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Tedgale Trip Report: Montepulciano/ S. Tuscany, October 2010

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Oct 27th, 2010, 01:17 PM
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Tedgale Trip Report: Montepulciano/ S. Tuscany, October 2010

This trip report covers the period from October 23 to October 30, 2010. Obviously a work still in progress. We arrived in Tuscany from Puglia, via Fiumicino. On Saturday, we will drive to Orvieto, drop the car there and take a train to Rome for our final 2 nights.

Here's our tombstone info:

Depart Montreal Friday October 15 KL 0672 18h55
Arrive Amsterdam Saturday October 16 7h35
Depart Amsterdam Saturday October 16 KL1623 9h35
Arrive Milan Malpensa 11h15

Saturday October 16 and Sunday October 17 nights: Milan
Depart Milan Malpensa Monday October 18 Alitalia AP 110 15h05
Arrive Brindisi Papole Casale 16h45

Accommodation: Apartment in Galatone, Puglia:
http://www.holiday-rentals.co.uk/p444365

Depart Brindisi Papole Casale Saturday October 23 15h15 Flight AZ 1622
Arrive Rome Fiumicino 16H25. Car rental from airport.

Accommodation Saturday October 23 - Saturday October 30: Appartamenti "Al Poggiolo", Montepulciano, Tuscany
http://www.giardino.alpoggiolo.it/en...ion-apt-4.html

Accommodation Saturday October 30 and Sunday October 31: Adair's apartment in central Rome

Depart Rome Fiumicino Monday November 1 KL 1598 10H10
Arrive Amsterdam 12h 55
Depart Amsterdam Monday November 1 KL 061 14h50
Arrive Montreal 17h25
__________________
Saturday October 23:
We arrive on time at Fiumicino after a 55 minute flight from Brindisi. We deplane fast.

But I quickly discover why so many of the other passengers on this Alitalia flight have lugged huge amounts of luggage on board (despite the announcement that only a single piece of hand luggage is allowed). To retrieve our checked bags, we are obliged to traverse half the airport. International arrivals, it seems, enter the terminal near the central baggage pick-up spot; our domestic flight does not.

We have another trek to get to the car-rental offices, which are upstairs, for convenience of access to the cars themselves. (Hertz cars are on the upper floors of the parking garage.) At last, we are ready to roll.

Traffic is moving quickly on the motorway toward Rome, ditto on the west side of the Gran Raccordo Annulare. Only once are we slowed by the apparently decade-long reconstruction of the GRA: Traffic has to merge to go from the wide new lanes through the constriction of a soon-to-be-replaced tunnel.

My memories of bumper-to-bumper crawls along the GRA appear to be a thing of the past -- good news for those heading to FCO with an early flight to catch. (That’ll be us, on November 1.)

It is now 5:30 PM and I am keenly aware that nightfall comes soon. I don’t want to be stuck on back-roads in the dark -- yet I do not want to take the dull A1 motorway if I can avoid it. A brilliant compromise suggests itself: Take the Via Cassia as far as Orvieto, then take the A1 the rest of the way, in the dark. Surely we can be at Orvieto by 6:45 or 7 at the latest….

What a lousy idea. I’ve taken the Via Cassia (SS 2) before, at midday on a weekend. I remember the speedy 4 lane section out of Rome; I remember to the smooth, rebuilt 2 lane section that slices through the grand, empty stretches of southern Tuscany.

What I have evidently forgotten is the motoring hellhole in between, starting somewhere about 40 miles north of Rome. Here the road, reduced to 2 lanes, passes through one ugly town after another. This stretch of Lazio was always Papal territory, hence deprived and neglected where the city-states and duchies to the north flourished and grew rich.

By the time we reach the first of these dreary encampments, the sky is darkening; moreover, it is closing time at the shops and the Saturday crowds are returning home for their “cena”. We frequently find ourselves in stop-and-go traffic. Passing, even for a fairly aggressive driver such as R, is impossible on the hills and blind curves .

It is nearly 7 PM and pitch-black by the time we reach the Viterbo bypass. We have a stark choice: continue 20 km to Orvieto or take the E-W transverse road across to the A1, which doubles the distance to Orvieto but could prove to be faster. We choose the latter, primarily because it feels physically safer. Under a brilliant full moon, we speed toward the motorway.

