A Tuscan Walk

Last year when I was in Montepulciano, I only visited the other local towns serviced by a bus (Siena and Pienza), since I did not have a car.  Since the same is true this year, I decided to do a bit of wandering on foot for a different perspective and new experience.

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I had heard of a couple cute towns, nearish-by, and so I asked one of my teachers if you could walk to them.  Monticchiello, which was on the top of my list, was one of the towns that my teacher said was no problem to walk to.  So I asked for a map (since I am actually quite horrible with directions) and she said there was no map (not surprising but also made me a bit nervous), but she also assured me that it is really easy to get there.  She told me to leave Montepulciano and walk towards the San Bagio Hotel, take a left onto a strada bianca (unpaved road), and then whenever there is a fork in the road, to always take the right.  Follow these directions, and I should be able to get there in about 1 1/2 hours.

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Perfect, easy enough . . . or so I thought.  I arrived at the San Bagio Hotel, and on my left was a paved road, and the right was unpaved.  Huh.  So, I went in and asked at the hotel.  They told me to take the left, the paved road; and the woman also assured me that there were many signs on the way, and that it would be very clear to me where to go.

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Okay, sounds good, so again I was off.  Paved or unpaved, the start of my walk was promising for the beauty that was in store ahead of me.  When I reached the first fork in the road, there was no sign for Monticchiello, and the right looked like a driveway to someone’s home, so I felt a bit confused.  Luckily a car was pulling up, and the couple inside was able to assist and assure me, that yes, take the right.  Always take the right.

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From that moment forward I took every right in the fork.  Surrounded by nothing but the Tuscan countryside, I kept feeling like Maria in Sound of Music, singing to myself, “climb every mountain….”

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strada bianca

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I mean seriously, even looking through these pictures, I am a little like, is this place real?  Yes it is, I promise you.

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ciao montepulciano!

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About an hour and a half in, I started to wonder, where am I going?  I couldn’t see any town anywhere nearby.  Then the winds picked up and the clouds started rolling in, looking quite threatening.

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Luckily a cyclist was heading my direction, which I still feel a little bad having him stop to help me mid-hill, but also grateful that he assured me that I was heading in the right direction.  He also happened to mention that I would need to go up and down many more hills before I got close.  And then he repeated maybe 5 times in a row, “you’re going on foot?  On foot?  On foot?….”  And then he pointed at the sky, in case I hadn’t noticed.  As I walked away I kind of chuckled to myself, thinking, no not on foot, I just parked my car over the next hill and decided to walk and look for someone just for the fun of it!

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Hearing that I had many more hills to climb, and with the skies still looking threatening, I really tried to pick up my pace (a.k.a. I started running down some of the hills – gotta love that Tuscan cardio).  Even rushing a bit to make it to my destination before the rain, I still couldn’t quite wrap my head around how constantly beautiful and changing the landscape is.  It is moments like that, in the quietness of a Tuscan road, slightly running, you feel an inner peace and gratitude simply for living.

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the first and only sign of my entire walk

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Within about 30 minutes, I saw what looked like an abandoned castle of sorts, and I almost started to lose hope that I might ever reach Monticchiello.  But once I made it up that last hill, there was a tiny sign in front of the castle wall which thankfully read, Monticchiello.

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I think that I literally exclaimed out loud something to the affect of “Yes!  I made it!”  The fact that I didn’t get lost, get rained on, or give up was a huge success.

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Montechiello is a very cute and very small town, it maybe took me about 7 minutes to walk around the entire town.

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But 7 minutes was perfect with me, because my legs were feeling kind of sluggish, and so I decided to stop and have a spot of lunch.  And lucky for me, the main restaurant in Monticchiello has quite the reputation in Tuscany, Osteria La Porta.

I walked in, very excited to sit (and eat), and asked in Italian if I could have some lunch or if they hadn’t started service yet.  The woman (who I believe to be the owner), responded in English that they had no availability.  I said, kind of jokingly, too bad because I just walked all the way from Montepulciano (sad truth).  She looked a little annoyed at me, and offered that I could sit and have one hour, and if the reservation for the table showed up early, I would have to leave immediately.  I was a bit surprised by her response, as Italians are well known for letting people linger and relax for as long as they want, but I figured I would go with it and not let her personality disrupt my experience.

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I sat down, in an empty restaurant, and ordered right away.  Regardless of my first moments, I felt so excited….but unfortunately my excitement was left disappointed.

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Although all of the food looks delicious….my fonduta was cold, my pasta nowhere near as good as others I have eaten (especially Fiorella’s), and my artichoke sformato…no seasoning whatsoever.  A total bummer.  Oh well, I still enjoyed my glass of wine and a chance to sit for a bit.  And interestingly enough, the restaurant never filled up.

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The day I happened to be there was Liberation Day for Italy, a national holiday.  As I sat, I watched as Italians that came in with or without a reservation were welcomed in, and foreigners turned away.  Interesting.  I tried to take a positive approach to this.  I can understand that the owners might want to be celebrating such a day with their friends and local people, but, in my book, no reason to be rude.

The woman who let me in kind of watched me during my lunch, and I think started to realize that I could understand anything that was going on, as I speak Italian.  When she brought the check, she apologized to me and paid for my wine.  Again, interesting.

I appreciated that she realized that maybe she hadn’t been so kind, and as the restaurant still had many open tables, there was no reason for the way she treated me.

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views from Monticchiello

In the end, it didn’t matter to me here nor there, but it did remind me of a valuable piece of advice my Mom gave me many years ago.  Always, always, always treat everyone with the same kindness and respect that you desire, regardless of how they treat you; because you never know if some one else is struggling with something or might remember how you treated them poorly.  Advice that I have always kept close.

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With my lunch and experience done (in an hour mind you), I made one last pass around town.  The clouds had really rolled in and so I decided to catch a taxi back to Montepulciano.

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A little depressing, as the drive took no more than 10 minutes, but enlightening as well.  I talked to the driver about my walk out.  He was like . . . “you walked???  Did you run into any wild boars????  They can be very dangerous”  Thankfully no, but probably better I knew that after than before or I might not have boar the idea to walk there in the first place.

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views from atop Montepulciano, finally back home

4 Comment

  1. Hmmmm… too bad about the restaurant experience but bless you for keeping a positive spirit through it. And, if it turns out this is your only ‘less-than-positive’ experience you’re doing awfully well! Looking forward to your next post.

    1. Thanks James, looking forward to sharing more!

  2. Oh my goodness what a day! We had a similar foreigner/local experience in Italy last fall. Big kudos for keeping a positive attitude and being open to adventure. The sign picture blew me away! And I keep chuckling at “on foot?” You’re a born traveler :)

    1. You are so sweet Kali! Can’t wait to catch up!

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