As we’re just bumming around here in northern Italy, we found a place just outside of Montepulciano available for three nights. What do we know about Montepulciano? A Tuscan hill town 80 miles south of Florence, known in particular for its wine. We loved it. Or, to be more precise, I loved it. Really loved it. A true fantasy. Mark liked it.This was an unusual stop in one big way. Instead of staying in the town, or the center of the city, as we typically do, we stayed a couple miles outside of town. Villa Poggiano is a small boutique hotel on fabulous grounds out on a small dirt road. The town of Montepulciano is just a couple of miles away, but it’s as though you were in a different – quiet – world. That distance is a big part of why I loved it and why Mark only liked it. You see, to get into town for lunch or dinner, you had to get in your car and drive. And since the car was in his name, he had to do all the driving.
For me, though, it was heaven. My morning runs were out on a dirt road through rolling hills in the Val d’Orcia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, celebrated for “an exceptional reflection of the way the landscape was re-written in Renaissance times to reflect the ideals of good governance and to create aesthetically pleasing pictures.” If you went out for an afternoon walk you could smell the hay, hear the tractors, and see the countryside for miles and miles. If you just wanted to sit around and do nothing? There was plenty of shade and the grounds of our hotel were simply stunning. Some highlights:
The hotel and grounds themselves were a huge highlight. We had a drop-dead gorgeous view of Tuscany from our bedroom, and outside there were grand trees, a beautiful pool, and quiet places to read or drink grappa. Villa Poggiano was pretty darned good, one of my favorite places in a long time.
A couple times a year our hotel hosts a classical concert, and we just happened to be there on one of those nights. There were five young-ish opera singers, all women, doing a Master Class with some famous singer in Montepulciano, so they came and did a short concert for us. The singers were all pretty great, though of course there were a couple I liked better than the others. But a free concert (outsider had to pay like €2.00, but if you were staying there it was free)? Can’t beat it.
And then the big, big excursion was an eight-mile hike out the dirt road behind our hotel. First we went to Monticchiello, a beautiful little town with classic Tuscan walls, gates, and architecture. Then we continued overland to Pienza, yet another UNESCO World Heritage Site, in this case as the first place where Renaissance town-planning concepts were established when Pope Pius II decided to transform the look of his home town. And then back. All this, walking on little dirt roads with world-class views. It doesn’t get much better.
Oh yeah, and the wine. Montepulciano wines are supposed to be among the best in Italy, and that was certainly our impression.
We didn’t spend much time in the town of Montepulciano itself. We’d go in for lunch or dinner but then really just head back. One of the amusing things to observe is that the town appears to be one of those places that is really on the American travel circuit. We often observe that unless you’re in Paris or Barcelona or Prague you just don’t hear many Americans. Apparently Montepulciano has been discovered, though, because there were Americans everywhere.
OK, so I got my three days of rural heaven. From here we head into Siena and then on to Florence. We expect there’ll be no shortage of tourists there.