The loathed A1 suddenly feels very welcoming. It is almost empty of cars. In the sharp moonlight, the rolling hills of Umbria and Tuscany look very beautiful. We get off at the Chianciano Terme exit and coast the final kilometres to Montepulciano.

We are both feeling fraught and tired when we arrive at our rental apartment, called Al Poggiolo. We perk up when Margherita and her husband Giorgio come out into the chilly night to meet us. Tall, angular, clad with a reckless disregard for fashion, they are also endearingly enthusiastic and unfailingly kind.

Since we have had no time to shop for food, we will head to the Trattoria di Cagnano for dinner. Giorgio telephones for a 9 PM reservation.

The trattoria is packed when we arrive. We are seated in a room with a few foreign tourists and some very animated Italians.

I start with a Misto di bruschette; R orders a plate of bresaola with shavings of grana cheese over rucola (arugula). We plan to share these plates.

The bruschette come on a round wooden plate: Squares of grilled bread with:
Olive oil and a garlic wedge
Cooked spinach
Minced black olive
Puréed tomato
Caramelized onion
Mixed peppers
Diced tomato in olive oil
A meat paste
…together with a small bowl of green olives, carrot, artichoke and mushrooms in oil

Next, we share a pizza Capricciosa, garnished with black olives, mozzarella, prosciutto and artichokes. As contorni, we order (my favourite) cipolle glissate: small onions in a brown gravy; and a plate of verdure grillate: cherry tomatoes, magazine and zucchini.

With a bottle of the house red wine, the bill is a risible 39 E. We now head home to bed.
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Oct 27th, 2010, 01:24 PM
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Sunday, October 24:
We sleep heavily and do not rise until 9 AM. The day is bright, sunny and warm but we have some difficulty getting started.

For one thing, the apartment itself is comfortable, warm and welcoming -- I’ll describe it a little later. But I know this is the last day of good weather for a while, so we must take advantage of it.

But first, breakfast: R. offers to go out for some supplies, if we can find anything open today. Giorgio has warned that the Conad -- a well-stocked but very “popolare” (proletarian) supermarket outside the town walls -- may be closed, since this is the off-season. He recommends a tiny hole-in-the-wall general Alimentari on the main street.

R. returns to report the Conad is closed and the general store has almost nothing. But we do now have coffee, milk and All-Bran. And some wine, for later.

Just before noon, we head west to Pienza, San Quirico, Montalcino and the Abbey of Sant’ Antimo, retracing our steps from previous visits to the Val d'Orcia.

As we head to the Pienza road, we pass the Tempio di San Biagio, the jewel of Montepulciano architecture. A vast classical pile, conceived and built to a single vision and untouched since, it sits at the foot of the town -- a strangely remote and undistinguished site for such a building.

Outside the church, local kids frolic and their elders gossip, undisturbed by the German tour bus and the camera-laden tourists.

At Pienza, the Sunday crowds are thick.

Many are locals, enjoying the passeggiata before returning home (or heading into one of the town’s many restaurants) for the traditional huge Sunday lunch. I envy the Italians their attachment to family occasions and their habit of leisurely enjoyment, especially where food is involved.

The Piccolomini palazzo is closed at lunch but the cathedral is open. There are few visitors here, despite the throngs outdoors.

We pay 2E to visit the museum in the cathedral crypt, with its very odd but charming collection: illuminated medieval manuscripts, some fine carvings, dreadful oil portraits of bishops and a fascinating display on how the cathedral was recently re-engineered to stop its collapse into the valley below. Beneath the crypt is a network of eerie brick passages that I am happy to explore.

The terrain toward San Quirico is chalky, undulating, nearly treeless -- obviously fine agricultural land as every field has been meticulously turned over after the growing season.

The clouds throw sharp shadows, which drift across the smooth, featureless hills. On the hilltops, grand farmhouses and villas are little oases of lush vegetation.

The crowds tend to head to Montalcino, the centre of Brunello production. I'm not too fussy about Montalcino but I think the other nearby towns are superb.

San Quirico, for one, has a fantastic Romanesque church and the adjacent Chigi palazzo (now the municipal offices -- the public areas are open and empty today and we snoop at will). There is also a public rose garden and a separate 17th C parterre garden of shaped yew -- both are empty.

The village is handsome, prosperous, manicured, well aware of its own distinction -- yet not oppressively “smart”. We are the only apparent tourists, apart from some elderly hikers and two Quebec women (they must be from Montreal: they have that Montreal habit of half-a-sentence in English/ half-a-sentence in French)

We skirt Montalcino and head straight, via a twisty road over the foothills of Monte Amiato, to the Romanesque abbey of Sant' Antimo.

