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Montalcino vs. Monticchello vs. Pienza vs. Your Favourite Spot

Montalcino vs. Monticchello vs. Pienza vs. Your Favourite Spot

Jul 4th, 2007, 05:22 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 122
Montalcino vs. Monticchello vs. Pienza vs. Your Favourite Spot

Greetings from Canada,
My husband and I will be heading to Tuscany in October to ride our bikes, eat yummy food and drink great wines. I have been reading for days about all of the amazing towns, and are having a very difficult time deciding where to make home base.
Please help me...
We will be in the area 7-10 days. We haven't decided if we will need a vehicle yet, so we would prefer to stay in a village (as opposed to in the countryside) in order to easily walk to dinner in the evenings. A town with a great market would also be preferable.
Please help me narrow the search,
tanya0070 is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 06:35 PM
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Hi Tanya,

The towns are all just wonderful. Size and population vary. Montepulciano is larger than Montalcino and Pienza. Each has some unique aspects. Each has a specialty - Montalcino = Brunello, Pienza = Pecorino, Bagno Vignoni (SP?) = therma spa, etc.

You really can't make a bad choice - except to NOT have a car! You really, really need a car so you can easily visit the other towns, abbeys, wineries, etc. Buses are not frequent enough to be convenient. Plus, you want to stop for photo ops, wandering, picnics where ever the scenery strikes you, no?

It seems people tend to fall in love with the town they stay in, versus just visit. I think it's because you get a little more intimately acquainted with "home base", stroll in the evenings when the day visitors are gone, have more opportunity to see the town and its people going about their daily activities. If you can time your vist with a town festa - even better.

Buon viaggio!
Dayle is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 06:44 PM
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We stayed in Montalcino in 2005 after visiting it on daytrips in 2001 and 2003. We fell in love with it.
Sitting on top of the hill at 800+ meters above sea level, it has a commanding view of the valley. You can see forever. Although it's small it has several good restaurants, enotecas, a bank, etc.
Walking around in the early morning or after dinner after the daytrippers leave is a joy.
We've never stayed in Pienza although we visited it, and we've never stayed in Monticchello.
I think you should rent a car in order to get to the other villages.

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2Italy is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 07:07 PM
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If you end up in Montelcino, see if you can find a copy of the book Vanilla Beans and Brodo. It's pretty interesting.

wliwl is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 07:25 PM
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Dayle is right - you really do need a car, at least you'll have more fun if you have one since you'll have so many more options. And I'd vote for Montepulciano as a base -- it has more of a "real" feel to it, a good Thursday market, and a greater selection of restaurants due to its larger size. Although you'll eat very well in Montalcino too. Monticchiello is tiny, with 2 restaurants and a bar, but lovely. My last choice would be Pienza, which seems to me to be the most heavily touristed these days.
alohatoall is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 07:27 PM
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Thank you...
I appreciate the comments about renting a car; initially didn't think that we would need one being in a village and riding our bikes during the day. But, I see now why we will need one. We will get a car!
I checked out that book on amazon.com, and it looks quite interesting. I will order it.
Anybody else have an opion on a 'home base'? Leaning towards Montelcino, but looking at San Quinico and Montepulicano and Pienza...
All ideas would be helpful...
Thanks, Tanya
tanya0070 is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 07:30 PM
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One more thing - this month's issue of Wine Speculator magazine has a large section on Montelcino and its wine. It's got great pictures and it's very interesting.
wliwl is offline  
Jul 4th, 2007, 09:45 PM
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If your time includes the end of October don't miss the Feast of the Thrush http://www.montalcinoitaly.com/celebration.htm
If you want information on some of the towns in the area e-mail me and I will send it you, it is too long to post.

Henry is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 07:29 AM
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Hi Tanya,

I think you will enjoy "Vanilla Beans and Brodo". I read it years ago and it sparked my interest in Montalcino (note the proper spelling) and Brunello. Luciano and Mariapia (owners of Grappolo Blu) are key characters in the book. It's a nice little slice of life story. In Montalcino, it's ALL about the wine!

The only town I would really stay away from is Pienza. I know some have enjoyed staying there, but really, every tour bus in Italy stops there. I wouldn't hesitate to stay outside the town nearby.

Dayle is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 08:30 AM
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We loved our stay in an apartment in Monticchiello and found it quite convenient for exploring the Val D'Orcia, but it is a very tiny village, with an extremely limited number of shops - nothing approaching a "great market" (two excellent restaurants, however!). There is a little alimentari (grocery) and bakery in town, just outside the village walls, but usually we picked up food and supplies when returning from our day trips to other hill towns.
hazel1 is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 08:42 AM
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Haven't been to Pienza in recent years but we thought we might stay there when we returned. It's flat on one side, so easy to drive(or bicycle)in and out of -- as opposed to a town perched on the top of a hill. And it's a good size, several good restaurants. We stayed in San Gimignano once and enjoyed it in the evening and early morning. Of course, that might be because we had a terrace to retreat to during the high-volume tourist hours.

San Quirico is another possibility. It's relatively flat and has been praised several time recently in this forum.
Mimar is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 03:05 PM
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What amazing responses...I think that I will look for somewhere in either Montalcino or Montepulacino. Specific accomodation suggestions are welcome from fellow Fodorites...Is 7-10 days too long to stay in a small village in Tuscany, or should we break up our stay by choosing two locations?
I will head to Chapters this evening to grab a copy of the Wine Spectator!! Thanks for the heads up.
The Feast of the Thrush looks quite interesting, too bad our dates don't coincide with the celebration...
tanya0070 is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 04:38 PM
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Tanya - To go to a lot of these places, a vehicle is necessary. At the bottom of this is a link to my blog (aka trip report with pictures) from September/October 2005.

