Sometimes the best luck is dumb luck …
There it was. Rising from the top of a hill, shrouded in light blue mist. Our first glimpse of Montepulciano. We had driven an hour and a half to visit this beautiful town known for the wine produced in the area: Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
We found a parking space and walked up the hill to the Information Center where we obtained a free street map. A little further uphill we passed through the large stone-arched gateway into the town. We continued uphill along streets lined with shops including lots of enotecas selling Vino Nobile di Montepulciano as well as pecorino cheese.
Coming to a small piazza in front of a church we paused to rest for a moment. I checked out the interior of the church. It was quite beautiful in its simplicity.
Further up the street we stopped at a pastry shop for cappuccinos and a cream-stuffed pastry. Back on the street we continued our climb until eventually we came to the other end of town. The little piazza there was, of course, in front of another church. We turned and started back down the street the way we had come. After a couple of blocks we veered left onto another street which began another ascent to the Piazza Grande.
We entered the piazza past a 3-member band playing on the corner. Susan sat on the steps of one building while I strolled around the square taking pictures. The piazza was quite pretty with the Duomo on one side and the town hall at right angles to it. Other buildings completed the other two sides of the square.
In the city hall I paid €3 to climb to the rooftop viewing area. The last couple of flights of stairs were an extremely narrow circular stairway.
The view from the narrow gallery down onto the piazza and over the rooftops to the countryside beyond was breathtaking.
Upon my descent Susan and I found a table at one of the restaurants on the square and ordered pizzas for lunch accompanied by glasses of Vino Nobile. After lunch we journeyed down further downhill streets until we again passed through the stone archway.
Back in the car we plugged “La Foce” into the GPS and set off for what we hoped to be a garden tour. After about 20 minutes of following instructions from the GPS we ended up on a gravel road in front of some building that definitely did not look like the Villa and gardens we were looking for. La Foce only offers tours of the gardens on Wednesday afternoons at 3, 4, 5, and 6 pm. As our guide book did not list La Foce we did not have an address we could enter into our GPS so we pretty much gave up on the tour and decided to head straight to Pienza which was to be our last destination of the day. We soon came to an intersection where the GPS told us to turn left but the sign said Pienza was to the right, so we turned right ignoring the GPS. No sooner had we turned than we saw a sign that said “La Foce 4”. Through pure dumb luck we had found La Foce! 4 kilometers later we turned into the parking lot for the gardens.
We arrived about 10 minutes before the 4 pm tour was to start. The gardens at La Foce were beautiful. When Antonio and Iris Origio bought this estate after the 1st World War they hired English architect Cecil Pinsent to design the main gardens along with restructuring the house. The gardens are probably best described by an excerpt from the above website:
“The garden grew gradually, between 1925 and 1939. The house is surrounded by a formal Italian garden, which is divided into geometrical ‘rooms’ by box hedges with lemon trees in terracotta pots. Travertine stairs lead to the rose garden and a winding wisteria-covered pergola bordered by lavender hedge. Gentle informal terraces climb up the hill, where cherry trees, pines and cypresses grow among wild broom, thyme and rosemary, and a long cypress avenue leads to a 17th-century stone statue.”
The views from the gardens over the Val d’Orcia are stunning. The tour lasted about an hour and we were soon on our way once again to Pienza.
In the mid 1400’s Pope Pius II had the village of his birth rebuilt as an ideal Renaissance town. His dream however never really got much beyond the main square but there is a definite difference in architecture compared to other towns in Tuscany.
Pienza is also known for its Pecorino (sheep) cheese. We stopped at one small shop and tasted several types before purchasing some. At another shop we bought a bottle of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
As it was getting late in the day we decided to stop for a quick drink before heading home. We found a little bar on the edge of town with a table outside facing west, into an incredibly beautiful sunset. We sipped our Proseccos and watched the sun go down on another amazing day in Tuscany.
Our surprises were not done with yet though. On the way back down the lane to The Barn we saw a small herd of wild boars beside the road. While there are lots of wild boars in Tuscany we had not seen any until tonight.