A visit here is like going back 800 years in time. When I first saw it, I really GOT what people find so compelling about Romanesque architecture: The simplicity, purity, austere grandeur.

Its plainness is part of its power; where there is elaboration, it seems to arise from some higher impulse -- say, to glorify God -- rather than from a vulgar need to fancy things up. A nice contrast to the over-the-top wedding-cake architecture of Puglia.

We have missed the last Gregorian chanting of the monks. The afternoon is closing. We meander home by a back road, which takes us past La Foce.

On Wednesday, I’ll fulfil a long-time Val d'Orcia dream: a visit to the gardens of La Foce, home of the Origo family.

As we cannot shop for food, we need to eat out again, though weight-gain is becoming a pre-occupation for both of us. Back to Il Cagnano at 8 PM. This time we are seated in the middle room, which is dominated by a huge party of Italian couples with their young kids.

These offer a marked contrast to the child-obsessed and damagingly child-centric ways of my native land.

Here, the adults talk to the adults; the group of kids eat, talk, play (for the most part, quietly and peaceably) on their own. Occasionally, they enter the general conversation but they never dominate it, as they would in Canada or the US. They are not neglected: a parent is quick to intervene when there is some outbreak, need or problem. Then the adult conversation resumes.

Tonight, I want pasta: I order pappardelle with anatra (duck) and melanzane (eggplant). R. is more disciplined: a simple mixed salad of greens, olives and pomidoro ciliegi (cherry tomatoes).

As seconds, I order a mixed grill and R. takes coniglio arrosto con erbe -- a plain dish of roast rabbit with herbs. As contorni, once again we have cipolle glassate and verdure grigliate -- peppers, eggplant and zucchini.

The mixed grill, served on a bed of rucola, is staggeringly large -- so large I must share it: 2 lamb chops, a sausage, a chicken thigh, a beef rib and what I think is a piece of rabbit. All of it excellent.

With a bottle of house wine, the bill for our meal is 46E 50.
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Oct 27th, 2010, 01:26 PM
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I suspect that the spell checker has been at work and that you were not served grilled magazine. Melanzane perhaps?
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Oct 27th, 2010, 01:33 PM
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Could be, but tedgale made the magazine sound appetizing! An enjoyable read.
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Oct 27th, 2010, 02:02 PM
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Good stuff, Tedgale. You have a good command of the language.
We will be eating in some of those same places come May.
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Oct 27th, 2010, 04:49 PM
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Tedgale-I am looking forward to report on La Foce,and how the gardens are this time of the year.
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Oct 27th, 2010, 07:50 PM
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Lovely.
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Oct 27th, 2010, 08:35 PM
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Please include photos of La Foce if possible. We were there 2 years ago and only had a chance to peek inside~a very good reason to return!!!
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Oct 27th, 2010, 08:44 PM
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Enjoying your report!
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Oct 27th, 2010, 09:26 PM
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Love the report. I also loved the Abbey. It was phenomenal.

Looking forward to more!
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Oct 27th, 2010, 11:48 PM
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You are right, it was the spellcheck that altered melanzane.

I thought I had caught all of its *corrections* to my original Word document but evidently I did not.

AN even more outrageous one: It changes pappardelle to "appareled". (They are near-anagrams.)

Also changes peperoncini to "pepperoni".

La Foce (though there is little colour at this time of year) was wonderful. I'll have to get my trip-report up to date.

More shortly.
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Oct 27th, 2010, 11:52 PM
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Great reading!
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Oct 28th, 2010, 03:30 AM
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Beautifully written, I am looking forward to more!
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Oct 28th, 2010, 06:09 AM
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Eagerly following your report...another great one!
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Oct 28th, 2010, 07:26 AM
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Thank you, thank you
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Oct 28th, 2010, 10:20 AM
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I need dinner and I just had lunch. I guess that speaks to your writing style!
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Oct 28th, 2010, 01:40 PM
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Monday, October 25:
The promised bad weather has arrived. We are surrounded in fog; the rain drips and it is cold.

I am resigned to this, however: We planned to stay home, perhaps head out to shop at one or more of the outlet malls strung along the A1.

I need more clothes like I need a second nose or a third eye. Most of my days -- at least, when I am doing my consulting work -- are spent in sweats or worse, until I head out to the gym at midday (in yoga pants, singlet, running shoes and whatever overlay I need to protect me against the weather).

