Travel Italy 2016 ~ San Quirico D’Orcia

Located just a short distance from Montepulciano is the small town of San Quirico D”Orcia, and it’s worth a quick stop to walk through and see it. They have several lovely shops that feature local linens, quality bath and body products, gifts and home decor. I bought several of the tea towels with Tuscan farm scenes and sunflowers.

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Travel Italy 2016 – Montalcino & Lunch at Fattoria dei Barbi

Here’s a walk around Montalcino, home of the famous Brunello wine!

I loved this shop, Sartoria Principe, with amazing handmade ladies clothing and accessories. Here’s a great website with a feature about the store and Montalcino: http://www.mapitout-montalcino.com/2014/04/tailor-made-in-montalcino-sartoria-principe.html

Next up, lunch at Fattoria dei Barbi just a few minutes away from town…We started with a wine tasting before moving to the outdoor patio for lunch. http://www.fattoriadeibarbi.it/en/

Look at this lovely presentation! Good wine, good food…

Time to journey back to Montepulciano and Villa Mazzi for a nap! But first, a stop on the way back through Montalcino at our favorite liquor store, bd Enoteca, for a few bottles.

The winding way home… Don’t expect to get anywhere fast in Tuscany!

Back to our lovely view of Montepulciano from Villa Mazzi to unwind!

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Travel Italy 2016: Market day at Castiglione del Lago & wine tasting at Avignonesi

Our destination today was to Castiglione del Lago for market day, and it was in full swing when we arrived. Located about 15 minutes below Cortona in the Umbria region, this unique town is located on Lake Trasimeno, and one of our favorite small towns to visit. On market day you’ll find all sorts of things for sale from household goods to food products to plants.

The shops have a wide assortment of attractively packaged food products, olive wood items, linens, and more. This is a great place to buy things to take home, and they are generous with tasting samples. All of the shop keepers are so friendly! There are several ceramic shops that feature their locally painted ceramics that are very high quality, and several little art galleries.

The Fortress of the Lion completed in 1247 overlooks the lake, and you can walk the ramparts. The Palazzo della Corgna houses a gallery and museum and there are gorgeous frescoes throughout the building. I love the ancient olive grove outside the fort. See my previous posts on Castiglione del Lago for more info and photos of the museum and fort.

 We departed town in search of sunflowers, and found several fields in full bloom just below Cortona. FINALLY, I got to see the sunflowers in bloom in Tuscany!!!

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Next up, a visit and wine tasting just a few minutes away at Avignonesi winery in the village of Valiano. They are an organic winery, and have the most awesome estate with a circular spoked vineyard that is so cool! They are known for their organic wines and their vin santo. They offer wine-paired lunch and brunch, cooking classes, hot air balloon tours, and how about their “Wine & Gourmet Ferarri” Tour?? We didn’t know about that – Wally would have wanted to do it!

The aerial picture of the estate on their website will make you want to plan your visit immediately! Here’s their website to learn more about them: https://www.avignonesi.it/en

Here’s some snapshots around Avignonesi:

Time to get a sample…

You can sit inside or go outside on their patio, which we chose to do. Salute! Very tasty!

Now a few snapshots on the drive back to Villa Mazzi, and its time to relax and drink some more wine…

Our spoils from today…

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Travel Italy 2016: Winery Tour & Lunch at Poggio Antico, Montalcino

We were in the mood for a winery visit and lunch, so after searching the internet for wineries open on Sunday (which is limited), we chose Poggio Antico in Montalcino. They are open daily 10-6 including holidays, and prefer appointments for tours and tastings and reservations for dining. I’m so glad we decided on them, as it was one of the best meals during our two-week stay, and their wines are amazing! Looking back at our photos makes me want to book a trip back today!

The drive from Montepulciano to Montalcino is breath-takingly awesome, no matter what season you visit. This was in July, and they were harvesting hay – tractors crawling across the hills cutting, raking and rolling round bales.

As you go up the hill into Montalcino, be sure and stop at the bd Enoteca to check out all the area wine selections. We’ve learned this is a great store to stock up on a wide variety of wines and liquors. To reach Poggio Antico, we went past the town of Montalcino and into the countryside. See some of my previous posts on Montalcino from other visits.

Poggio Antico is a 500-acre estate that has vineyards, olive groves and beautiful vistas. Visit their website to learn more at: http://www.poggioantico.com/

The vineyards are electric fenced to keep the wild hogs out.

The restaurant is the first building you come to, and to get to the cantina, walk past it and into the courtyard behind. The back terrace of the restaurant looks out over the countryside.

We were able to join a tour of the cellars that had just started, and made reservations for our tasting and lunch afterwards. You can tell by all of the framed awards on the wall that their wines are highly acclaimed!

Time to taste… and what great tastes!

After our wine sampling, it was time for lunch on the terrace. This was one of our most expensive meals, but it was well worth it! We chose a bottle of their Rosso di Montalcino and started ordering food.

Their menu selections were more interesting than any we had tried in Tuscany, and each dish that arrived was delicious! What a perfect afternoon!

Everyone was out dining on the terrace, but indoor dining is also available.

 Back into the dusty car to meander back to Montepulciano and Villa Mazzi.

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Travel Italy 2016: Asciano

We decided on a drive through the Tuscan countryside to Asciano, where I had read it was market day. We arrived and there was no market, so we walked around, refreshed ourselves with gelato, and plotted our next destination, which ended up being Montalcino. We had eaten lunch at Bar Herve in Asciano on a previous trip and they were good, but we weren’t ready for lunch yet.

Next up, Montalcino!

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Travel Italy 2016 ~ Bagni San Fillippo, Fosso Bianco Thermal Baths

We had been told about free thermal baths by fellow travelers staying at Villa Mazzi, so set off one afternoon to check it out. At the foot of Monte Amiata, the hot springs pour out of the ground and there are pools, little water falls and cool formations to hang out by. The ground is very rough along the stream, so wear sturdy shoes and take a towel, drinks, snacks and change of clothes.

http://www.bagnisanfilippo.eu/Bagni_San_FIlippo_English/Bagni_San_Filippo.html

Here’s a great blog on Fosso Bianco with more info:

http://www.mapitout-tuscany.com/2012/03/tuscan-hot-springs-fosso-bianco-in.html

Some snapshots along the way home to Villa Mazzi…

So exciting – Chingale!! Wild hogs!

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Travel Italy, Montechiello 2016

 Our hostess at Villa Mazzi in Montepulciano recommended we visit the ancient village of Montechiello a short drive away, so we set off through the countryside to explore. The scenery is amazing, and the just-baled hay made for even more picturesque photo ops. The ancient village of Montechiello is 850-1,000 years old, and perched atop a hill, the view towards Monte Amiata is awesome. We parked at the bottom of the hill in the free parking lot, and walked the path up to the main gate. Here’s a link to the history and good visitor information on Montechiello: http://www.seeyouintuscany.com/tuscany_travel_guide/siena_area/monticchiello/monticchiello.html

It’s a small village, so it doesn’t take long to explore. They have a few restaurants, a museum, churches, some retail shops, and an outdoor art exhibit above the hill. There were cool wire people figures scattered about the village.

We walked around the outside perimeter of the village walls, where there are gardens and amazing views. The lavender was abuzz with honeybees and butterflies.

Just inside the gate is a highly recommended restaurant, Osteria La Porta. It was mid-morning, so too early for lunch. Another day we visited they were closed, so be sure and check their hours. http://www.osterialaporta.it/en/

There was an interesting art exhibit in an olive grove above the village, and I was drawn toward a crumbling tower. Hot and hungry, we made out way back through the village to the gate, where a little cafe was open just outside. Gelato seemed like a refreshing choice, so we admired the view as we ate it.

Cool wire figures were atop the main entrance gate.

We returned to Montepulciano a different way, making a loop through the countryside. We passed bikers and hikers trekking along the dusty gravel road.

And that was our visit to Montechiello!

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Travel Italy 2016, Chiusi & National Etruscan Museum

We decided to go check out the Chiusi Lake area on yet another beautiful day from our base at Villa Mazzi in Montepulciano. We passed vineyards and sunflower fields along the way, and the farmers were combining wheat and rolling hay. img_6626img_6630We stumbled upon Etruscan tombs as we were driving to the lake and stopped to see them.

The lake was absolutely flat, quiet, hot and deserted so we didn’t linger. img_6634

We arrived in Chiusi and the first thing I spotted was the National Etruscan Museum. I had read about the Etruscans but didn’t really know about their culture, so wanted to learn more. Their culture lasted from the 8th Century BC to the 3rd and 2nd BC. After touring the museum, we were astounded at how advanced their culture was! I encourage all visitors in the area to tour this museum.

http://www.prolocochiusi.it/en/

http://www.prolocochiusi.it/en/museo-nazionale-etrusco-e-tombe/

Their sculpture, pottery, and jewelry were amazing!