Next morning, we had booked with “We drive you Tuscany”, a car transfer from Rome to Florence, sightseeing through some scenic Tuscan towns. Roberto, our driver was on time so we checked out and were on the road by 8.30 am. The Tuscan countryside was lovely and our first stop was Montepulciano. We walked up the hill through this small medieval town and had pricey cappuccino and snacks at Café Poliziano. In Italy at some restaurants like this café, prices for the same item can be higher if you sit down in the restaurant versus standing up at the counter. We hurried back downhill after taking a few pictures. For those who are into wine tasting you can actually spend time here but our focus was on the scenery and we wanted to get to Florence by evening.
We visited the Sant Antimo Abbey in Montalcino. After the over the top splendor of St.Peter’s and other churches in Rome, this Abbey was just the opposite – peaceful and simple but set in such beauty surrounded by Tuscan hills and countryside. I have to admit I felt more of the spiritual connection here than in the grandeur of Rome.
Lunch was late but enjoyable at Osteria_La_Porta in Monticchiello, on their patio overlooking the Tuscan hills. The restaurant is small but has good Tuscan food at somewhat high prices. It gets full quickly so reservations are recommended. The pasta with wild boar meat and panna cotta we had for dessert was tasty.
After lunch, Roberto also took us to a scenic vantage point. Tuscany is beautiful and can be a relaxing separate vacation on its own. If we ever go back, I would want to visit Siena and Pienza too. The train from Rome to Florence would have been faster and much cheaper but I wanted to at least get a taste of Tuscany hence the car transfer.
On the road, Roberto was talkative and discussed politics – US and Italian with us – he complained about the corruption that seemed to be part of Italian politics and the 70% tax on businesses, a part of which they have to pay in advance beginning of the year. He talked about how small businesses like theirs had a tough time and about the high unemployment rates in Italy.
Being Italian, he also made fun of the Brits a lot – and how horrible British food was and that’s why the Brits drink too much because their food is really bad. It’s a good thing our trip was prior to the Brexit vote. He was justly proud of Italian cuisine and even explained the correct way to make pasta – the secret is all in the good local tomatoes and olive oil. My apologies to any British readers – we personally love the English heritage, having grown up reading Enid Blyton and spending time in British Council libraries. The day passed by in a nice relaxed manner and looking out of the window was a treat with the lovely Tuscan hills all around. We reached Florence by evening and were dropped off at Hotel Alessandra.