So why do I collect (collect, not wear) designer labels? Mostly, it’s about getting great bargains -- the thrill of the chase.

It is close to noon when we finally set off. The rain has stopped and the sun is intermittently visible. This really feels like autumn: the subdued colour of the hills across the Val di Chiana, the softness of the light, a certain slumberous quality in the air. As we pass through villages, I often smell wood smoke.

We join the main Siena-Perugia arterial at Bettole. We could take the A1 but opt against it: we will take it on the return, if time is short. The arterial is a fine, fast road; it is toll-free and it passes through some of the prettiest countryside of Tuscany.

Near Castelnuovo Berardenga, we turn off onto a secondary road that will take us north to Bucine, near Levanella, our destination. As it is lunchtime, I expect the road to be empty. To our surprise, there are quite a number of large trucks on this road. They travel very fast. This must be a shortcut from the A1 to somewhere.

My second surprise -- and no doubt it relates directly to the first -- is to see women standing (singly) in secluded lay-bys along the road. All are black. They wear tiny miniskirts and high boots. Noontime recreation for the truckers, I presume.

I am appalled at the risks these women are running. Out here in the middle of nowhere, they are entirely vulnerable. Once in the vehicle with the john on a lonely road, anything could happen.

From Bucine, we get onto the SS 69, which joins Florence to Arezzo; we travel north 3-4 miles and quickly spot the Prada outlet, which is signposted only as Space and/or Pelleteria d’Italia.

Here is what I wrote about outlet malls in 2006 -- all still valid today:

“There is a main highway/road that runs through the centre of unlovely Montevarchi, SE of Florence. Between Montevarchi and its southerly neighbouring community, the equally unlovely Levane, is the "Sector Levanella".

“When travelling south from Montevarchi, pass the Agip (I think) gas station on your right and turn left at the next stoplight. On your left is a dull light-industrial building, off whose rear parking lot is a shop called Space. This is the place. Take a number at the dispenser.

“If there is a crowd you may have to wait. On a rainy Thursday in March, there was no wait. Keep the number: You will use it to "reserve" items of interest to you that will be held for you at the cash for your final selection.

“Unlike a "real" store there is no pressure to buy -- indeed almost NO service from the staff, who spend all their time chatting among themselves.

“If you are still motivated to shop here after this unappetizing description: I can assure you that the selection was great, the merchandise was first-rate and the prices were terrific, given the label's cachet.

“And once inside the store, you'd think you were in a really high-end emporium (right down to the marble-clad WCs)

“In nearby Regello is The Mall, which is a set of 3 new pavilions each with a clutch of high-end shops in which merchandise is generally 50 percent of original retail prices but sometimes less. Shops include: Gucci, Fendi, Armani, Ferragamo, Ferre, Bruno Magli, Loro Piano, Pucci and the unavoidable Burberry (all the Japanese head there first).”

As in 2006, the shoppers are a strange mix. Quite a lot of Russian is spoken: thuggish men paw the merchandise with a disappointed air.

The staff is still as indifferent as in 2006. They fix their hair, send SMS messages, gossip together. That’s fine with me: I am slow to make up my mind, hate to be pressured, need no one else’s opinion.

I quickly realize the footwear is no great bargain -- anyway, I don’t need shoes. The men’s clothing, however, has some great deals, particularly on major items such as overcoats, suits and jackets.

But I am pledged to restraint. After three hours of joyful trying-on, I buy only 2 items:
1. a very practical grey and black polar-fleece warmup jacket and
2. a very, very fitted denim shirt with orange “jeans” stitching.

The shirt is in a heavy denim, so loaded with blue dye that the material has become like stiff, shiny canvas. It cannot be washed, only dry-cleaned. The stiffness of the fabric smoothes out any lumps and bumps in the aged body beneath. It feels and looks like it was tailored for me alone.

R. has found a pair of dark-olive cords at a very good price. We pay and collect the paperwork for our VAT refund (I anticipate a complicated transaction -- we will need to get our papers stamped in Schiphol airport, our EU exit point).

At 5 PM we emerge blinking into bright sunshine: the sky has cleared and we have, it seems, spent the best of it in a windowless hangar, buying items we don’t really need.

We must redress this somehow. My brilliant inspiration (I should always be dissuaded from these inspirations but R is too amenable) is to take this interesting-looking back-road over the hills via San Gusmè, to rejoin the arterial at Castelnuovo Berardenga.

