Deep into Tuscany

August 1, 2012 in ITALY | Comments (86)

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16 July

Heading for the ultimate in Tuscan luxury after a blissfully budget flight. We drove from Rome Fiumicino Airport in a jolly little Lancia  up the A1 to our first stop Chiusi. My iPhone “Maps” was much in use like a new toy and proved its worth by showing a bubble (i.e. our Lancia)  floating off our planned route from the A1 into the mountains. That discovery saved us lost time in the crushing heat and got us back on track.  It took us 2.5 hours from Rome to our first Tuscan hotel.

I’d booked a surprising gem of a four star hotel – so much nicer than I expected from the price. That’s what you call getting more than you pay for. Tomorrow we will be embraced by five star plus but today feels wonderful.

The former home of an Italian aristocrat – as all the Tuscan hotels seem to be, Il Patriarcha proudly hoists up a stone tower and radiates Tuscany with sizzling terracotta walls and green shutters. It’s been criticized for having a supermarket neighbour but our room was in a perfect position – one of the original classic rooms on a corner with views both side and back (the supermarket is a boring structure somewhat tucked away on the entrance side).

Behind the hotel on that hot day – that very very hot day of around 36 deg C – we sighed with pleasure to see the giant trees and real Tuscan views. Green rolling hills. A family was enjoying the pool. Nice sparkling pool.

We chose not to dine at the hotel. We decided to explore nearby Chiusi and dine there. I am already crazy about little authentic Tuscan towns with (hopefully) not too many tourists and this was one of them. The harmony and charm of old stone, narrow streets, churches and piazzas. Not to mention pizzas. I chose gnocchi and Pelle chose pizza with beer, which meant that of course I had to taste pizza too. This one was superb. How can wheat taste so full and nutty –  so nutritious…covered with simple ingredients like tomato and mozarella (buffalo).

Our room was Tuscan style with dark beams and a glitzy bedhead giving a romantic touch. Night was a dream. Breakfast had cake and sweet yoghurt, as Italians seem to feel they must deliver this morning sweetness. But it did have cappuchino and other edible  things.

And so on to our wonderful drive into the heart of Tuscany.

Green woods, silver olives, burnished wheatfields …. and of course more medieval stone towns. The secret of exploring Tuscany in the ferocious heat of July is white linen and comfortable sandals. Don’t try to take the car into the centres out of cowardice and fear of the raging sun. Park and walk. We somehow missed the treasures of Montepulciano by driving in and being unable to park.

But Montalcino found us parking at one of the signposted parking lots way down the slope, and walking…

Very lovely medieval town but lots of steps up. Dominated by the castle, we were drawn happily along  its narrow streets towards that structure and ate there.

Next stop will be Castiglion del Bosco, a byword in luxury.

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