Friday, November 16, 2012

Montalcino to Montepulciano

Ahh ...Tuscany

Yes, yes at it again! This was most likely our last walk before the weather makes us hang up our boots and backpacks. We had planned this walk based on a friends recommendation and have been patiently waiting for the weather to improve enough to get 3 clear days in a row.

Allora, finally the weather arrived! Getting to Montalcino from Lucca was a minefield, after much research, the best we could do was 4.5 hours: train to Pisa, change train to Empoli, change train to Siena. At Siena, catch the bus to Montalcino. The first leg (Lucca to Pisa) ran 15 minutes late, just long enough for us to miss the connecting train (grrrrrr)  this meant we then missed each of the following connections, so instead of arriving in Montalcino at noon, we arrived at 2pm. Our plan had been to walk to the famous Abbey of St Amtimo, and catch the 5pm bus back to town, but this wasn't possible. So we walked halfway to the abbey, turned around and walked back to Montalcino, just before it got dark.

Heavily ploughed fields – yet still beautiful!

We ate dinner at the infamous Grappolo Blu, our best meal of the 4 days (rabbit cooked in brunello mmmm), with a yummy aged bottle of Brunello di Montalcino - which is what it’s all about. Our first night was in the centre of town at a gorgeous B&B, the room was way overheated and way too close to the clock tower so we slept badly (of course excessive alcohol including a pre-dinner aperitivo may also have been a factor).

Our second day was 5C when we awoke but soon became a beautiful sunny day; we walked to San Quirico d'Orcia a short 14km day.  The track was quite muddy in parts but the fields were a kaleidoscope of colours - part brown from recently ploughed fields, part yellow where the vines have coloured and are losing their leaves, and part green from pasture for sheep – simply gorgeous Tuscan landscape. We arrived in San Quirico d’Oricia just after 2pm; we really enjoyed this not very touristy town. We ate at Ristorante da Ciacco (as every other restaurant was closed either for holidays or for their day of rest) another good meal washed down with the local drop (Orcia DOC). We spent the night in an ‘el cheapo’ B&B, yet the room was spacious and quite fine, here we slept wonderfully (despite a bottle of wine over dinner and again the pre dinner aperitif, hmmmmm).

 After a comfy night we hit road early and headed to Pienza where we bought lunch supplies (including wine) and then walked on to Montepulciano - a long day of 25km overall, as we added the extra km to see the lovely chapel 'most photographed church in Tuscany'. Again it was a perfect walking day, sunny yet cool.

Our pit stop in Pienza

We hadn't booked any accommodation here and many places were already closed, however with a little patience we managed to find a good enough room with great valley views (but a separate bathroom). Again, many restaurants were closed but not the recommended Slow Food restaurant, where again Marino indulged in the local 'pici' pasta, this time in a pheasant sauce. I had the rabbit dish. Only later did we discover that their specialty was bistecca fiorentina, when we later saw the chef carving steaks from half a carcass plonked on a wooden table at the back of the restaurant. When it was served at the table next to us it looked superb (sorry vegetarians!). Opportunity lost for us, but we must return......

The last leg in to Montepulciano

Our final day was cloudy and cold, we slept in (the 25km of the day before had taken its toll) had a quick look around town, then we took a 1 hour bus to Chiusi - train to Florence - train to Lucca home.

It's always nice to arrive back in Lucca and think - it's nice to be home!

The view from Pienza
Medieval Montepulciano

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