The road is tiny and twisty. We briefly consider turning back, then decide to press on. We climb higher and higher into the Chianti hills. It is deeply wooded up here, with lots of coniferous trees. The views are spectacular, particularly in the waning light. All Tuscany is spread beneath us as we pass the final summit and begin our descent to Castelnuovo Berardenga.

It is nearly dark when we arrive at Montepulciano. A quick stop at the Conad for some extra ingredients: tonight, R. cooks pork fillets with braised fennel and leeks and a salad with grated grana padano.

After we eat, I walk around the apartment a bit in my new duds, then fall happily into bed.
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Oct 29th, 2010, 12:45 AM
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BTW, for those who have so kindly complimented my travel reporting: There IS another, separate trip report for the first half of our trip. It covers our travels in Puglia AND I have just added to that an account of the opening days of our trip -- our ghastly flight over and our weekend in Milan.

The Puglia stuff may whet your appetite to visit this under-appreciated and under-explored part of Italy.

The flight + Milan segment has some quite funny/ sardonic observations -- mostly humour at my own expense.

We've just repaired a collapsed water-heating/ central heating system here in our Montepulciano apartment. This has eaten into my writing time.

However, I'll get cracking on the rest of my report ASAP.

Here's the link to my other report:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...18-23-2010.cfm
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Oct 29th, 2010, 02:01 AM
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Tuesday, October 26:
This is to be our big driving day. We return to a favourite Umbrian haunt, Perugia, and visit Gubbio for the first time.

Today I appreciate for the first time how slow and tiring road travel in Italy can be, even when one uses major roads.

We cover about 100 miles on this trip. We are absent from home a total of 8.5 hours, of which perhaps one half -- a truly shocking proportion -- is spent in the car.

From Montepulciano, we make our way slowly to Bettole, to the access to the Siena-Perugia four-lane arterial highway. Soon we are speeding toward Perugia. I love this road, with its views of the large and quite romantic Lago Trasimeno.

Back home in Ontario, this would be a middling lake -- the sort of place where too many cottagers are crowded together and the proliferation of motorboats and jet-skis shrinks the distance, so every noise is too near.

Here in Italy, the same expanse of water seems vast. Of course, the islands in Canadian lakes don’t have castles on them -- that’s another part of Trasimeno’s magic.

I am prepared for Perugia’s scale and bustle, as I did re-visit here a few years ago. Still, it comes as a shock.

This was a hilltop Etruscan town, a major centre of a culture pre-occupied with death and the after-life. Cities were always sited so the burial grounds were visible to the living.
It is hard to reconcile this spiritual, other-worldly culture with the dense, jangling metropolis that Perugia has become.

When I spent some months here in 1974 at the Università per gli stranieri, the train station was on the edge of town. Today, the train station is on the edge of DOWNtown.

We climb and climb toward the plateau that is the centre of the city. Fortunately, we find parking on the Corso Cavour. From here to the centre, it is “only” a climb of a final 5-10 storeys. R’s heart condition requires us to take this slowly.

We see a group of tourists emerging from a doorway in a high stone wall like a rampart: Their guide explains that the doorway is from the 1500s but incorporates Etruscan carved elements that are well over 200 years old.

Intrigued, we walk past them to investigate and find ourselves in the Rocca Paolina, a honeycomb of immensely high subterranean brick and stone passageways that slope upward to the centre of town. It is completely new to me -- it must not have been open to the public in the 70s.

It is something out of Phantom of the Opera. Lighting is dim; much of the illumination comes from apertures in the brick or stone ceilings. Spaces off the main passage have been given over to various artistic and cultural displays, possibly to performance spaces as well. Busy Perugini trot along briskly, going about their business, as though these were subway tunnels.

A series of escalators bring us the final way to the surface.

Here we are at one end of the Corso, site of all the main banks, administrative offices -- plus the Pinacoteca and the grand pinkish Duomo. Streets of fashionable shops branch off this pedestrianized avenue. It is also here that the daily passeggiata takes place -- the Peacock Alley of Perugia.

The cavernous interior of the Duomo has little that interests me. The exterior, however, is riveting: the lower part of the walls are decorated in a pattern of pink and white marble -- about the same colour as the Doge’s Palace in Venice. Raised above street level on a plinth of stone steps, it commands the entire square.

