When a place name has 6 syllables – it must be interesting – right? So we’re on our way to Montepulciano. Yes, that’s Mon-te-pul-ci-a-no. It’s a town in Southern Tuscany, and it’s also the name of a local grape. Both are very important in these parts.
The journey took about twice as long as we had planned mainly due to the heavy rain most of the morning. We made a very pleasant call to San Gimignano on the way, another World Heritage town. No surprise it was heaving with tourists but well worth the stop.
The long journey and inclement weather meant we arrived after sundown up a little gravel track, a few hairpin bends and 2 large dogs sent out to welcome the “English”. It’s a funny thing over here – when you say you’re from Wales, they reply “ah yes, England” (Well, not really …… Wales) Perhaps they think Wales is just a region of England, a bit like Tuscany is a region of Italy. They couldn’t be more wrong, but our Italian is not fluent enough to explain all that!
Casale a Poggiano is lovely and Madame Isolina is a warm welcoming hostess showing us our room overlooking the garden. It’s a peaceful oasis of calm after a long crazy journey.
It was late so we did a quick dash to Montepulciano and found the ideal spot at La Dolce Vita for a glass of red and a bowl of warming tuscan soup.
After arriving in the dark, it was nice to wake up the next morning and see where we had come to. We are set up on a hill opposite the town with stunning views of the rolling hills on every side. The house is surrounded by vineyards, lemon trees and rosemary shrubs, with plenty of quiet corners to relax with a book.
All the towns in Tuscany are built on the top of hills so you have to be quite fit, or at least take your time getting around. Montepulciano is no exception.
We headed for Piazza Grande and the tourist office for a local map and to sign ourselves up for a Wine Tasting the following day.
Coffee & Cannoli
I have always wanted to try a genuine italian cannoli and today was my big chance. We stumbled upon a 1920s Art Nouveau cafe where you wouldn’t be surprised if Hercule Poirot shuffled in for his morning beverage. Caffe Poliziano was the moment of the day for me. What could be better than a chilled cabinet full of handmade patisserie (including cannolis, of course) and a frothy cappuccino served in vintage china.
The cannoli did not disappoint, neither did the breathtaking view from the little balcony right across the Valley and beyond.
Anywhere that has a glass jar full of pastel coloured meringue kisses sitting on the counter gets my vote every time.
Other highlights include lovely shops, almost buying a leather handbag, losing a brand new cardigan and not finding it again (sad face), and lunch which although simple, was just delicious.
They say the secret of great italian food and the reason we all love it so much is simple ingredients prepared well.
It doesn’t come much simpler that ripe juicy tomatoes and soft silky mozzarella.
Wine Tasting in the Fortress
What better place to taste some local wines than in a massive historical fortress on top of the hill. Dating from the early 8th century, it was restored in 1800 and again in the 1900s and is now a vibrant cultural centre and the heart of the town.
Hosted by the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano we were introduced to 4 local red wines of very different character from Podere La Bruciata Wines. We sampled extra virgin olive oil from Frantoio Buraschi and salami from local butcher shop Macelleria Belli
We were slightly disappointed that the presentation was 95% Italian and just a small part English, considering the number of English speaking visitors there. However the wine was delicious and we had a great time.
Our clear favourite was the Ermete – Rossi di Montepulciano, a young wine blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Petit Verdot, a very special local grape.
For dinner we headed back to La Dolce Vita for charcuterie and bruschetta, to finish off our time in this lovely town on a tasty note.
So it’s goodnight from him, and goodnight from me. We’ll be packing our bags again and heading north tomorrow to our next destination, the village of Impruneta, just outside Florence. We’ll be spending the next 7 days there exploring north Chiantishire and the city of Firenze, where I hope to succeed in buying a leather handbag!
Watch this space.