Europe Forums

Start a new topic Change Forum
Advanced search

Outside Montepulciano as a Base

Jump to last reply

After spending time in Florence and Siena, we will be staying seven nights just outside Montepulciano, before heading for Rome. We think good day trips could be (1) Montalcino, (2) S. Quirico d'Orcia and Pienza, (3) Greve in Chianti, if not too far, (4) Orvieto and Bagno Reggio, (5) Arezzzo, and (6) Assisi, if not too far.
Nothing on this list is make-or-break, So we would elcome all suggestions.

  • Report Abuse

    From my Italy itinerary:

    The following is a 1 day driving itinerary through the Montepulciano area, with stops at various villages and sites. If you have more time to spend in this vicinity, by all means drive down some of the dirt roads and even take some walks.

    The best times of day to see this area are in the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is lower in the sky. When the shadows are long, the cypress trees & umbrella pines look more pronounced as they “dance up the hill” (my wife’s term). The farmhouses sprinkled throughout the landscape take on a special look in the early morning and at sunset. The Val d’Orcia can get some morning fog. If so, spend the morning in a village & start your drive when the fog lifts.

    In my opinion, the countryside is the “star” in this part of Tuscany. You “must see” Pienza and there are other interesting villages too, but don’t shortchange the drive through the countryside. If you are behind schedule, skip some villages – not the countryside. You might think that this itinerary seems out of order in places & I’m often taking you down roads that you have already driven. Sometimes, I’m considering the position of the sun when you drive on a road, and other times I’m just trying to extend the time to enjoy the countryside.

    You will need the Touring Club Italiano map of Tuscany to follow this route. Also, obtain the Michelin Green Guide to Tuscany. If anyone wants to take walks in this area, get the Carta Turistica e Stradale – Val di Chiana, Val d’Orcia map. They have it at the bookstore in Pienza.

    If you are doing this tour as a day trip from Siena, leave Siena going south on the N2 (marked SS2 also). It’s actually a pretty drive. Just past the second turnoff to Montalcino and past the bridge, look for a beautiful grove of cypress trees to your right. At San Quirico, take the N146 east to Montepulciano. This is an easy drive. If you leave Siena by 7:00 you should get to Montepulcano by 8:30 or earlier.

    Do not visit Montepulciano at this time, unless it is foggy in which case you should wait until the fog lifts before proceeding on this drive. Take the N146 west to Pienza. The sun will be at your back. When you pass the large domed church of San Biagio (on your right/north) just after leaving Montepulciano, look back towards Montepulciano & you will be rewarded with a spectacular site – the Church of San Biagio in the foreground with Montepulciano cascading down the hillside behind it. This is one of the most photographed sites in Tuscany. Before I retired, I had a giant poster of this view in my office – reminding me why I wanted to retire & spend more time traveling. Don’t take a picture just yet – you will be back over this route later in the day and the sun will be in a better position to shine on the church and the perched village behind it.

    Continue on the N146 to Pienza. This road has some wonderful scenery. You should get to Pienza by 9:00.

    As you approach the “old” part of Pienza and the N146 turns right towards San Quirico, make a sharp left turn and you will find some parking spaces. If these parking spots are filled, continue down this road & look for the blue parking (P) to your left. During tourist season, you have to pay to park in this lot. You can also park south of Pienza below the village, but you will have a slight climb uphill to the center of town.

    Explore Pienza by entering through the Porta al Murello, at the west end of Pienza. Just as you enter Pienza, there is a nice pottery/gift shop on your left (in the large square) which has had a significant impact on my wallet. Most stores open at 9:30 & close for a 1 ½ to 3 hr lunch at 1:00 (typical in Italy). You can obtain a self guided 1 hour audio tour of the town (in English) by renting a head set from the tourist office (closed at lunch time, but open on Sunday). If you want to have a picnic lunch at Sant’ Antimo abbey, pick up some lunch provisions while in Pienza. There is a pizza shop just outside of the Porta al Murello (next to the book store/news stand) where you can pick up a slice of pizza. There is a walking path next to the town walls on the south side of Pienza – don’t miss this. It’s a great place to just sit in the sun & admire the views. Plan on spending 1 ½ hrs in Pienza if you take the audio tour or you’re a big shopper, 1 hr if not. It’s one of the few villages in Tuscany that has most of it’s stores open on Sunday, & Monday mornings.

