We bused from Florence to the lovely Tuscan town of Siena and fell in love! We were so happy to be out of a big city and in an area of Italy with green, rolling hills, castles and ancient cities perched on hilltops with acres of vineyards to fill the vast casks at the many local wineries.
Our host, Paolo, welcomed us and carried our bags up the old marble staircase that lead to our lovely, very modern 2-bedroom Airbnb in the Old City of Siena.
We have learned that if you are doing up a place to use as an Airbnb, then Ikea is the place to shop! From Paris to Portugal and now Italy, we have found Ikea-touches everywhere we have traveled.
Our apartment was located in a very old building ( 100+ years) with the original well still in the entryway. The only bad thing was that both bedrooms were on the street-side and through there are almost no cars allowed in the Old City, we had 3 outdoor cafes directly across from and below our windows that stayed open until the wee hours. (Wee hours at this point in our lives is 11:00 pm – Italian wee hours are 3:00-4:00 am )
After enjoying a delightful wine-enhanced lunch, Joyce and I set off to explore our ‘home’ for the next 3 days.
Siena, though fairly small, has an amazing square. Photos can’t begin to show you it’s vastness or size.
While gawking at the square we almost missed the Fonte Gaia – The Fountain of Joy – which was directly behind us. (Be sure and click on the any of the photos as it will take you to a full-size view of each.)
The fountain’s marble animals squirt water from their mouths. Pigeons precariously perch on their heads trying to drink the water squirting forth and come perilously close to and every now and again sliding off and into the fountain. It’s hard to keep a steady footing on slippery marble with clawed feet and sharp toenails – and it’s extremely funny to watch the try!
The next day, at the suggestion of our good friend and constant traveling companion, Rick Steves, we booked an all-day Food & Wine excursion with Tours by Roberto – via the website we’ve so far used a lot and found extremely reliable and useful – GetYourGuide.com.
Our driver, Lorenzo, picked us up at the Siena Old City Gate and we joined two not-overly-friendly couples from Naples, FL. (Very young wives and not-very-young hubbys who were sooo into each other to the point of ignoring us completely. ggg)
This was a 10-hour sightseeing tour to the beautiful villages of Montalcino, Pienza, and Montepulciano where we wandered streets that were in existence before Jesus was born; that were ruled by Julius Caesar and survived the bombs of WWII. Amazingly, some original buildings are still standing and in use, art has survived the years and roses continue to bloom.
We visited the wineries that produce Brunello di Montalcino and Nobile di Montepulciano.
At the Montepulciano winery we had a lovely lunch and met the entire family which all work together, including their 92-year old grandmother, who let us know that she had personally made the pasta!
Sleep is not hard to come by after a day of eating and sipping wines. We had so much fun with our guide Lorenzo (as the couples were busy chatting amongst themselves) that we decided to hire him just for ourselves the next day for another all-day adventure !
We started very early as Lorenzo wanted us to be able to stroll through the hill towns of San Gimignano and Monteriggioni without the crowds that would follow soon after our arrival. Of course there were stops for picture taking, a little wine and gelato for breakfast!
We got a laugh at some of the window displays…and we found our ‘knight in shining armour!’
Have no idea what the red creatures are in the first picture – they were in a high-end gallery window. Our ‘knight’ was quite tall and manly. But please note the stuffed wild boar that is holding a display tray of wild boar sausages. Boar meat is a treat and served in many dishes in Italy. I got a kick out of the Italian-flag colors used for hand-made leather golf shoes hanging on a window grate.
The drive through the Tuscan countryside with fortress towns atop the hills was beautiful, and the views from within the city walls are just like you imagine they should be!
Next, Lorenzo took us to meet his friend Mario and taste his wonderful wines.
Mario is the 4th generation of his family to run their winery – Il Colombaio. We got a personal tour of the winery and learned the history of the family and their wine-making process. Not only were the wines the best that we had tasted to date, but they served us an amazing ‘tasting lunch’.
The picture of the bottle of Chianti that Mario is holding is the one that his winery exports to the US. My suggestion – find a bottle in your local wine shop and enjoy!
Not only does Il Colombaio produce delicious wines, they are also a fabulous B&B. The day we were there every room had been taken over by a wedding party and they were preparing for the evening’s banquet. As we were pulling out of the property, the bride and groom, who had just been pronounced ‘man and wife’ at the local church, were getting out of their limo to have photos taken in the vineyard. I, too, snapped a picture of this happy occasion! (This is getting to be ‘a thing.’ Remember the photo of the very pregnant wedding couple in the Montmartre of Paris? There are even more to come!)
Lorenzo wanted to give us a ‘little something extra’ so he extended his time another 2 hours and took up to a wine-producing castle that is still run and occupied by the same family after hundreds of years. From the family crest in stained glass in their private chapel to a fortress built to entertain a king, the Ricasoli family even has a formal English garden!
But what made this day, our last day in Siena, truly special was our final dinner.
Lorenzo had spent so much time telling us about his family – his son and his beautiful wife Francesca that we felt as if we knew them by the end of the two days we spent together. So when we suggested he and Francesca join us that night for dinner in a favorite Siena restaurant of their choice, we were thrilled when they said yes! It was a perfect ending to a lovely visit – but certainly not my last – to Tuscany.
And before I forget , if you are planning a trip to Italy and Tuscany in particular, you too can have a great day with Lorenzo as your guide. Contact him at All Around Tuscany! We guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Now it’s off to Roma!
Until next time….