Friday, March 22, 2013

Last day walking

So, this was it...the last day of our walking tour (but not the last day of our trip at all). Today was the day of one of our longest hikes; about 8.5 miles to Montepulciano. Montepulciano is also known for their wine, the Vino Nobile. The hike was about 3 miles to Montechiello and then from there about another 5 miles or so, mostly uphill.

Paolo and Giacomo came to pick us up that morning and we decided to let them drive us to Montechiello, just to cut the walking time down a little bit. My cold was leaving me feeling a bit weary. Unfortunately, this meant we still had to do the second half of the walk, which was what was going to be the tough part. Five miles, pretty much all uphill.

This was the view from Montechiello, just before we started on our way.


It was only about 10 a.m. or so when we were there, maybe even a little earlier, and the town as absolutely deserted. I don't remember seeing a single person. Nothing was open. But, it was picturesque and seemed like a place I'd like to just sit down on a bench and knit for an afternoon.


Hopefully, I'll get to go back some day, because I'd love to go into this tiny little place for a coffee.


Look! We saw these really pretty flowers. I just, ya know, thought they were pretty and deserved a place on the blog.


Another beautiful day in Tuscany! Clear, blue sky! This wouldn't last...things actually got pretty foggy later in the day. Wouldn't you just love to live here? At the end of a drive lined with cypress trees?


Yeah...there it is. The fog. We actually had a little trouble seeing where we were going...many of the directions, we were sort of on the look out for things, and we couldn't really see them until we were right on top of them. But, that was okay. At this point, we were pretty much walking in a ditch....on our right was a highway, on our left some vineyards. It was, of course, very muddy and wet. We persevered.


We walked through a little residential area...farms and such...and saw these happy chickens. I was also totally freaked out by a woman just standing by her front gate. Didn't see her until she was RIGHT THERE! Little old lady...I thought she was a witch that popped out of nowhere...a good witch of course.


As you approached Montepulciano, you pass by the Tiempo di San Biagio. At one point, our walking directions told us we would be able to see it in the distance, but it was far too foggy for that. It was finished in 1529 and when we were there, some major reconstruction was going on inside, so we could only sort of peek our heads in a little bit. The workers didn't try to shoo us away or anything, which was nice. Outside, a nice little old man started talking to David...we think he was trying to tell us that the church was closed and we should head into the little restaurant just across the way (which looked charming...I'm not sure why we didn't go in...perhaps because we were huge sweatbombs covered in mud?). We also had a  lovely conversation in Italian with the workers: What time is it? 1:00! We walked all around it though, in the very wet grass, before we began our trek up the hill the rest of the way to the heart of town.


The walk was actually a little scary at times. We were on a main road with not really any shoulder, and a large bus passed about two inches from me. Yikes. I wonder if there is a better way....

Of course, this odd poster sort of made up for it. I have no idea what is going on here...I thought cats didn't like water, but the one appears to be doing the breaststroke...


We arrived at the B&B and called the owner to let her know we were there. We were earlier than she expected us to be. She was so friendly....we had a huge room and she explained that for breakfast we would go down the street to a cafe. We got cleaned up a bit, unpacked what we needed, and then headed out for lunch.

We would up at the Caffe Poliziano, which was also where we would go for breakfast the next morning. We had sandwiches and coffee and relaxed. We did a little window shopping afterward...there was a shoe shop/leather store across the street that had some beautiful things and we also checked out a coppersmith's shop...if I'd had the space, I would have bought a pan. Next time.

We sort of took a wrong turn at some point, but when you are in a small town surrounded by walls, you can't really wander too far off the beaten path. Montepulciano is pretty hilly....you walk up for a while, then down. It's best to take it slow and enjoy.


This is a church! Ain't it beautiful!? Ha ha....This is the Cathedral of Santa Maria. This was completed in 1680. They ran out of money for the facade. Or maybe not, but they never added a facade. It's kind of interesting to think that all those other lovely churches we saw...this is what they look like underneath. It was lovely inside though.
 

We spent most of the afternoon just wandering around. I think we were both kind of tired and it was chilly and cloudy. We walked pretty much from one end of Montepulciano to the other. This does not take long. Of course there are several churches...more than several? A lot. Truly, in Italy there are more churches than you can shake a stick at, which is fine by me. I love old churches.