    Leave Pienza on the N146 toward San Quirico. This is another stretch of road with fantastic views – perhaps our favorite. Just 2K from San Quirico, there is a splendid view to the south of a very small church and another building with cypress trees & umbrella pines surrounding these buildings. This site is on the crest of a hill. If you have been in Tuscany for any length of time, you will have seen this view on many postcards & calendars. You will pass this church again later in this drive when the late afternoon sun makes this scene perfect for picture taking. As you approach San Quirico, drive into the parking lot behind the Taverna del Barbarossa restaurant (which is associated with the Casanova hotel). The parking lot is at the south end of the complex. Park the car, get out & you will see another of the most photographed sites in Tuscany. In fact, the very first picture that appears in my ’95 Michelin Green Guide to Tuscany, is a photograph of this scene – a farmhouse sitting on top of a hill, surrounded by cypress trees. A “coffee table” book I have has photographs of this site at different times of the year – it’s quite remarkable. This site is even on the cover of that book. I also have a poster (yes, it was hanging in my office too).

    You should get to San Quirico by 11:00 if you stopped for some picture taking along the way. Don’t visit San Quirico now – do so later in the itinerary if you have time (it’s worth a visit).

    Follow the signs at San Quirico and get on the N2 toward Siena (north). Just after you leave San Quirico on the N2, you will be on a bridge. If you look back, there is a nice view of the village of San Quirico from the bridge. Unfortunately, I have never been brave enough to get out of the car & take a picture from this bridge. Further along the N2 there is a pretty grove of cypress trees on your left (west). This grove can be seen better traveling south, however. On your right, you will see several cypress trees and umbrella pines dotting the ridge of a hill. You might recognize this site from postcards & calendars you have seen. Turn off the N2 & go to Montalcino.

    As you approach Montalcino, you will get some good views of this perched village. The road will turn a few times & will take you to the south entrance of town, which will be marked with a large “Montalcino” painted on a white background on the stone wall of town, and a “centro” sign will be pointing into town . Do not enter through this entrance - instead turn a very sharp left when you see this town sign and follow the road uphill. Very shortly you will see a round-about. Exit to the right off the round-about to find a place to park. There is a rather large car parking lot near the old fortress (Rocca). Note – When you arrive into Montalcino and encounter the round-about, note the sign to Sant’ Antimo Abbey (marked “S. Antimo”), where you will go next on this itinerary (it’s marked on the round-about). The road to this abbey is a very sharp left (almost a full circle around the round-about).

    Visit Montalcino. You should get there by 11:00. Many shops will close by 1:00. You can visit the fortress, but I found it only OK. Budget about 1 hour or less in Montalcino. It has some nice outdoor lunch spots if you want a sit down lunch (I’m pushing the picnic at Sant’ Antimo).

    Follow the signs (and your map) to Sant’ Antimo Abbey. The Abbey is quite lovely, but what I like best about it, is the setting – we’ve used up a lot of film there. It’s located in a valley surrounded by hills, cypress trees dancing up these hills, and a lawn around of the Abbey (where you can picnic). It’s also a good place for a little snooze in the sun. There are Gregorian chants inside the church at various times of the day (posted on the entrance to the church – one chant is at 12:45). See http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/tuscany/sant_antimo.htm for a full chant schedule and a description of Sant Antimo.

    Continue on your drive through the countryside. You should leave Sant’ Antimo about 1:30. Take the road south-east of the abbey, toward Monte Amiata on your Touring Club map. Pass through Monte Amiata, and at Ost. Ansidonia, turn left (north-east) to Castiglione d’ Orcia. This is pretty countryside. Pass through Castiglion & get on the N2 & head north toward San Quirico. You should get to San Quirico about 2:00 or so.

    Continue past San Quirico toward Siena. You will have another chance to see the cypress grove to your left, and the cypresses & umbrella pines running along the ridge to your right. Get off the N2 at Torrenieri. There is a road that runs from Torrenieri to San Quirico, just east of the N2. Find it on the Touring Club map. You want to head south on this road from Torrenieri to the “phantom” village of Bellaria on the map (there really isn’t any village there). When driving through Torrenieri just after leaving the N2, you need to turn right at the first stop sign (in front of a small church) and you will immediately cross a railroad track. As you approach Bellari, look to your right and you will see more umbrella pines & cypress trees dotting the top of a ridge. These are the same trees you saw from the N2 on your drive to Montalcino and to Torrenieri. When you get to Bellaria, turn left (east) to Cosona (it’s marked at the turn). You will be on a dirt road. It is one of our favorite drives in this area. Continue & go slowly on this dirt road. Lots of pretty sites here. This dirt road will kind of dead-end onto another road (see it on your map). Turn right toward Pienza and continue on toward Pienza. When you get to the N146, turn west (right) toward San Quirico. You should get here around 3:00.

