“Italy, and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy.” —Bertrand Russell –
Italy…..a land of spectacular contrasts!……the Alps and the rolling hills of Tuscany; the Borgia’s 30 year reign of murder, debauchery and treason and the legendary artistic talent of Michelangelo, Leonardo, Dante and Cher (just wanted to see if you were paying attention); the Papal excesses of the renaissance and the current Pope Francis; Ossobuco and a simple bruschetta; $400,000 lamborghinis and $10,000 Fiats!
Tuscany is known for its splendid landscapes with charming low hills covered with olive groves, vineyards, woods, isolated cypress trees, and beautiful old farmhouses, all part of a landscape that seems to have been carefully tended since the dawn of time. Our seven-day walk through the region was an ideal way to idly contemplate life and views that have not changed in centuries.
The trees on top of the ridgeline are Cypress trees which are ubiquitous in the region and provide the landscape with an undeniable Tuscan character.
This image of solitary Cypress trees on the ridgeline sitting above the field of yellow wildflowers is typical of the region and one of the reasons so many visitors are attracted to Tuscany.
Tuscany is filled with Olive Groves and famous for its olive oil and Mediterranean cuisine. Olive trees live for centuries and many olive groves in Tuscany sport trees that were producing olives during the renaissance period. In other parts of the country there are reliable reports of trees that predate Christ….talk about history!
Centrally located in the beautiful Val d’Orcia and situated among Pienza, Montepulciano and Montalcino, San Quirico d’Orcia is the perfect place to explore central Tuscany. The first mentions of the village occur in 700AD as it was the object of a territorial dispute between two powerful city states; Pienza and Arezzo. It gained prominence as a way station along the Via Francigena, the famous “road of the pilgrims” that was used by Northern Europeans on their way to Rome.
Still very Catholic…Sundays are for attending morning services and gathering with family for a mid-day meal. Citizens don their finest duds and slowly stroll the ancient village’s stone pathways arm in arm while greeting fellow strollers.
Via Dante Alighieri is the main street in the village and provides a nice view the Collegiata of the Saints Quirico and Giulitta, the beautiful Etruscan era Romanesque church seen here in the distance.
Tucked into the southern Tuscany countryside beside the village of Vitaleta, lies a charming little stone church called the Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta. One of the most photographed churches in Tuscany, this mystical building used to be the home of a Renaissance statue of the Madonna sculpted by the artist, Andrea della Robbia in 1590. Built in the middle of a hill, this spectacular tourist attraction was restored in 1184 by the architect Giuseppe Partini and was recently classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
These Cypress Tree lined roads are common and define the “Tuscan” look
Montepulciano, located in the Val di Chiana of Tuscany, Italy, is one of the most attractive hill towns in Tuscany. Built on a ridge of roughly 2,000 ft. it was the object of a constant struggle for control between Siena and Florence beginning in the 12th century and lasting into the middle of the 15th century.
Walking through the small alleyways and back streets of these hill towns, you realize that you’re trodding in the footsteps of ancient Italians who moved along the same byways 1,000 or more years ago.
The main square of the old town of Montepulciano, still surrounded by walls, is the Piazza Grande (officially the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele), in which are some of Montepulciano’s most important buildings. Most of the structures forming the Piazza were built in the 14th and 15th centuries.
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