The municipal Palazzo opposite it is equally impressive, with its high tower and the grand, large upper windows.

But we have climbed enough already and the gallery of Umbrian art, celebrated though it is, is more than we want to take on.

Instead, we wander through the centre, trying hard to keep to relatively level ground: some of the streets are so steep that they turn into steps. Passageways suddenly dip under arches and plunge way down the hillside -- or climb vertiginously to some even higher spot. Everywhere there are splendid views of the spreading, forested Umbrian countryside.

Soon enough, it is time to move on. We plan to take a quick drive through some of the other parts of the centre that we have not explored.

Bad move. Vehicle movement in this exceptionally hilly terrain is very regimented -- all the more so, as the centre of town remains girded in high stone walls whose narrow gates allow traffic in only one direction.

We waste almost an hour in dead-ends, false starts and one-way-can’t-get-there-from-here frustration. When we give up and try to head out of town, we find ourselves similarly flummoxed. We can’t get out!

Finally, we get back onto the arterial and head east. We had hoped to visit both Assisi and Gubbio but now cut our plan in half. Gubbio wins.

The secondary road on which we split off toward Gubbio takes us up and up, into the hills of Umbria. It is not hard driving but it is not fast either.

We are relieved, when we arrive in the town, to find parking is not difficult, the scale of the place is manageable and we seem to have the town to ourselves.

The downside is the blustery cold: It is windy and it does NOT feel like October. It might well be November weather back home in Ontario.

Fortunately for us, there are elevators to take us to the upper part of town. We are alone in the Duomo, whose “wagon-roof” (like an inverted fishing dory) is unique in my experience of Italy.

We also visit the Palazzo Ducale, modest-sized replica of Federico da Montefeltro`s more celebrated Palazzo Ducale in his principal seat at Urbino. Here too, we are alone.

The exhibition space is small -- only a few rooms on the main floor. No guard patrols the room but when I (innocently) take flash-photos in the Studiolo -- an amazing reproduction in marquetry of the original, now in the Metropolitan Museum in New York -- a tiny, peppery woman with thick-lensed glasses appears to tell me she has seen me on her TV monitor and no photography is allowed.

A few minutes later, the force of the wind actually blows open a large casement window. Curtains billow upward: I race to secure the window, fearing the guard will assume some mischief on my part. Indeed, she reappears at once but this time is profuse in her thanks -- she has seen it all and appreciates my “intervento instantaneo”.

The Palazzo dei Consoli is a far more satisfying experience. Constructed on several levels, impressively high and grand, it contains a very heterogenous collection. Chief among this are the bronze panels of religious text in the Umbrian language -- a plaque tells us they are equal in importance to the Rosetta stone, as a philological source.

I like the cavernous main assembly chamber, built to hold 500 citizens in conclave. Also the tiny iron-age human figures on display and the monumental works of painting and sculpture (including a massive stone water-trough/ fountain) displayed on the top floor. There is even a secret stone passage and staircase.

The day is waning and we really need to get back home. We abandon any thought of an “interesting” back route to Perugia. We retrace our way and, under a spectacular if chilly sky, creep into Montepulciano at sunset.
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Oct 29th, 2010, 01:46 PM
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On Wednesday of this week we went to see the gardens of La Foce, near Montepulciano. I will post that report soon.

Today -- our final day in the region -- we went back to that area, just to hang out in the countryside and soak up the sun.

Here is my post from another thread, concerning unpaved roads in Tuscany:
____________________

BTW, that zigzag road bordered with cypresses, opposite La Foce. Yes, the most photographed road in Tuscany,

The "cypress avenue" idea was a collaboration of Iris Origo and her landscape designer Cecil Pinsent.

So... If you are ever tempted to drive that "white" road, just to see what it's like....

DON'T. DON'T. DON'T!!!!

At first you say This is rough but our little car can manage it.

Then you breast the summit of the hill... La Foce disappears behind you ...and you are out there in the Crete Senesi.

You, a deficient rental Fiat Panda and about 100,000 small sharp rocks and their boulder uncles.

This was not an "unmade road". Some of it was, in fact, carefully laid. We saw the neatly aligned flints -- someone circa 1500 thought this was a great piece of engineering. Our tires thought otherwise.

If your idea of modern highway design is the via Appia Antica, you'll love this.

Otherwise, stay on the asphalted bits. "White" roads look great. From a distance. Avoid like the plague!
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FODOR'S VIDEO

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