    About half way to San Quirico, there is a dirt road that heads south of N146 – find it on the map (it’s the only one on the map between Pienza & San Quirico). There is a sign for this road on the N146 and the turn is marked by a direction sign to the “Agriturismo il Rigo”, and before a “watch for deer” sign. Turn south on this road. We have often driven down this road, parked the car, & started on a hike from here. Continue on this road until it connects with the N2.

    Continue south on the N2, and after about 2K, head east on the paved road (marked yellow on the touring club map) toward Chianciano & Pienza (well marked). This road passes through another “phantom” town called Spedaletto – find it on the map to make sure you turned at the right place off the N2. This road goes trough the heart of the Val d’Orcia and is quite picturesque. Continue on this road toward Chianciano Terme. You will have a nice view of Pienza perched on top of a ridge, off in the distance to the left (north). There is an “interchange” on this road – pay attention & keep heading to Chianciano Terme. Just before La Foce, you will see a lovely double set of cypress trees to the north, dancing (again) up the hill (another much photographed site). Continue on this road, and shortly you will see a parking lot opposite the Restaurant Oasi la Foce. Pull into this lot & you will get another view of this double set of cypress trees. Continue toward Chianciano, and about 1/2K after the parking lot, take the first left (north) on a dirt road toward Montepulciano (well marked). This will be a dirt road and will pass around a lovely castle. When the dirt road becomes a paved road, turn left towards Monticchiello (well marked). As you approach Monticciello, this road becomes particularly scenic.

    Monticchiello is a very cute village – it’s where my father-in-law says he wants to live. Park the car in the lot outside this village near the refreshment stand (do you need any) & wander around. It’s a 30 min wander. There is a nice restaurant in town called La Porta.

    Look at Monticchiello on the Touring Club map. You will see lots of roads radiating from this small village like spokes on a bicycle wheel. All these roads have fantastic views of the countryside – in my opinion, they offer the prettiest drives in the Val d’Orcia. If you have time to spare, by all means drive down all these roads. We’ve done this quite often at various times of the day when the sun casts different shadow patterns on the rolling hills and from the cypress trees. My favorite drive is the one branching out at 8:00 from Monticchiello. It connects to the road heading directly north to Pienza. Turn right towards Pienza on this road & you will get a fantastic view of Pienza. Just a little south of Pienza, there is a dirt road that heads south-west. Take this road and it will connect with the N2/Chianciano road running east/west. From here you can retrace the drive east towards La Foce where you will head to Montepulciano (by-passing the turn to Monticchiello). When this road hits the N146, turn left to Montepulciano.

    If you don’t have extra time available for this side trip, after visiting Monticchiello head back down hill from the parking lot. Immediately after leaving the lot, go straight at the fork (just after the first house on the right) instead of turning right the way you entered the lot. This will lead to Montepulciano on a paved road that shortly becomes a dirt road and later paved again. There is a nice view of Montepulciano from this road. When this road dead-ends at the N146, turn left towards Pienza, or right to Montepulciano if you want to visit this town (one of my favorites).

    Visit Montpulciano, if you like (1 hr visit). Use the Michelin Green Guide to find the sites you want to visit. Hike all the way up to the Piazza Grande. It’s a somewhat steep walk through town, however, but the village is very pretty. You can taste some excellent wine at the Avignonesi estate (you will see it – just opposite the tall column in the middle of the main street, just after you enter town). If you need a snack, find a place where you can get pizza by the slice & have a mushroom (fungi) and truffle (tartufi) pizza (only in Italy!!!).

    Leave Montepulciano towards Pienza on the N146 again. Now you get a better view with the remarkable San Biagio Church in the foreground and Montepulciano in the background (you may have to drive a little west on the N146 to get the view). Hopefully you are at this spot about 5:00 or so. Without any further stops, you are less than 1 ½ hrs from Siena.