Eventually, we wanted into some kind of wine cellar/cave. There was no one around and I kind of felt like maybe we were someplace we weren't supposed to be....but whatever. It was sort of like a little maze...a maze full of huge casks of wine. Really huge casks.

Eventually, we wound up in a little enoteca, de'Ricci. It was their cellars we had been wandering around. Check out the website...some beautiful photos. We did a tasting of several of their wines and picked up a couple of bottles to take home. We shared with them that we had been on a walking tour and had walked from Montalcino over the course of a few days...they thought we were crazy.


We slowly meandered our way back to our hotel. There is a clocktower in Montepulciano with this crazy little man with a spear on top. Watch out. He'll get ya. Apparently, he is Punch, of Punch and Judy fame!


Here is a shot of the amazing little shop across the street from our B&B. If we had had more walking to do, I'm sure this is where we would have bought our cheese ans fruit provisions.


Here is David with the secret passageway...to closed store. This was right outside the town gate....


And here is the gate....impressive, no? A pharmacists was just down the way, and I believe we wandered here to find that. She was not as friendly as the other pharmacists, but I did get some good decongestant. No need to show your ID in Italy to get really pseudoephedrine. They must not have meth problem there.


We headed back to the B&B to relax a bit before heading to dinner. I believe this was the day I spent 45 minutes facetiming with my sister...getting all the family gossip (holiday season and all).

Eventually, we had to head out for dinner. We'd seen a little pizza place nearby, which seemed like it might be a good option. When we had wandered around for lunch, several places we saw were closed. I wasn't really sure what we would find for dinner. We had a few suggestions from our travel guides, but hadn't decided on anything.

Montepulciano was pretty much deserted. I felt like we were walking through a ghost town. David dragged me all the way to the end of town...past several places that were open. I was getting kind of grumpy...I made this known by walking slower and slower (this is my tactic...rather than just saying, "can we stop already!" I just move at a snail's pace). I believe David could sense the frustration, but to his credit, he kept going.

We took a left down a side street and eventually came across a place that had lots of people inside, a few empty tables, and looked promising. Turns out, it was Osteria Acquacheta, which I had read a bit about. They are known for their steaks...don't go if you are a vegetarian.

Here's David. Doesn't he look happy?


This place was pretty casual (our server was in sweatpants...then again she looked about 8 months pregnant...but, the other server was equally casual, so...), but the food was amazing. Our server was patient with us in explaining the menu, but with a no-nonsense attitude. I told her I wanted steak but not the huge two-pound t-bone that was the specialty and she pointed out the smaller filet I could get. Yay! David ordered sausages and wow! very good. We started with some bruschetta and as a side had pears with pecorino cheese...all warm and melty and amazing.

So, here's the deal here...if you order the house wine, you use the same glass for wine as you do for your water. Traditional osteria style. I was prepared for this from what I had read, but apparently not everyone likes this...mostly grumpy people who write reviews on Trip Advisor. Get over it people.

If you order the steak, the owner hacks a large piece of meat off the side of beef at the back of the restaurant. He then brings this to you at your table on piece of butcher paper, tells you how much it will cost, and then gets your approval (I guess). He also did this with my little baby steak, so I felt pretty special. You can get your steak done rare, or medium rare (another point of contention for those grumpy Trip Advisor reviewers). Off he goes and a bit later, you are enjoying an amazing steak.

When you are done, the owner comes back with a pen and scribbles on your butcher paper "table cloth" all the prices of everything you had. This is your bill.

I thought this place was great. During the high travel season, you definitely need reservations to eat there. The place is tiny and you are seated family style at long tables...elbow to elbow with your fellow diners. Across from us were some New Yorkers discussing Super Storm Sandy. Next to us was an Italian couple on a date. And, as we waited for our food, the receptionist from the hotel in Pienza came in! We chatted with her for a bit about how much we were loving Italy and about our walk form Pienza.

Full of good food, we wandered back to our B&B to get some rest before the next day. I couldn't figure out how to get the heat to turn on, so we added extra blankets to our bed and snuggled in.

Our walking tour was coming to a close, but we still had 4 days left in Italy. The next day, we would head back to Florence.

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