14 – 26 May 2011 –Tranquilo / Tranquility
Arrived from Catania Sicily via Rome to Montepulciano – the oldest town in the Siena region also home of famous Italian wines, Nobile. It was long day of transfers but we made it in one piece.
Stayed 3 nights in oldest 3 star hotel in the old town area – not really too flash but the bed was very comfy. We had two pretty good meals including some rabbit dishes and of course some tasty smooth red wines.
We just made our own way on the marked nature trails with a 10km and 20km walk before we started our walking tour proper with a 16km from Montepulciano to Pienza. The best part is the tour company move your bags between the towns so we only had to take our little day packs with water and lunch.
Really enjoyed the walking between towns – hard work physically and also following the guide notes & map directions for Robbo especially as she is still struggling with her left and right. Everyone we have met along the way has waved, smiled which is lovely. Couple of
cranky old farm dogs but that is worst of it. Pienza
Pienza was gorgeous, lots of beautiful cheese and specialty cured meats shops. The town is famous for pericino cheese.
One night we had a dish just of the different types of sheep’s cheeses..amazing simple affairs and with the cheese you had the accompaniments of wild bush honey, fig jam and spicy chutney. They don’t do bread, water crackers or lavosh here on their platters. Another antipasti dish is just the different meats and then a combo of cheeses and meats.
Chef Dave took upon himself to make our lunches for next couple of days – they comprised of Montalcino salami and Pienza cheese & the best crusty bread rolls – delicious!!! Bagno Vignoni
From Pienza we walked 16km to Bagno Vignoni which is the tiniest little town you will see – 2 major hotels with thermal baths and health spa facilities, then a 13th century B&B which we stayed in – just beautiful. Then there are probably 4 restaurants and for the one night we had an amazing meal – just divine simple flavours & of course
the therapeutic powers of more red wine. The town is famous for the natural thermal baths. The town’s baths have been in use since Roman times. Unfortunately we arrived on a Thursday which is the only day the baths are closed for maintenance – similar to Bondi Icebergs which is shut on Thurs or Friday for Waverley council maintenance cleaning. P.s. it is 15 Euro per person for a quick dip or 20 Euro for a 15 min use. Must have miracle powers are loads of people were in town for it. Montalcino
Next day we walked 13km to Montalcino, home of Italy’s most famous wine, Brunello. It was a tough day as the walking was more technical up and down tracks– well off the beaten track & through woodlands, river crossings etc. We stopped into a Abbey and were lucky to hear the monks chanting their service – really beautiful to listen to.
We were pretty shattered by the time our driver, Mr Mancini (he only spoke Italian) picked us up to take us to the hotel. He was a darling taking us to great spot to take pictures of
the vineyards / countryside and all the time whilst he spoke in his gentle quiet Italian, we simply responded with ‘si, si si’ (yes, yes yes).
The town of Montalcino was very busy as they were hosting an annual rally car race so lots of roaring engines in the main square as cars and crews rolled though the tiny cobblestone streets.
We had a simple tasty meal at a restaurant very busy with both locals and out of towners. Buonconvento
Then the longest day of walking was completed on Sat between Montalcino and Buonconvento – 24km with a pretty hot day.
We did it well and found ourselves completed in approx.5 hours and ready for a swim and nap at the beautiful country villa estate. It was very busy spot with loads of locals enjoying the organic restaurant there and also there is a massive health spa / retreat.
Sunday had us have a transfer to one of the largest abbey’s in Italy to start our walk with a pre-visit to the Abbey.
It was beautiful, with some famous frescos depicting the life of Saint Benedict. Dave got some great photos of
their library, which is closed to the public but you could sneak a peak through a tiny peepholes in the library doors. Check out the photos. The abbey’s monks also produce lots of different natural cosmetics, incl. anti-cellulite cream (not sure which monk was used to test the efficacy of this cream), wine and foods products including chick peas, grains, liqueur candies
We did have a lucky break, we unfortunately lost the little compass my dad gave us so we had been looking for one without success, but in middle of the Abbey’s gift shop, we found a great compass to help us ‘find our way’!.
The 12.5 km walk home was great along farm trails probably used for walkers and horse riders alike. Afterwards we relaxed by the pool for the whole afternoon before having a lovely simple meal of risotto, guinea fowl, chick pea puree and salad accompanied by yummy red wine. Murlo
The final walk was from the farm villa to Murlo and a transfer to Siena. We had lunch in the newer part of Murlo and the hotel owner’s son told us that Pino from Sydney who has
his Italian Spring tour were just staying a week before basing themselves in Murlo and doing rides around the various towns. The walk was 17km and we did feel the effects today – pretty tired but relieved to get to Siena and the hotel for a shower and sleep before heading out. We are staying in the old medieval part of town.
We really loved our Tuscan experience as we got right off the beaten track (literally) and saw the natural beauty of the region along with the friendly local hospitality.
We’d highly recommend the trails and walks we either for walking or you could also many of the same sections we did on mountain bikes. Siena We had a lovely dinner after our trip in from Murlo at this very casual restaurant set with its tables and stools set on a very steep downhill cobblestone street.
Siena is a university town so lots of little bars with tapas and pizza to feed the young little minds.
Note to self, if a hotel mentions it is near a cathedral or major church then don’t stay
in it. Our first morning in Siena was an early start with the bells from Saint Domenico cathedral, not just a couple of rings to indicate the time but a symphony length ringing for most of the morning. We had hoped to have a decent sleep in.
Another thing if a hotel in Europe says it has air-conditioning that actually does not mean anything unless they determine it will be switched on. It is crazy hot here in Siena and we’re told “no air conditioning as it is not the season, with the ‘season’ starting only from June” *&^%$!!!!
Our first full day in Siena was spent ticking the boxes – we visited all the major tourist tickets today including the Duomo (incredible cathedral built from 12th century with additions in later periods) – this was on par with the Vatican St Paul’s cathedral; coupled with the Duomo we visited the Crypt below the Duomo to look at colourful frescos by the artists Michelangleo, Dontatello, Bernini and Pinturicchio. The Duomo’s museo / museum had spectacular sculptures, paintings, papal robes and also we went up to the Panorama or arch tower bridge to get a view of whole of Siena.
The frescos on the ceilings of all the sites we visited were breathtaking. Look at Dave’s pictures.
After long day we had delicious meal.
We had 3 nights in Siena which was probably plenty and having been here we much preferred staying in the smaller Tuscan towns like Pienza and Montalcino.
We’re off by train to Northern Italian national park region known as Cinque Terre or the Italian Riveria. We will be staying on the beach in a smaller little town but able to access all the park’s walking trails by travelling by little interconnecting train line. In fact most visitors don’t bring their cars as the much easier to travel by the train. We have 5 nights / 6 days there before we head over to island of Corsica for another self guided walking tour.
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