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Piazza (Plaza) della Signora, Florence, Tuscany

In October of 2011 we visited Tuscany, first flying into Vienna for a few days and then taking the train over to Florence. We stayed in Florence for a couple of nights, then rented a car and drove down to Sienna on Highway SR222. This a beautiful drive with a number of places worth visiting along the way. From Siena we did side trip visits to Monteriggioni, Colle di Val d’Elsa, San Gimignano and Volterra. After a couple of days in Siena we drove down to Montepulciano, staying at a chateau just outside of the town, called Dionora. From here we visited Montepulciano, Pienza, San Quirico and Montalcino. A week was just about right, with three days in Florence, two days in Siena and two days near Montepulciano, to become quite familiar with Tuscany and discover which places we like best to come back for a longer visit. Here’s some of the things we recommend.

 

Our favorite towns, perhaps in order of the one’s we liked the best, are Montepulciano, Sienna, Monteriggioni, Montalcino, Pienza and Gimignano. Nothing in particular needs to be mentioned about them but to just walk them. They are small and it won’t take long, and anything worse seeing you’ll discover on your own.

Florence

Wonderful city with so much history and so much to see.

  • El Duomo-600 years after its completion is still the largest dome built in brick and the Bell Tower (great views as well, but no elevator) mortar in the world (climb up and great great views and photo ops)
  • Piazza della Signoria, in the heart of Florence, with Bartolomeo Ammanati’s masterpiece sculpture Fountain of Neptune, Palazzio Vecchio (town hall and museum) and Michelangelo’s sculpture David (although its now a replica)
  • Ponte Vecchio bridge over the river Arno with its myriad of shops built along its edges
  • Uffizi Gallery (the world’s oldest gallery and the most popular museum in Italy)
  • Palazzo Pitti (wonderful museum as well) and Boboli Gardens’ behind it
  • Just walk, you’ll find lots to enjoy.

Scenic Drives

Winding road and cypress trees near Monticchielo

These were the drives we enjoyed most. SR222 heads south from Florence to Siena. A number of villages to visit, but its mostly the countryside that we enjoyed. We stopped in Parzano on the way down for lunch and walked the town. The restaurant we chose had a wonderful view of the countryside and the food was so good we returned a few days later! I believe it was called Il Vescovino (go up the main street Via Maria and make a left on the first street you come to. If you are in the parking lot it will be just above you as you walk up to the town). We had a mushroom and a wild boar pasta, a great Chianti called Il Fonti (from a vineyard in the same village, just on the other side of the very small town – we walked there and bought a few bottles). However it was probably the eggplant appetizer that we really returned for!

SP146 is the classic drive of Tuscany between Montepulciano and a little past Pienza. Sit back and enjoy!

I wish I could remember the name of the highway I took that was just below SP146. 146 is a great drive, between Montepulciano and Pienza, the classic drive of Tuscany where you’ll see images you see in postcards. However just below it, is another great drive, one I think is even better. I believe it may be Via di San Bartolomeo.  When leaving Montepulciano, take SS146 south and after a few kilometers take Via de Totona on the right. It will turn on to Via de San Bartolomeo. Just before you reach Monticchiello you’ll have to go down a windy hill. When you get down and look back, you’ll see this is the windy road framed in many Tuscany postcards. To get a good shot of it, leave Monticchiello and turn left on Strada Provinciale.