Three Tuscan Hill Towns (and a Vineyard)

I spent all day yesterday exploring the Chianti countryside with guide Nadia of Artviva Tours, Florence. In Italy, to explore areas outside of the major cities, one can rent a car, hire a private driver, or hop on a small van with a few other curious tourists. I chose the latter. When traveling alone, I sometimes like the company of others. Sightseeing becomes a richer experience when you compare your perceptions with others.

Our guide, Nadia, hails from Perth, Australia, but spent several years in London before packing up and moving to Florence, fulfilling a dream she had held since the age of 15. Her main area of interest is food and wine, and I was happy to sit up front with her in the van and chat away about Florentine cuisine and culture of the table.

Our group of ten lunched at Agriturismo Guardastelle, and I will write more about the vineyard itself and its participation in the growing trend of agriturismo holidays in Italy when I return home. Guardastelle and its proprietor, Fausto, deserve a longer post.

Until then, here are some photo highlights of our tour of San Gimignano, Guardastelle Vineyard sitting in the shadows of the San Gimignano towers, Monteriggione and Siena. All three towns (well, technically, Monteriggione is a fortress) were built on hills and surrounded by protective walls. Monteriggione was a stop for pilgrims (pellegrini) making their penance trek from Canterbury. High on its own hill, it can be seen for miles, and must have been a hopeful sight for the hungry and weary walkers.

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View of Chianti countryside while climbing to il rocca, San Gimignano

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Two of the remaing towers seen from il rocca

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Salumeria in San Gimignano, specializing in local salamis, Tuscan prosciutto, and chingale (boar).

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Rows of vernaccia grapevines, producing the only white Chianti wine given DOCG status

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Church tower in the fortress of Monteriggione

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Window detail

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A nod to the pilgrims of the Middle Ages

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A door in the wall of Monteriggione with views of its Tuscan valley below

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Quaint shop window, rear of building

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Siena and Rome are linked through the brothers, Romulus and Remus. Both were raised by a wolf before going their separate ways.

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Il duomo, Siena, facade

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Il Campo, Siena, site of the famous horse race, il Palio

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Anyone who tries to drive a car around Siena is nuts. This is the preferred mode of transportation.

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