour guide at the Florence train station at 8:45am.  According to the flyer, we are to meet our guide at the clock tower.   We had envisioned a tower with a clock – but we did not find such a thing at the Florence train station when we arrived.   The only tower we saw was on the church across the street.   After some looking around, we finally asked someone at the train station who told us to go out the door, turn left, and go up the steps.   We did as we were told.   We found our tour next to a wall with a digital clock mounted on it.   We were late.  People were waiting.   Not a good start to our day.

We got the last two seats in the van.  I sat by the door in the middle of the van and my DH sat next to our tour guide Alessandro in the front seat.   Alessandro was a large sturdy Italian with dark wavy hair, dark sun glasses, a booming voice, and active hands that waved as he spoke.  Within a matter of minutes, Alessandro had adopted my DH as his best friend.   Alessandro called my DH “Marco” and the two bantered back and forth for much of the tour for the entertainment of the entire group.

The tour begins in Siena in the morning with an authorized guide who showed our group of eight tourists round the city and its medieval buildings.   We viewed the Gothic architectural style of the cathedral known as Duomo (very major city in Italy has their own version).   We also saw the Palazzo Comunale in Piazza del Campo — this is the theatre of an amazing horse race The Palio.  Here are some pictures of Siena:

Now thats a Clock Tower!  Piazza del Campo (Siena,Italy).

Piazza del Campo, view to the left of the Clock Tower (Siena, Italy).

Piazza del Campo, view to the right of the Clock Tower (Siena, Italy)

A street in Siena, Italy.

The Cathedral of Siena (Italian: Duomo di Siena), dedicated from its earliest days as a Roman Catholic Marian church and now to Santa Maria Assunta (Most Holy Mary of Assumption). There was a time when every Italian city wanted their own Duomo! (Siena, Italy).

In the afternoon, Alessandro took us to Montalcino, where we tasted Brunello di Montalcino, the king of wines.  Here are some pictures:

Village of Montalcino, Italy.

Montalcino street view (Italy).

Valley view from Montalcino, Italy.

Castle in Montalcino, Italy.

The tour continued on to Montepulciano, a town built along a narrow ridge of limestone, surrounded by imposing walls.  The flyer says “the stateliness of its Renaissance buildings and the refined beauty of its churches intertwine with the ancient tradition of its wine Nobile di Montepulciano, symbol of the city as well as delight of your palate during the wine tasting in a local winery”.  Yep, the place was pretty and the wine fantastic!

A wonderful view and a great wine to go with it! (Montipulicia0, Italy).

Street in Montepulciano, Italy.

View of valley from Montepuliciao, Italy.

Lastly, we visit Pienza, a Renaissance city, is a perfect combination of architectural beauty and harmony. Pienza’s most renowned for its tradition of Pecorino cheese, which we sampled at taste a typical shop.  Here are some pictures:

Our guide, Alessandro, explains the process of making Pecorino cheese in a cheese shop in Pienza, Italy.

Anna outside the cheese shop in Pienza, Italy.

Clever display outside of a cheese shop in Pienza, Italy.

Main square in Pienza, Italy.

View of Tuscany from Pienza, Italy.

At the end of the tour, Alessandro took us to one of his favorite Tucsany sites — the famous “Tuscan screensaver” site!

My DH is impressed! He has never seen a real live screensaver before! Can you see it?

The “Big Picture” — the rolling yellow hills and fields of Tucany!   The screensaver is out there in the distance.  (Italy)

Here is a closer look.

Closer still….

There it is — the famous Tuscany Screensaver!

Overall, the tour was excellent!   Alessandro knew a lot about art, food, and Italian history and he was a master story-teller made all the more charming by being so Italian in his speech and manner.   We gave him a generous tip.

We returned to Florence around 6pm.   It had been a long day.   Back at the hotel room, my DH consulted TripAdvisor to find a good pizza place, I already knew where I wanted to get my gelato – GROM!   We settled on a pizza place right next to GROM called Le Bertucce so we would not have to walk too far – it was still pretty hot outside, even at 8pm in the evening.   The pizza was good and cheap, just how my DH likes it.   The gelato was cool and expensive, just how I liked it!    We both had a satisfying day!

#1 Quote of the Day:  “Marco!   I am thinking about having a beautiful lunch and you ask me about work – what da matta with chew?” – Alessandro to my DH.

#2 Quote of the Day: “Marco, you bad boy!  I am sure your wife is very smart!” – Alessandro to my DH when he mentioned that I usually talk more than I have today.

#3 Quote of the Day:  “I know!” – Alessandro to me when I mentioned that his Mercedes Benz van was very nice.

#4 Quote of the Day:  “Marco, tell me something I don’t know!”  — Alessandro to my DH when he complemented him on his driving skills.

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2 thoughts on “Europe 2012: Day 59 — Siena, Montalcino, Montepuliciao, Pienza

  1. Hi, I have a question about this tour. did you have a chance to visit the tower in montalcino and walk around the other cities at leisure? or was it one of those tours where you basically just all walk together to a few sites and visit a store to have cheese and get back on the bus? also, you didn’t mention a winery. did you visit any? thanks so much. we are contemplating this tour

    • Sorry for the late response…. Yes, there was time to visit the tower but not a lot. It was a tour where you basically walked around, had lunch, and than back on the bus. I do remember a winery but on this trip, we did not visit it. When I was there in 2000, I did. Unfortunately, I do not remember it.

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