psx_20161002_202308.jpgDiscovering Tuscany made me fall in love all over again with Italy. Although I have been to this Mediterranean paradise more than once, Tuscany was just a completely different experience. This hidden gem dazzled my eyes, and made my soul dance with inexplicable joy. Now I understand why Giuseppe Verdi said, “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.”

Our dear friends and darling tour guides; Alessandra and Marco met us at Montecatini train station to begin our journey. Marco and Alessandra if you are reading this Grazie! Experiencing Tuscany with you two was the cherry on top of the sundae. After a quick cup of coffee, we hit the Florence Siena highway to Semproniano.

Nature was on our side with beautiful weather, and captivating scenery, collectively fluttering all our senses. Herds of sheep were grazing the fields surrounding the beautiful hilltop towns. The cypress trees stood majestically tall, and the rows and rows of vineyards rolled along with us. My mother in law always says, “l’Italia e Splendida” and I agree with her; it is indeed splendid.

Three hours later, we arrived in the small medieval village of Semproniano and took board at Locanda La Pieve. Angela and Enrico, who are also the owners of the hotel personally welcomed us and escorted us to our respective rooms. If you are ever in the area, I recommend staying here. You will love those two!psx_20161004_203226.jpgpsx_20161004_202007.jpgpsx_20161004_202051.jpg

Semproniano To Saturnia
We quickly settled, changed into comfortable clothes with our swimwear underneath and drove to Saturnia -approximately fifteen minutes away.psx_20161004_202931.jpgpsx_20161004_203612.jpgpsx_20161004_203527.jpgThe warm sulphurous waters of Saturnia were well known by the Etruscans and Romans. Legend has it that its springs are born in the exact point where Jupiter’s thunderbolt fell in a battle against Saturn. The minerals here are sulphur, carbon and calcium, which are good for the skin, and body aches. There was no better way to wind up the day than soaking our bodies in 37 degrees Celsius of pure goodness.

After a long day of driving, it was time to replenish our dwindling energies with a good meal. Ale and Marco suggested Montemerano – a 12th century town in the heart of Maremma. The town is built on a hill surrounded by walls with only three entrances. The town’s peacefulness is very apparent upon entering the gates, with friendly people at each corner. The narrow walkways are perhaps the most breathtaking sight in the night illuminated by lamps. Life here appears to be simple and slow-paced. It is a calming experience.

We began our meal with an aperitif at Sapori Antichi- a family run trattoria. There are only few tables in the trattoria arranged next to each other creating a Nonna’s kitchen-like ambience. The meals feel like a communal experience. I loved this! Moreover, the owners are very friendly and the service was seamless. We all wanted a good red wine so they proposed Ciliegiolo- a red wine grape exclusively grown in Tuscany. Ciliegiolo paired well with the assorted Italian cold cuts and cheese platter we indulged in. This was followed by dinner at Osteria Pizzeria. We all had pork chops. Saying the pork chops were the best I have ever had, would still be an understatement.

Montemerano is just breathtaking. Places I recommend seeing are Piazza del Castello and San Giorgio church even if pressed for time. Trust me.

With our bellies full, we drove back to our hotel.
End of Day 1

Locanda La Pieve
We woke up the next day to a wholesome breakfast consisting of was a freshly baked cake, cereal, fresh fruits picked from the garden, yogurt, ricotta cheese and home made jam.

Locanda La Pieve felt like home away from home. Enrico and Angela are such amazing hosts, always accessible and have a way of making their guests feel at home. We highly recommend staying here if visiting Semproniano. Plus they have good tips on what to do and where to go. We are already looking forward to visiting again next summer.Angela also offers Italian cooking classes so if you are staying in Semproniano or neighbouring towns be sure to add a class or two on your list of Things to do.

Caseificio Cugusi Silvana
Somewhere in between Pienza and Montepulciano we stopped at Caseificio Cugusi Silvana for a picnic. If you love pecorino {Italian cheeses made out of 100% sheep’s milk} this is the place. Cugusi Silvana is the pioneer quality cheese maker in the region. Feel free to buy some and it take it with you, or add it to your picnic basket. To bring out the flavour of cheese, I recommend pairing it with jam. My favourite was pecorino with truffles paired with onion jam. Alessandra chose Poliziana Rosso di Montepulciano and it was the perfect red wine for our garden picnic with a great view of Tuscany.psx_20161002_200251.jpgUnfortunately nothing lasts forever even the best picnics. It was time to move on so we got back into our cars and drove to Montepulciano.

This medieval hill town in the province of Siena is a delight to explore.

Apart from the many architectural jewels this town preserves, it is also a major producer of food and is well known for its pork, cheese, pici pasta and of course its wine; Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

When in Montepulciano explore one or more wine cellars: Talosa, Ercolani Azienda among others and taste some of the local wines.

Try out traditional dishes in one of the many restaurants or trattorie. Pasta “pici” with cheese sauce is one of my favorite and a must try.

Don’t miss the Piazza Grande {Big Square} that is the monumental centre of Montepulciano that hosts the Palazzo comunale. {Town hall}

Be sure to visit Saint Augustine, one of the most expressive and interesting buildings in Montepulciano.wp-1476840276923.jpgAntico Caffé Poliziano is a fancy place to escape the crowds and recharge. If you are lucky grab a table on the balcony and take in the scenery. When in doubt go for their Cafè Amore. There is a lot to see and do in Montepulciano.This marked the end of our weekend. We took the road back to Montecatini with fond memories of Tuscany and it’s olive groves, landscape, it’s culture, history and its amicable people. We experienced the true essence of La dolce vita.I want to thank Ale and Marco for being such great company and showing us around this part of Tuscany.



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