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Trip Report Our trip to Venice, Montalcino & Florence

Here are the details of my trip to Venice, Montalcino & Florence with my husband in May-June 2010. Yes, this is a very late trip report! But better late than never :)

TRANSPORTATION LOGISTICS
Home to Venice: Flight
Venice to Siena: Train (pick up rental car in Siena)
Siena to Montalcino: Drive
Montalcino to Siena: Drive (drop off rental car in Siena)
Siena to Florence: Bus
Florence to Home: Flight

VENICE

So many people told me not to go to Venice because they thought the water was stinky. I am so glad I did not listen to them. I thought Venice was so pretty, romantic and the water didn’t smell at all!!! So I’m thinking it may be during the peak season in July when it’s hot and crowded that people probably don’t like it. But since we went in May, it was great.

The main areas we visited in Venice were San Marco Square, Accedemia Bridge, Rialto Bridge.

Food-wise, as a vegetarian, I personally think that food is better in other parts of Italy. During the day we would walk around and go into small bars and pop in for a glass of wine and a snack (cichèti - small snacks unique to the bars of Venice). This is a very common thing for locals - they walk in, grab a quick snack and gulp down an espresso or sip on a glass of wine while standing up at the bar, then pay and leave.

MONTALCINO

Montalcino and the entire Tuscan countryside are gorgeous!!!!! It's exactly how you'd imagine it - lush greenery, rolling hills and vineyards everywhere you look.
We picked up our rental car in Siena (an automatic car from AutoEurope) and drove from Siena to Montalcino where we spent 3 nights. I don’t really remember the order of what we did while on the countryside, so I’ll just try to list out what I do remember:
Visited the Fortezza – it’s a big fortress in Montalcino that has a terrace with nice views of Montalcino and an enoteca where you can eat and drink.
We had an amazing private tour at the Caparzo winery and it was awesome!!! We were literally the only two people on the beautiful property besides our guide and he served us 8 glasses of some really great wine!
Something to note if you make it to Montalcino - avoid the wines of 2002 as that's generally regarded as the bad year for Montalcino. In Montalcino, we drank in a bunch of enotecas and stopped into some other wineries. Wine was either free or super cheap (3-6 euros). We only drank Brunello in Montalcino b/c that's where it's made (Brunello and Barolo are the top 2 wines of Italy). I saw bottles of Brunello at restaurants at home selling for ~$200!
We spent every evening in Montalcino, and made day trips to Pienza (known for pecorino cheese), Montepulciano (known for the wine Vino Nobile di Montepulciano – which I personally don’t like but some people love it!), the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore (known for some of the most beautiful frescoes in Italy), the Banfi Castle (a huge winery estate where we met the owner!), and then some aimless driving around the gorgeous countryside. All of these places were within 30 min of Montalcino.
We missed the monks chanting at Sant'Antimo (b/c we missed their hours every day). We went to some pretty cool bars/enotecas and ate at good restaurants in Montalcino, but the only restaurant name I remember is Grappolo Blu (where we went a couple times).

FLORENCE

Florence has the best Italian food! Our friend lived there for a year and recommended a few places to us. From her list, we had a chance to try Aqua al Due for dinner and Il Porcospino and the Oil Shop for lunch. Aqua al Due is a great place to be able to try a variety of foods and courses and is very veggie friendly.

Our friend’s other recommendations:
Dinner - Aqua al Due, La Giostra (super good but it pricey but worth it. They bring a huge appetizer thing to start on the house so don’t order appetizers at first), Il gato al la volpe (great tuscan food and the atmosphere feels very Tuscan)
Lunch - Il Porcospino, The oil shop (great panini's)

The main areas we hit in Florence: Piazza del Duomo, Piazza della Signoria, Piazza di Santa Croce, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza Repubblica, Visited the Accedemia, and Watched the sunset at Ponte Vecchio bridge

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