Published: June 12th 2012June 5th 2012
We were feeling a little apprehensive about leaving London as the excitement levels in the UK were growing with the impending Jubilee weekend. Arrival in Florence wasn’t too flash with a bit of a run in with the Europcar rental staff charging us a late fee when their pick bus was conveniently not waiting. Our hotel near the Florence airport was pretty good for the 1970’s. However with Friday night behind us and no wrong turns getting onto the motorway, we were soon on our way racing towards the country side. Tuscany lived up to all the hype, the countryside is picture postcard perfect. Rolling mountains, I think they were a little bigger than hills, that stretched for miles around with vineyards, olive trees and whispering wheat fields both golden and green dotted with red poppies. Plus of course the cigar tree lined drive ways to grand old villas and farm houses.
We jumped straight into the action with a drive through the famed wine region of Chianti on the outskirts of Siena. Stopped at a number of cute villages for coffee (Gaiole) or a poke around the flag lined streets (Castelnuovo), and then paused for lunch in the walled town of Asciano. The next stop was the hill town village of Montepulciano where our Villa for the next few nights was close to. Montepulciano was, we felt, the nicest of the towns in Southern Tuscany. We parked and meander up and around the old streets, looking in a few shops and buying some cheese and wine. There was a lot of cheese and wine consumed on this trip. The next few nights we stayed at Villa Cocilina, which had the most amazing infinity pool with a view out over the valley below. On both evenings we ate at the Villa which put on a four course local fare meal; simple delicious cooking, and of course some local wine. On Sunday we drove a magical road to Montalcino (another hill-top village), the vistas were sensational. The most amazing scene was watching the wind ride up through the wheat, which looked like cascading waves travelling up the hill. That afternoon we managed to catch the start and end of the amazing Jubilee pageant on the Thames.
Monday was a little overcast and wet so we headed off to Siena for a look around. Siena seemed rather busy and a little hectic compared to the peaceful few days in the country side. There was lots of people following flags or umbrellas. We followed the crowds around the iconic square and up to the Duomo, after a number of false starts we finally secured a ticket inside. It was a large and pretty impressive church, the library was bight and colourful. The main reason we were there was to get the panorama view over the square, city and to the surrounding hills. Next stop was the plaza, and we were surprised about the slope of the space which must make the famous horse race rather tricky. We stopped at a quaint walled town of Monteriggioni for a spot of lunch on the square. The next stop was a farm stay with a brilliant view of the final village stop on our trip San Gimignano. The farm proved tricky to find, but after a couple of u-turns and driving about we had settled in our room and bought some of their wine. That evening we had dinner on the balcony watching the sun set over the medieval towers of San Gimignano.
Tuesday morning arrived with clear blue skies again, so after some pool action we packed up and headed up the hill to visit San Gimignano. Another highlight of the trip, it was filled with flags, plazas, lots of cute streets and alleys. The town was hosting some of Anthony Gormley’s people statues that used to be in and around South Bank. We tool a lazy stroll through the streets then settled down for out final pasta lunch before a gelato on the square and heading towards the airport. Tuscany did not fail to impress … food, wine and scenery superb.