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Published: April 25th 2013
Now I mentioned yesterday that Gretchen said she wasn’t going to leave the place we arrived at last night in the Umbrian countryside and this morning when I opened the shutters to let the sun and the sounds of the birds in the garden into our room and admired the countryside, even I was convinced along with her. This really was like the places you see in the tour brochures that encourage you to take a visit to Umbria and soak up the ambience and relax. What a life the owners of these places must have!
Our overnight stay had been in an apartment that was one of 5 in the main building of an old farm house that had been converted for accommodation. The apartment had a large bedroom, separate toilet and shower as well as another large room that doubled as a lounge and kitchen all furnished in a very tasteful style. Had we not wanted to go to Lucca in Tuscany, which was a town we missed out on visiting 4 years ago, and had already booked accommodation and the cancellation time had passed, we might have given up Tuscany and stayed longer in this little piece
The setting and accommodation was similar to what we had 4 years ago near Poggibonsi in Tuscany where we stayed for 5 nights and just had such a lovely, isolated, relaxing feel about it.
Our hostess served us a good breakfast and we delayed our departure to soak up the atmosphere as long as we could before we knew we had to hit the road with another 200km plus ahead of us to Bagni di Lucca in the north of Tuscany.
Our general direction had to be northwest and again it was going to take some minor country roads to get onto a main route that would quicken the journey.
Thankfully there were no road closures this morning as we headed first for Pienza,a place marked on the map as a World Heritage Site although we had no idea why! So for the first hour or so it was slow going as we drove along ridges with expansive views out both sides of the car of the rolling Umbrian countryside looking very green with all the spring growth. It has been noticeable, now that we this far north, that the spring growth in the
south of the country was, as you would expect, more well advanced than in the north.
Like most of the towns around, Pienza was on a hilltop, and we came to a car park as we drove up the last part of the hill which we thought we should take in case the streets of the town a little further on were too narrow to find a place to park.
Our find was an absolute delight and we could easily understand why the site was special. The old town, which was actually most of the town itself, had a walled entrance and the buildings within the cobbled lanes had been beautifully preserved and maintained to give a model look about it.
To go with the buildings which were generally housing for the locals and their shops or businesses on the street level, there was an impressive church and around one side of the town site was a terrace with expansive views over the countryside.
We had allocated ourselves an hour to take in the sights and wander the streets admiring what had been done to preserve the town and our estimate worked out well. Pienza was
a little gem of a place and quite unexpected making the visit just that much more enjoyable.
We didn’t have to drive too far down the hill and we found a place to pull off and have our boot lunch sitting back and admiring the beautiful countryside bathed in soft spring sunshine.
A short distance on and we made the A2 heading for Sienna.
We had now crossed from Umbria to Tuscany and in this part close to the main road the area is quite populated with small towns virtually running into each other and often separated only by a roundabout which meant slower progress as roundabouts came along every couple of kilometres.
The road skirted Sienna and as we have been there before we did not feel a need to go back again even though it too is a beautiful town full of history and a delight to walk around and take in the sights and preserved buildings and churches.
Poggibonsi was next in our sights and as we drove into the town, memories of our last trip came flooding back and everything seemed to look very familiar like it was just yesterday we
had had the 5 day stay in the area. We even found the Pams supermarket we had used and stocked up on provisions for dinner tonight including some delicious looking strawberries. It doesn’t seem that long ago we were enjoying the strawberry season in NZ.
With the Frignano mountain range ahead with peaks of over 2000 metres still covered with a generous amount of snow, the weather started to take a turn towards rain as it had yesterday afternoon and soon the wipers had to be employed again.
As we headed up the valley towards Bagni Di Lucca we noted that the car outside temperature had dropped 10C in a few minutes and was now reading only 9C, we hope they have heating at the hotel we are heading for.
Its funny how you can get an image in your mind of a place you have never been to before or seen photos of and it turns out to be nothing like what you expect it to be and Bagni di Lucca is such a place.
The road had followed a narrow valley with a fairly wide river running down the middle and although it seemed
like we had climbed significantly we were still only 150 metres above sea level which goes to show what the feeling of a narrow passageway can do to the mind.
We both had the same feeling about the hotel, a little let down after the ‘almost heaven’ of the farmhouse apartment we had left behind in Umbria this morning. The cold, grey overcast with rain again threatening certainly didn’t help and neither did the small room we were shown to on the second floor especially after all the room we had had last night.
We rested up a bit and the weather cleared to allow us to take a walk and see what we had signed up for the next three nights.
The hotel was actually at the bottom end of the town as we discovered as we strolled up the road to the main part of the town about a kilometre and a half away. Why do people live on sheer hillsides up narrow valleys where we are sure in the winter the sun would hardly shine?
It had been a fairly long day and it didn’t take long to hit the sack soon after
our microwave dinner and coffee. It will be good to not have to travel too far for the next two days after several one nighters.
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