Saturday, September 21, 2013 (Day 11)
Biking (rest day) Day 4 Itinerary:
walking tour of Montepulciano
– 11a start walking tour:
— Pulcinella Tower with statue ringing bell
— Chiesa di Sant’ Agostino
— Chiesa del Gesu
— Piazza Grande
— Cantucci Winery
— Santa Maria Assunta Cattedral (1594)
– lunch in Piazza Grande
– climbed tower on Palazzo Conunale
– toured Ricci Winery
– Church of San Francesco
– 4-6p break in room for laundry, blogging, and coursera classes
– 6:30-7:30p sunset photos outside Church of San Francesco
– 7:30 – 9:30p dinner at Diva e Maceo, pasta and dessert
Today we had the choice of biking a loop ride out of Montepulciano and back. However, last night we decided that it was really time for a rest day. Biking through Tuscany has been tougher than we thought. Plus, Iron Donkey provided us with a walking tour of Montepulciano with the same turn by turn directions as we would have on the cycling directions. We need to take a break and go for a walk to see the town.
So, in honor of taking a rest day, we slept in. =) It was so nice not to be required to have our luggage downstairs by 9:30a this morning and we even missed the hotel breakfast in favor of sleeping. Apparently that ringing bell all night last night didn’t give either one of us a good night’s rest. We finally started our walking tour around 11am with the Pulcinella Tower just up the hill from our hotel. Oh, and yes, our hotel is at the lowest part of Montepulciano, and there is a very steep walk up to the top of the town.
The Pulcinella Tower was cool because there was a mechanical metal statue on top of a man ringing the bell. He actually rang the bell on the hour, too! The next stop was at the Chiesa di Sant’ Agostino. It was a pretty church of course, but nothing major stood out about it. We mostly just enjoyed very slowly walking up the steep incline and meandering about. Oh, and we noticed that Montepulciano has a free wifi services throughout town, mostly so that you can utilize the Q-codes that are posted near or in front of every historical point of interest. Cool! This was a very cool, techie, and modern way of getting the information about each interest point in our own language.
Next we hit the Chiesa del Gesu which was rather interesting inside because the art almost looked more modern. The artist had actually decided to play with perspectives, so, for example, some of the railings were real railings, and others were painted with a 3-D-effect. It was all very intriguing to see how the artist incorporated all the perspectives into the design and try and figure out which were real statues, and which were painted, and so forth.
The road was certainly a touristy and we seemed to pass a wine store every other shop. Of course they all offered worldwide shipping. We were also interested in the tourist shops selling various artworks depicting sunflower landscapes. I wish I could be here in the spring when the sunflower fields are in full bloom. I came very close to buying some sunflower art of some sort. They had everything from plates painted with sunflowers, to pottery, to paintings, to bags, to well, just about anything.
Just before we reached the main piazza, the Piazza Grande (of course!) we stopped to take a free self-guided tour of the Cantucci Winery. Here, we literally just let ourselves in the open door and went ahead and walked through their wine cellar holding all the humongous barrels of fermenting wine. We know from our Chianti wine tour that the huge barrels are actually built inside the wine cellars and specific to fit the area it is housed in. There were many custom-size barrels. Also most interesting were the large stone fermenting rooms that were built into some of the walls.
Finally, we took our lunch break in the Piazza Grande at one of the restaurants with seating outside in the square. We took a very leisurely lunch and people-watched. We noticed that there were people up on top of the tower here in the square and found out that you can actually climb the tower. So, after lunch we climbed the tower on the Palazzo Conunale which houses some sort of government or civic offices. To get to the tower steps, we actually had to walk through their records room and between the filing cabinets. =) Our timing was absolutely perfect, because they had opened back up for the climb at 2p and that’s exactly when we showed up. So, we were the only ones here and for our whole time on both the tower and the terrace we were the only ones. Only when we had finally descended down did we see some other tourists start to trickle in. I don’t think it is well advertised.
Anyway, the steps were different from other towers we’d climbed mostly because they were tiny, tiny, made of brick, and didn’t spiral up in a specific pattern. We were ducking and twisting, and turning all over the place to get up to first the terrace level. The terrace level was certainly not a terrace, but a very narrow maintenance walkway that we could go out on and look down at the square and then at the surrounding countryside. The climb, then up to the tower, literally had you climbing up the trapdoor to the bells themselves. In fact, you almost felt like you were going to bump into the bells as you climbed out onto the tower level.
We were very impressed by the views and especially the part where we could see where we rode in yesterday and where we would ride on tomorrow. We could see how Tuscany where we’d been biking was much more hilly and bumpy than the other side leaving Montepulciano. We could also see the little mountain range in the distance that we’d have to cross in order to get to Umbria later on.
Next stop was a walk inside of the Santa Maria Assunta Cattedral built in 1594 which also dominated the Piazza Grande. It was very dim inside for sure and needed a little more windows light. It was huge inside, though, not as highly decorated as some other churches for its size. Still, though, another pretty church with religious artwork.
Now we were starting to walk back downhill and we hit the Ricci Winery next. The Ricci Winery was much like the Cantucci Winery with just an open door on the street allowing tourists to walk right into their deep-down-dungeon-like wine cellar to have a look around. This one seemed a little more touristy, and we had fun pointing out some of the signs that actually did point to a dungeon.
We stopped at the Church of San Francesco, but we weren’t able to go inside. Instead, we noted the incredible view of the countryside from the parking lot in front of the church and I made the decision to come back at sunset. And at this point our walking tour was pretty much over. We made our way back to our hotel, noted the column in front of the hotel and then went inside for about a 2-hour break to be productive. I did laundry in the sink, blogged, and Mark worked through his Coursera classes and quizzes.
Now it was time to prepare for sunset and dinner, so we hiked back uphill with the camera and with several other sunset-watchers, watched the sun go down behind the Tuscan hills from the parking lot in front of the Church of San Francesco. It is at sunset where I sometimes miss the DSLR camera that I left at home, but I’m still glad that I only have a point and shoot camera to carry around on this trip.
Dinner was at Diva e Maceo which was fabulous and we had our now usual dinner of pasta and meat. We are starting the tradition of splitting a pasta dish, and then each getting a meat dish. And of course, this was followed by a delicious dessert.
Tomorrow we get back on the bikes and continue on, but for now we are happy that we gave ourselves an extra rest day in Montepulciano.