Italy Day 12: Bagno Vignoni (Spa Town), Pienza, and Montepulciano ~ Southern Tuscany

In CategoryTravels

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Tuscan Countryside

We departed Chianciano early for the day’s exploration.  The Tuscan countryside was a delight for the senses.  The crisp, fresh, air, beautiful golden wheat fields waving in the gentle breeze, peaceful quiet, and the texture of nature, are the images forever imprinted in my mind.  I absolutely love Tuscany!

famous image of zig zag cypress trees in Tuscany

Even the smallest of cypress trees are very expensive, so to have this splendid lined driveway full of them is surely a sign of great wealth.

Bagno Vignoni – Spa Town

Our first stop was in Bagno Vignoni, which is a spa town that has natural hot springs.

Bagno Vignoni

Our group got to soak our feet in this very hot water bath that ran through canals, while enjoying the surrounding views. Other than that, there really wasn’t a whole lot to do in this very small town. It was quite peaceful however.


Pienza
On the road to Pienza, we stopped and took some more photos of the gorgeous countryside.

famous photo op

The one particular place that generated a lot of interest, especially amongst the men, was this gated home, with two prominent rows of cypress trees in the wheat fields below.  It is the location of a legendary, running-through-the-wheat-fields scenes in the movie,  “Gladiator”.   Molto Bella!

Gladiator scene


Pienza is known as the “perfect renaissance town”, and is quaint and quiet. It also is known for Pius II Pope’s summer palace, built in 1459.  He was one of 18 children … wow!  (Sounds like the Duggers.)

Since photos weren’t allowed inside on the tour, I only got photos of the outer gardens and views.  His palace had beautiful carved wood, but felt depressing. There was a weapon room that the boys would of loved. It was filled with a great collection of torture items.

view from the palace

After a quick lunch in a corner cafe … I ate a ham, mozzarella and tomato sandwich and Dave ate a porcetta (spicy pork) sandwich, we departed at 1:30 to go to the next town.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot … I had my first experience with a squat toilet. Eww! For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t) it is simply a hole in the ground, in which you try your very best to take good aim and go. It was very, very, unsanitary, which is something I can’t stand. I tried to wash off my shoes in the sink, but there was no soap, so I felt slimy and wanted a Clorox wipe desperately! (For my shoes, not for me you know!) Yuck!

Montepulciano

Montepulciano is one of Tuscany’s highest hill towns, and its fortifications offered broad views over Umbria and Southern Tuscany (from tour guide).  This town is famous for its wine.  It is believed in Italy that all foods should come from the same soil.  They don’t cross wine from another region with their food from their own region.  Chianti wines make this region famous.  There are 70,000 acres of vineyards between Florence and Siena that grow the grapes for this wine.

lovely door and flowers

Since this was the highest hill town, it boasted splendid views of the countryside below.

There was a scene in the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun,” where the young Polish man performed the flag throwing in the Piazza Grande. Here is a photo of that area.

Piazza Grande ~ Montepulciano

We went on a self-tour of a wine cellar. I can’t believe how many stairs we had to go down in order to get to the huge wine barrels. It was kinda creepy down there and really quite dark too.

This wine is “Noble Wine,” and is considered to be quite good. I tasted it and thought … meh! Of course this is only because I wouldn’t be able to tell an exquisite wine from a cheapo one, and I’m not a big fan of wine drinking.

You may have noticed that I have a great fondness for the glorious flowers all over the many Italian towns we visited. Aren’t they just so refreshing, set against the old plastered walls? Love, love, love!

Italian friends knitting, and embroidering

Truly one of my most memorable experiences happened when Dave and I were wandering down quaint little cobbled streets in Montepulciano.  We stumbled upon three little old Italian ladies enjoying their needlework while chattering away.  Of course I had to stop and admire their work since needle arts are one of my passions.  The one woman on the right was very wary of me, but once she saw my joy and admiration of their work, she began to smile.  They only spoke Italian and I only could say a few key phrases like “Molto Bella” – very beautiful.  Through gestures and smiles, we began to understand one another perfectly.  I hope someday, when I reach their ages, I’ll be able to pass the afternoon with my best friends while knitting something I adore.  I absolutely loved the glimpses of the day to day life of Italians.

mosaic tile art

We happened upon this man who was sitting in his studio creating these amazing mosaic pieces of art.  He had a huge spread of tiny tile pieces and was selecting and placing them one at time, with a pair of tweezers.  He had the patience of a saint.  I wish I could afford this particular piece of art since irises are dear to me because they were my deceased Grandmother’s  favorite flowers.

It was back to the hotel after a long day in Tuscany.  We had dinner at the hotel and once again sat with Troy, Leigh and their parents for dinner.  The conversation was entertaining as usual, and then it was back to the room to get some rest for our trip into Rome the next day.

Buonanotte ~ Goodnight!

2 Responses to “Italy Day 12: Bagno Vignoni (Spa Town), Pienza, and Montepulciano ~ Southern Tuscany”

  1. P Says:

    Again- I totally enjoyed the serenity of the hill towns. Little did I realize it was about to all change as we entered Rome and all of it’s chaos.

  2. P Says:

    Walking out into four lanes of traffic without using a a crosswalk, which are non-existent, is taking quite a leap of faith. When in Rome, do as the Romans do … and it worked! It’s true that the Italians do not want to be bothered with the lost time a car/pedestrian accident would cause. Lucky for us!
    P

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