Siena - Montepulciano
05.11.2015 - 05.11.2015 -17 °C
Early start for a very long day. For once, a tour that didn't involve a big bus - there were 4 of us (tourists) in a mini van; so much more comfortable.
It took about an hour and a half to get to Siena, which was cloaked in dense fog. We joined up with a second van load of tourists where the view is usually amazing, across the Siena countryside!
The nuns didn't seem to mind
The streets were pretty misty, which made things a little spooky.
The tour leader, Gustavo, recommended that we take a look inside the Siena Cathedral, which is Romanesque rather than Renaissance for a change.
It still has the striped marble facade, but there are parts of the complex that have never been completed. Inside, though, the cathedral is pretty full on! I won't say I like it, because I thought it was over the top in a big way!
Apparently, the floors are famous - and they are certainly ornate, with inlaid marble panels depicting different scenes
The cupola in the roof is pretty though
And there's a "library", which is beautifully painted, and I loved the ceiling (yes, I've become obsessed with ceilings!)
Siena is where the famous Palio horse race happens every year, once in July and once in August. It's held between the 17 regions of Siena township, and is held in the Piazza del Campo - the town square. They ship in dirt and lay it 15cm deep around the circuit, and the jockeys ride bare back, wearing their region colours.
As you can see, the fog had started to lift a bit by the time we left Siena. We headed then towards Montalcino, and our first wine tasting at Abbadia Ardenza winery, which is a short distance from the town.
We were treated to a little old man who gave us the talk about his family's history in winemaking - and he took quite a shine to a couple of the women in the other group - an old ratbag! We started with a rose, which was only OK, and then 3 red wines of varying vintage. One - Rosso di Montalcino - was pretty nice, and one - a cheap table wine - was not! The third one was a Brunello, a famous wine around here. It was a bit heavy for me, but one of the guys really liked it.
The sun had come out by the time we came back outside, so we could finally get an idea of the landscape around the area
We then headed up to the pretty hilltop town of Montalcino. What a change from the busy towns I'd been to so far! It was practically empty, so easy to get snaps without people in them.
There's a fort at one end of the town, and the word was that this was the place to get the best views across the countryside - and it was fantastic!
Inside the fort
Next was the small village - yes, on a hilltop - of Pienza. Now, THIS was a religious experience as far as I'm concerned. The views from Pienza are nothing short of breathtaking, and what you see here is but a fraction of what I took.
See what I mean? Breathtaking!!
It is also the prettiest little town I've seen - people have plants outside their doors, and growing around their windows. And it's clean!
Next up was Montepulciano, famous for its Nobile wine, and a second wine tasting experience. Time for one last look at the view:
It was getting a bit late by this stage, so we walked straight to the Cantina Crociani for our tasting.
Outside the Cantina
We had 3 more reds to taste, all of which were better than their equivalents at the first place. The Nobile was pretty nice! She took us back upstairs and gave us a taste of their Vin Santo, which was the best I've had so far - I could taste the caramel aftertaste for ages afterwards. So I bought a bottle.
By this time it was dark, so we walked together to the other end of town and boarded the vans to head back to Florence. Another hour and a half or so, and they dropped us back. As luck would have it, we came via the road beside the Arno, across from Santa Croce, so I had them drop me there. This meant I got a great view of the Ponte Vecchio, all lit up and reflected in the water - just to top off the day!