The Hills of Tuscany

Day 9 – Tuscany: Siena & Montepulciano, Italy

Today we slept in a little bit, packed up our things, and grabbed a light breakfast. We weren’t supposed to pick up our rental car until 1 p.m., but in our exhaustion, we decided that we’d skip the morning tour of Florence and find Hertz a little bit early. We were in luck. By 10:30 we had our car.

We got in the little Ford Fiesta and whipped through the streets of Florence, finding our way right out of town with an amazing stroke of luck. The car was jerky at first, not like the automatics in the U.S., and the way it changed gears still made it feel like a stick shift. But, that little car could book!

We coasted down the four-lane highway, gradually adjusting to the Italian drivers. It is no joke that the left lane is only for passing. These little cars and motorcycles come up behind you from out of nowhere! There were hardly any emergency lanes on your right, and the left lane was embraced by a railing the entire way.

Siena was about an hour from Florence. We circled round and round up toward the top of the hilltown. After parking near the castle ruins, we climbed to the top and took several pictures, trying to imagine it in medieval times.

We walked towards the center of town, and all the neat vendors lining the street sparked my interest. There I purchased a cool backpack with sequins, but not wanting to lug a lot of souvenirs, I stopped at that. Although the piazza was supposed to be gorgeous, it looked too far away, so we headed back to the car for the most exciting part of our drive: the scenic route through Tuscany.

The scenic route was on a road called S146, according to Rick Steve’s, the prettiest in all of Tuscany. It was breathtaking, but I tried not to say too much, because my poor husband had to concentrate on the curvy roads. He pulled over a few times to catch his breath and enjoy the views. The wildflowers were so beautiful along the roadside, in bright reds, purples, yellows, and pinks.

Our final hill town stop was in Montepulciano. It was a very steep walk to the top, and my hubby stayed behind to catch up on some email and well-deserved rest. I hiked up slowly, trying not to be obvious as I huffed and puffed up the hills. It never ceased to amaze me how these cars just whip around the people and sputter up the deep inclines. There were several locals walking the streets, mostly older Italian woman, and a few men. I felt that they were probably used to the tourists, but maybe not pleased that their town is overrun with them in the summers. It wasn’t too crowded on this day.

My directions to our accommodations were good, but we underestimated the mileage, and turned around too quickly before arriving. This led us on another path of confusion and frustration, accidentally ending up on the Auto Strade before turning around and trying again. Twice. Finally, we went down our original path, but only 5 minutes further this time, and found our bed and breakfast.

The couple was waiting for us at the door, because we had finally broken down and called them for directions. They were so kind, the woman originally from Switzerland, her husband Italian. She later told us that she fell in love with Tuscany, and there is no place she’d rather be. Their bed and breakfast is actually a 1700-year-old converted Church. There are six rooms downstairs. Our room was Tuscan through and through.

She gave us a tour of the upstairs portion, where they live, and it was lovely with high, slanted beamed ceilings and plenty of windows to take in views of the hilly landscape. She preferred the other kitchen, which was a separate little hut outside the main house.

This would probably be my choice of places for a summer retreat. The only bad thing, the bees are about four times as large as ours, but they didn’t seem to bother us. There were lizards and large flies, too. The mountains in the distant were like shadows, looking like a backdrop against the blue sky. Breakfast was a spread of coffee, tea, juice, cheese, cereal, assorted jams, cookies, and apples. I did not want to leave this place.