Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pienza and Montepulciano

Extraordinary Tuscan Hilltowns

Monday was unbelievably special. I was lucky enough to visit two of the most incredibly beautiful city's in the Val d'Orcia.

The drive to each was also breathtaking. The hills of Tuscany are incredibly layered with agriculture Typically there will hills filled with vineyards bordered by the precise edges formed by tall slender cypress trees. Other places there will be rows of stalks of corn or sunflowers.

Pope Pius decided to rebuild his hill hugging hometown Corsignano. To undertake the effort he commissioned Bernardo Gambrelli to transform the little village into an ideal Rennaisance city. The finished product would have a main square, cathedral, and pallazzo's. It turned out to be a masterpiece and was renamed Pienza as a tribute to Pius II.

The City has been designated a Unesco World Heritage site and is now equally famous for its peccorino cheese (Sheeps milk.) The wheels of cheese are found in many of the stores throughout the village. I also found exceptional leatherwork and linens.

The View From Pienza

Pienza's Famous Cheese

The Duomo

An Old Bicycle in Pienza

Some of Pienza's Leather Handiworks

After a light lunch and a gelato stop (or two) we went on to Montepulciano. This city is justifiably famous for its magnficent architecture, stunning views and smooth Vino Nobile wines. Similar to Siena Montepulciano is laid out with various neighborhhods called contrade. Where Siena's contrades compete each year in its Il Palio horse race, in Montepulciano residents from each contrade compete the last sunday in August in an annual ritual of racing wine casks uphill.

 A View Looking Up to Montepulciano

The Cask races had just taken place so the City was festooned with contrade flags and a party atmosphere. We stopped for vino and basked in the unbelievable views.

 A Contrade Flag Holder in Montepulciano

A Classic Hilltown

The View from the City 

So there you have it, this is just about the most beautiful place Roadboy has ever visited. Tuesday has been set aside for a hike and a swim. Wednesday it is off for a day trip to Florence.

Roadboy's Travels © 2011

No comments: