After our time in Umbria, we headed towards Montalcino. The drive was slightly more than 2 hours via a scenic route. ( you can cut down the drive to 1.5 hours if you go via the motorway. But, what fun will that be?)
We drove past the most beautiful valleys and hills – the san quirico d’orcia. It is as beautiful as it looks in photos. The mystic group of cypress trees in the middle of nowhere, that little brown house that stands beside a vineyard – all these images are so quintessentially Tuscany and yet you cannot fully appreciate the beauty of its landscape till you see it in person.
The first stop we made was to the Abbazia di Sant’ Antimo (St. Atimo Abbey). The best way to get there is to follow the road signs when you hit Montalcino town. The Romaneque church is built in the 12th century and is amongst olive trees. Its interior is very plain and simple but we went there just slightly past 11 and the light that filtered in through the narrow windows provided a mystical glow to the church. We didn’t stay for the Gregorian chants because we were heading to our vineyard and cellar tour.
Prior to our trip in Italy, I’ve made arrangements for a tour and tasting at Biondi Santi. It was the one thing that we had wanted to do given our love for Brunello di Montalcino (probably my pick for Italian wines). Biondi Santi is the first vineyard to grow a local variety of the Sangiovese grape (that Santi eventually named Brunello). Santi is still one of the top producers of the Brunello di Montalcino wine so it is a good place to visit if you are in Montalcino.
We had lunch at Tarverna dei Barbi, a restaurant in a vineyard by the same name. It was well-executed tuscan fare. We had a long lunch over a tasting of brunello di Montalcino. Some of the highlights of the meal were as the chestnut and porcini mushroom soup, bruschetta, and of course the bistecca di fiorentina (T-bone steak).
The next day we headed to a smallish Tuscan town, Pienza. Pienza was chosen as the filming location of the 1968 film adaptation of “Romeo and Juliet” – the town’s main square and winding streets are the backdrop for the film. It’s not hard to see why Pienza was chosen.
The town is really small and you can finished walking end to end in about 15 minutes (if you don’t stop and wander. The town’s architecture is of medieval and renaissance beauty. Since Pienza sits on top of a hill, you will be greeted by unobstructed views of the nearby Val D’orcia.
When you are in the town, you should definitely try its Pecorino (Pecorino di Pienza). There are many little shops that sell these cheeses by the wheel or you can pay to do a tasting of cheeses. I really wished that I could have brought back a wheel of Pecorino!
But the highlight of Pienza for me was the lunch we had at Latte di Luna. We got there right when it opened and snagged a table. In less than half an hour, the whole place was packed. The roasted suckling pig is a delight for us all – crispy skin, melt-in-the-mouth tender and bursting of flavours. The duck with olives was a close second. We ended the meal with the hazelnut semifreddo and boy was it delicious.
I can’t think of a more perfect way to end our afternoon in Pienza.
I shall stop rambling now and leave you with more photos of beautiful Tuscany!
Next post will be on Naples and the Campania coast, so stay tuned!
Le 7 Camicie
Strada Provinciale Di Sant’antimo Km 10+200 Montalcino, 53020, Italy
We stayed at a self-catering apartment (which meant you get to prepare your own breakfast in the little kitchen) just slightly off Montalcino town. With a car, it is hardly the problem. It overlooks small vineyard and was the perfect spot to watch the sun set.
Abbazia di Sant’ Antimo (St. Atimo Abbey)
Località Sant’Antimo, 53024 Castelnuovo dell’Abate Siena, Italy
9km out of Montalcino town. Once you arrive at Montalcino town, follow the road signs to the abbey.
Check for opening hours and the times for the Gregorian chants by the monks
Vineyards to visit
Tenuta Greppo (cellar and vineyard)
villa greppo 183, 53024 montalcino, siena – italy
Visit the first vineyard that started producing Brunello. A visit to the vineyard and tasting cost 15 Eur per person.
Santi produces some of the most excellent Brunello di Montalcino wines. You can purchase your bottles here or in an Enoteca in Montalcino town.
Localita Poggio Antico, 53024 Montalcino, Italy
A lovely estate. Contact them for a tour prior to your trip.
Taverna dei Barbie
Localita’ Podernovi, 170, 53024 Montalcino, Italy
Try: Chestnut and porcini mushroom soup, assortment of bruschetta and the Bistecca di Fiorentina
Ristorante Al giullare
Via Panfilo Dell’Oca 11/13, 53024 Montalcino, Italy’
Try: Pecorino flan with pears and honey (superb), homely and comforting tomato based pastas, Bistecca di Fiorentina
Enoteca Osticcio Osteria
Via Matteotti 23, Montalcino, Italy
Latte di Luna
Via San Carlo 2-4, Pienza (+39 0578/748-606). Try to make reservations. Closed on Tue.