We were in Tuscany for eight nights (out of our 22 in Italy). Our favorite base was St. Quirico d'Orcia at the Palazzo del Capitano (see below). Outside of putting the wrong gas in the car, driving is a snap (oh yeah, pull up on the ring for reverse)

Some of favorite recollections:

Roccalbegna - Climb to the top of the fortress on the hill for great views. There is also a terrific view of Roccalbegna from the road out of town (see blog how to get to it).

Sorano - Cool drive into Sorano because the road is cut into the tufa. Views of Sorano from near the parking lot just outside of town are fantastico.

Pitigliano - Great views of this town perched on the edge of a cliff. In town, stop in one of the many wine caves and buy cheap (yet, pretty darned good) wine.

Ristoro di Lamole - in the hills a little south of Greve. Great food. Wondferful atmosphere. Terrific prices.

Monte Oliveto Maggiore - between Siena and Montalcino. Beautiful abbey...terrific frrescoes and tranquil.

Palazzo del Capitano - our favorite hotel of this (and probably any) trip. - Located in St. Quirico, a great little town and perfect base to see Pienza, Montalcino, Montepulciano, Bagno Vignani, Radicofani and Monticchiello.

Osteria La Porta - be sure to eat on the patio of this restaurant in Monticchiello. It has a postcard view out on to the Tuscan landscape.

The Fortezza in Montalcino and the automated wine dispensing machines in Greve were cool, too.

From a previous trip, we absolutely loved Volterra. Scenic drive from San Gimignano. Bring provisions (we were partial to pecorino and vino) and have a picnic in the park near the fortress (now a prison, I believe).

If you get to Umbria, check out Gubbio. Take a ride on the Bucket of Bolts.

Have a wonderful time:

maitaitom is online now  
Jul 5th, 2007, 04:40 PM
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Oh yeah, Pecorino from Pienza (another of my favorite towns) with a bottle of nice wine makes for the perfect picnic!

maitaitom is online now  
Jul 5th, 2007, 05:08 PM
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Tuscanson is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 05:53 PM
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Wow, the hotel you mentioned in San Quirico looks fantastic! We planned on renting a one bedroom apartment/villa, but I have already contacted Palazzo del Capitano to determine availability! Is the hotel within the town limits? Meaning, can we walk to great restaurants in the evenings? And are there equally great restaurants in San Quirico, as in Montelcino or Montelpulicino? Tanya
tanya0070 is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 06:02 PM
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Interesting comments on Pienza. I enjoyed staying there for four nights last year. Touristy or not, I loved it. Yes, it would be a good idea to have a car.

Ten days is a nice amount of time. You could spend several nights in or near Siena, or you could spend a little time in Umbria.

What airports are you using? If you are flying in or out of Rome, Umbria is a logical place to spend a few days.

Regardless which town you choose, you're still going to a lovely area.

Here is my journal and photographs.
luvtotravel is offline  
Jul 5th, 2007, 06:18 PM
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"Is the hotel within the town limits?"

Yes it is, but be aware, St. Quirico is a small town with not a lot of night life. The hotel has a good restaurant, and the other restaurant I mentioned in my trip report (I can't remember the name off hand) was also very good. St. Quirico, to us, made the perfect base.

It is a relatively flat town, which might be nice after a day pedaling around the area. The hotel runs from 130 - 160 euros (last I saw). Great garden in the back to enjoy some vino and lay in a chaise after a bike ride. Nice breakfast spread, also.

We loved the people who ran it and also the people who worked the front desk.

We drove to Bagno Vignoni one night for dinner and you could also go to the restaurant in Monticchiello for dinner, but we like to eat close, drink wine and stay off the road (strict drinking and driving laws in Italy) .

If you choose two locations, I might suggest three or four nights in St. Quirico and three or four nights at Palazzo Ravizza in Siena to see that area of Tuscany.

We were (PR) there in 2001 (thought it was great), sent some friends there a couple of months ago, and they raved about it. Good location just inside the walls (parking), and walking distance to tons of good restaurants, the Campo and all the other Siena sights. Also convenient area to explore Chianti area, San Gimignano and Volterra.

These are only two of a myriad of choices, but I feel confident in recommending both.

Have fun and drink lots of vino!

maitaitom is online now  
Jul 5th, 2007, 08:09 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
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I agree with others, a car rental is a must. Pienza was quite nice for us when we visited last November. It was empty! Maybe in October you'll get lucky.

Vanilla Beans and Brodo is a wonderful read. If you are going to be biking or hiking, I'd recommend "Wallking and Eating in Tuscany and Umbria" by James Lasdun and Pia Davis. I honestly didn't use this book all that much. The weather was rather cool and it's from the perspective of someone on foot. The organization is by trail not by city. You may benefit the most from this book. The guide is very detailed.

We stayed in San Quirico at Palazzo del Capitano. Right in the center of the cities you've mentioned. One of the best aspects of this town is that it isn't hilly like Montepulciano or Montalcino.

Since you have 7-10 days in Tuscany, Id recommend splitting the trip to northern Tuscany (Chianti) and Southern Tuscany. They are quite different and some distance from each other.
ricerco is offline  

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