We did a brief walking tour of Siena this morning before we headed out. With it being Sunday morning in a small town, we were sure everything would be closed. Much to our delight, the town was alive and bustling.
Here Hirsh is standing in front of the oldest bank in Italy, the Monte Dei Paschi, founded in 1472.
And this is a picture of a couple of cute old Italian men standing under a statue of the she-wolf, Siena's mascot. Hirsh aspires to one day be an old Italian man wearing an adorable hat.
We then left Siena and headed for the Tuscan countryside on Rick Steves' recommended "Heart of Tuscany" driving tour, in a stick shift no less. Our first stop was the small hill town of Bagno Vignoni, home to ancient hot springs where popes used to bathe.
It's forbidden to plunge into the hot springs these days, but nobody says you can't dip your feet in the warm stream flowing from the springs while eating fruity gelato.
The next town on the agenda was Pienza, another hill town marginally larger than the last. We saw the courtyard where Zeffirelli's Romeo + Juliet was filmed, and then wandered through town looking for food. We found some of the best gelato we've ever had at a small gelateria called Buon Gusto (thanks for the rec Rick Steves!). Besides, it had been one full hour since our last fill of gelato, so we were right on schedule. This cone was a delicious combination of salted caramel and hazelnut chocolate (a.k.a. Nutella). Heaven on earth.
For dessert, we had cheese. This region is known for Pecorino cheese, and Sarah's never met a cheese she didn't like. Naturally, we bought a big hunk of cheese and snacked off of it for several days.
We did a little more wandering...
And then we headed for our B&B in Montepulciano, a larger town with plenty of energy. We opted to stay at an agriturismo just outside of town to have a quiet countryside experience. The proprietor of the property spoke not a single word of English, and we collectively speak about five words of Italian, so we communicated through gestures and expressions with gradually increasing volume. Even with our limited understanding, one of the first things she communicated to us was how funny it was to her that one of us is light and the other dark. I guess country people the world over are pretty similar. 😉 All was forgiven though, because she upgraded us to this sweet apartment.
For dinner, we drove to a highly recommended restaurant called Locanda Cicolina on the other side of town, run by a husband and wife team. We had a great meal, featuring the Tuscan speciality of thick spaghetti known as "pici," and Hirsh enjoyed delicious wine by himself since Sarah had to drive. We toted the remains of the partially consumed wine bottle around with us for the next several days, all the while hoping open container laws don't exist in Italy.