    Drive along the N146 toward Pienza & San Quirico again (30 min drive). The sun will be in your face, but now the little church with the cypress trees around it will look quite different, as will other sites you photographed when you drove this route in the morning.

    If time allows, visit San Quirico. San Quirico is kind of a poor man’s Pienza – but they like it that way. It’s a town where people really live. In fact, I’ve told friends that San Quirico is the type of town we wish our small towns in the US would be like – kind of a River City, Iowa (Music Man). Everyone knows everyone else, people are out strolling, there are stores where locals shop for their everyday stuff, etc. Families congregate at the Bar Centrale (closed Thurs) in the evening, where the men play cards in one room, the younger children are in the video room, and the older children are outside playing soccer in the town square or just hanging out. If you visit San Quirico, have a coffee latte at the Bar Centrale & “people watch”. SQ is a 30-45 min visit. Some stores may be closed Wednesday afternoon.


    Other places to go

    Visit Murio & the Etruscan museum (west of Monte Olvieto Maggiore Abbey on the other side of the N2). You have probably driven past many advertisements for this town & museum – the ads look like a cartoon character with a cowboy hat (locals joke it’s a caricature of George Bush). The “character” is actually an Etruscan statue in this museum. The town of Murio is interesting to visit and the road that leads southeast through Bibbiano is very scenic.

    Radicofani*– south of San Quirico off the N2 to the east. This is a large medieval fortress perched on a hilltop. You can see it from miles around. The view from the top of the tower is fantastic. The drive down the N2 is pretty too.


    Another scenic drive

    Head south from San Quirico on the N2 (marked SS2). This is a pretty drive & you will visit some appealing medieval towns in a hidden corner of Tuscany. Just after the southern most Radicofani exit (see the map) & before the small Pte d. Rigo (marked on the Touring Club Italiano map) head southwest on a small road – it goes through Sforzesca. I think there are signs directing you to Pitigliano & Sorano. Follow this road through S. Valentino to Sorano*. The next three towns you will be visiting are in the Green Michelin guide to Tuscany under “Pitigliano”. The approach to Sorano is very pretty – get the camera ready. Explore Sorano on foot. Not much happening in town, but it’s fun to wander around – several artisan shops. Leave Sorano to the south, drive to Pitigliano*, and get the camera ready again. This is our favorite town of the three. Historic Pitigliano has been beautifully & tastefully maintained. Several lunch spots available in town. Next drive to Sovana* & explore this town (not quite as interesting as the other two). Leave Sovana going west and then take the first road going southwest. This road hits another east/west road that goes back to Pitigliano. I am taking you on this route so you can see the view of Pitigliano from the south. Get the camera ready again as you approach Pitigliano. After the view, head east to Acquapendente. Get there by going through Onano – the N2 south of Acquapendente has some really ugly commerce on it. Take the N2 back to San Quirico/Pienza.

    More things to see:

    Drive to San Quirico from Pienza (if you are staying in Pienza), and when you approach San Quirico, go over a bridge, and the arched town gate is directly in front of you. Immediately turn left in front of the gate (don’t go through the gate - expensive ticket if they catch you). Continue down this road at the east end of San Quirico and park there for a visit (lots of public parking available – free). There is a stairway up to town at the south end (far end) of this car park. There is even something happening on Sundays in San Quirico (many stores close Wednesday afternoon). Have a café latte at the Bar Centrale .

    Return to your car & continue in the same direction you were driving (south). The road will turn to the right around SQ, and there is a stop sign at the south entrance to town (where you entered on foot). Continue straight and head to the small town of Ripa d’Orcia (southwest of San Quirico). This road is quite scenic. Ripa d’Orcia is actually a castle with a rustic B&B (It’s in the Karen Brown guide – our friends stayed there when they were buying their home in SQ). You can’t go into the castle unless you are staying there or having dinner there (rustic dinner too). Turn around & drive to Vignoni. They were restoring the largest building in this town when we were there in March ’04 and it will be apartments. Continue on this road to Bagno Vignoni. This is a bath/spa town with old Roman bath ruins that are quite interesting. There is a spa/hotel in town. You can purchase a day pass for the spa even if you don’t stay at the hotel (our friends have done this many times). I’m not a spa person, but the spa complex looks like a resort hotel you might find in Mexico or Hawaii. The “pool” is fed by a heated water source. It has walkways over the pool as it winds around, and there are lots of lounge chairs where people catch some “rays”. We were there on a Sunday on a cold but sunny day in March and there was lots of activity. The actual town was quite nice too with many/all stores open on Sunday. There are lots of restaurants/ delicatessens with outdoor dining tables for picnics. There is another 90 room “super spa” being built nearby just outside the center of town that is scheduled to open April 1 ‘04, but when we were there on March 28 it looked like it was months away from opening. Our friends said that this hotel first started the planning process in ’80. People in Tuscany like to keep things beautiful and planning is a lot of give & take. The hotel looked very pretty & blended in with the countryside quite well. Great views from the hotel.

    Stu Dudley

  • Report Abuse

    We stayed in Montipulciano for a week last October. Had a great time and visite many of the places you have listed.

    We also enjoyed a drive to Monticchiello. Very pretty countryside with lots of umbrella pines and a cute little village.

    We also visited Cortona.

    Another enjoyable thing we did was a wine tour through the Montepulciano Tourist Information centre, it was a half day tour. Very interesting wine processing information, wine tastings and some delicious food a long the way.

  • Report Abuse

    We stayed just outside Montepulciano about 10 minutes from Pienza and drove to Cortona for a day trip. It turned out to be one of my favourites - the Etruscan museum + wandering the not-very-touristy town was a lovely experience.

  • Report Abuse

    We stayed just outside Montepulciano, near Montepulciano station for 1 week a few years ago.

    We did a few day trips - Montalcino and Sant'Antimo were easy. Since it was 104F the entire week we really enjoyed staying local. Morning outing to a local market or to Montepulciano, afternoons by the pool or in the cool apartment.

    We would have tired with some of the longer day trips - anything over 40min or so one way for us. YMMV.

  • Report Abuse

    On your way from Siena to Montepulciano, I would stop at Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore. It closes for lunch at noon, so plan your arrival accordingly. One or two hours would be enough to see the fresco cycle in the Cloisters, the Refectory (if open), the sanctuary (where we heard the organist practicing) and a bit of the beautifully forested grounds. There is a small shop selling products made at the abbey. It's a bit of a walk (although enjoyable) from the parking area to the abbey buildings, and there is a restaurant with a terrace near the parking lot where you could have lunch.

    http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/tuscany/monte_oliveto.htm

    Greve is much closer to Siena and Florence, and there would be too many temptations to stop/detour between Montepulciano and Greve.

    A few trains from Florence to Arezzo are only one hour and depart/arrive in the city centers. Going by train, you lose no time getting out/in both cities, finding parking, walking, etc.

    IMO, Assisi is too far from Montepulicano for a day trip, but the drive would be scenic.

    I think you mean Bagnoregio. A bit far I think unless you went there before Orvieto where I presume you're turning in the car.

7 Replies |Back to top

| Add a Reply

Sign in to comment.

Recent Activity

View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 The elusive `Northern Lights` Where I go , they don`t!
  2. 2 London for Free
  3. 3 Anyone familiar with these Ile St. Louis apartments?
  4. 4 Northern Italy for Nature Lovers/Crowd Haters
  5. 5 Trying to get a handle on our 19 days in Tuscany and Umbria
  6. 6 Renewing our vows in Venice
  7. 7 Northern Lights in Scotland??
  8. 8 Madrid: Historic Homes & Gardens
  9. 9 Madrid: City Views
  10. 10 Spain Rental Car Logistics - Barcelona Train Station
  11. 11 London restaurants
  12. 12 biking in France
  13. 13 Music and/or Favorite Day Trips, Barcelona
  14. 14 Flying Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy to London
  15. 15 Terrorism in Europe
  16. 16 Trip Report Bilbo's wedding in Puglia, what could go wrong?
  17. 17 Paris Markets for a 5 Course Meal
  18. 18 Marche Bastille - Oct Hours and Meet up Location?
  19. 19 Venice: budget hotel for high school group?
  20. 20 Trip Report Three weeks holiday in Turkey
  21. 21 Ronda or Vejer de la Frontera?
  22. 22 How to schedule train connection from Frankfurt Airport
  23. 23 Trip Report Peggy does Deutschland...
  24. 24 Trip Report Our Spain Adventure -- Cordoba, Seville, Granada and Barcelona! (Part One)
  25. 25 Madrid Card or Paseo del Arte pass
View next 25 » Back to the top