We fancy a few days at the beach, so off we set towards the coast. The drive along the countryside is beautiful as ever and it is easy to see why people fall in love with Tuscany. We travel through an area called ‘the Crete’. A sparsely populated region of pale clay hillsides, dotted with small flocks of sheep, cypresses and the odd mansion looking farmhouse.
With beach wear all ready to rumble our plans are soon put on hold when we drive passed Montalcino. Motorhome breaks applied followed by swirling dust clouds. Vin the motorhome coughs and then rears on up the hill to the sosta. After a bit of a shuffle over the steep slope to the sosta we park up at the far end. A small, very clean sleepy spot with full services and all for €5 per day. I scrapped changed together only to find the ticket machine is out of use. To be on the safe side, I placed a note in the windscreen to say unable to pay due to rotto.
The walk from the sosta to the village is quite a trek. Only a couple of kilometres but it is on a steep slope, so during the day it can be a hot and sticky affair. We found the best time to visit was the first thing in the morning. Not just because of the heat but the morning light over the cobbled streets and beautiful vistas was amazing. By mid day it was so hot the views were obscured by haze.
Montalcino is one of the chic little wine villages in Italy. It is a fabulous place to visit when exploring the vineyards, as it is home to the famed Brunello di Montalcino wine. Perched on a hill the village has been in existence since the time of the Etruscans. It was founded on an ancient road called the Via Francigena which was the main road between Florence, Rome and France. The medieval walls were erected in the 13th century when the village was under control from Siena. Wine has been made here for centuries and the historical records show commercial wine production dating back to the 1400’s.
At the entrance to the village the fortress, a huge reminder of medieval times. The cobbled streets, an ancient Basilica, a quaint Romanesque chapel and the tower of San Giovanni name but a few of the interesting sites. The main square, Piazza del Popolo attracts many a local who gather on a daily basis to put the world to right. Sitting on stone benches outside the Palazzo Cominale, surrounded by stone coat of arms embedded in to the Palazzo walls. From here you can walk down the main cobbled street for a saunter in one of the many chic interior shops.
Alternatively, fill your snout with the aromas of the various Brunello wines. There are a number of wine cellars offering tasting events, a bit similar to the cellars in Du Pape. We are not quite sure if we could handle the hard sell for a €50 bottle of wine. For us, we found the amazing views down the steep alleys captivating. Each one leading your eye to another patch on a rolling hill or cypress lined avenue.
The cuisine of Montalcino is similar to other Tuscan villages in that it is heavy on wild boar, bruschetta and homemade pastas. As we strolled through the street the aroma of the restaurants made us want to dine out. So one night, we decided to put on some smart togs and venture out. We ended up at a lovely little restaurant called Grotto. It was absolutely brilliant and all swilled down with a glass of the famous Brunello di Montalcino.
Our walk home at sunset along the wall was stunning. We walked around the whole perimeter with views over the whole of the Orcia Valley. Olive groves and vineyards cling to the hillside before they expand over the valley floor. Montalcino is like an elevated island in the middle of Tuscany offering 360 degree views. It really felt like an elevated island surrounded by wonderful countryside. What a place to live.
To our surprise we ended up staying in Montalcino for 3 nights. It really captured our heart and with an altitude of 564 meters it offers hot days but cool evenings. Perfect balance. Also a good base for exploring vineyards, wonderful Sant’Antimo abbey and countryside on Eor our monkey bike. Maybe tomorrow we reach the beach