Monday, December 20, 2010

Perfect Day Trip to Montepulciano

I know it’s been forever and I deeply apologize. A lot has happened in the past few weeks—from snowstorms to conclusion stay in Florence, I promise to update you. I am now in Rome. In the next few days, I plan on catching up. For the next twenty days, I’ll be traveling throughout Europe with my sister. All I can say is, I hope the weather will be in our favor.

Prior to Montepulciano, Lucca was my favorite town in Italy. Just hearing the name, Montepulciano, with the Italian accent was appealing. How could I resist the train trip to this magical Tuscan town? The train ride was probably the most memorable and visually appealing since I moved to Florence.

Montepulciano is a medieval renaissance town on a hill down in southern Tuscany. What makes this town so different than most Tuscan towns is it’s car free. The only vehicles I saw were an occasional bus or two. I could finally let my guard down and not worry about getting side swiped by vehicles.  The town is best known for its major production of food and wine—especially its wine. The vino (wine) was beyond amazing, and I only wish I had better wine terminology to describe what I tasted. Additionally, Montepulciano is known for its honey and with that known I invested in a small jar to share with my family once I return. The town has also been a great resource for a few movies—most recently is Twilight Saga: New Moon. And (NO) that wasn’t the main reason for my visit, although I won’t deny I watched the movie the night before. If you’re looking for a traditional Tuscan town, I highly recommend Montepulciano. It would be a sin not to go.
I took a train from Florence to Siena. I transferred to a smaller train and got off at the Montepulciano station. The predicted weather was rain and snow. SNOW!!!! A heavy presence of clouds was in the sky, as well as, a mixture of blue. The combination was incredible. My friends and I reached Montepulciano and knew we had to get on a bus. At first sight I saw a bus, a yellow one—hint number one. As I was waiting to get on, I realized I was surrounded by kids and parents. It was a school bus! Seriously who has a bright yellow school bus outside the train station on a Saturday? I guess they have school on the weekends. I don’t know, but soon realized it and got out of the line embarrassed.
We went back to the train station and went to the café to ask for directions for the right bus. The man was extremely friendly and told us that the bus would be arriving in 30 minutes. We politely thanked him and went outside to wait. It was cold and realized we weren’t going to arrive in time for lunch. So we should have a snack at the café. We found ourselves in the same café waiting in line to be served. I began to order my food when the man who was once cheerful, turned serious and said “NOT POSSIBLE!” I was confused, did I say something wrong, did I not enunciate clearly? He then said the café was for members only and if we were hungry, we should go outside across the street to the other café. Never had I heard about a train café being private. Even though I didn’t know, once again embarrassed I lowered my head as I exited. It wasn’t until outside did I realize the sign stating: Members Only.  Live and learn, my friends, live and learn.

The bus finally arrived. I have no idea, but I am pretty sure in this small town kids have school on Saturday. There were tons of school teenagers on the bus. The ride up to Montepulciano took 10 minutes from the train station. I am sure it normally takes 30 minutes; but because the way the bus driver was driving he might as well have had a Porsche. Never had I seen a bus do the things it did, but we got there alive—key word, safely is not a word I would use. But nonetheless, I am embracing a different culture and that’s what makes life so meaningful and interesting.

There are no words that can describe my love for Montepulciano. The town is small and quaint. Upon arrival it began to snow. SNOW! Lucky me, good thing I had warm clothes on.  Montepulciano is on a hill and so some of the streets are a little steep. I must have looked lost because two locals came up to me and informed me that there was a food festival taking place. FOOD...FESTIVAL!?!?! I love food! So trustingly I followed her to the basement of some building, and yes for a split second I thought maybe I shouldn’t have followed a complete stranger into a building’s basement. Luckily my instincts were right and as she opened the door there were no more than ten vendors. There were olive oils, to cheeses, to jams and honeys, and even baked goods booths. Not to mention free samples of everything. I must admit when she said festival I thought of something really big, but that wouldn’t have fit the Montepulicano town atmosphere. I was sad to see only three visitors at this food festival, and I was one out of the three. Nonetheless, I got some free samples and bought a jar of honey and jam.
A map is not necessary for this town.  It is small and the best way to discover the town is by exploring. I came across a huge underground winery. There isn’t an entrance fee and the lady at the front desk is trusting and allowed me to explore on my own. The wine barrels were gigantic. You better just look at the photo to see for yourself. For your information I am 5’9 and in shoes almost 5’11. That may help your perspective.
My favorite Palazzo—or rather the main Palazzo was Communale. In the Palazzo there was the communal palace…it has a clock tower. For many of you this building might be familiar to you. I’m sure if you understand you’re having a chuckle to yourself and for those who don’t know the significance of this building, the movie states it in the beginning paragraphs of the movie. Additionally, in the palazzo is the Duomo of Montepulciano and if you’re thinking you’d see a Duomo the size of the ones in Milan or Florence think again. It is much smaller.
The golden hour in Monetepulciano is not to be missed. As the sun sinks into the horizon, a golden glow floods throughout the countryside. This was the moment I envisioned of the Tuscany landscape. The warm rich colors of green, yellow, and orange are most prevalent during sunset. I was lucky to witness this time of day. I only wished I could have shared it with my family and friends back home. I guess photos will be the closest I can offer.
 Most of my time was spent wandering around, going to the winery, and of course I had to stop for hot chocolate and a pastry. In the five hours I was in the town, it started out with sun, snow, rain and then sun again. It was beyond cold to the point if I didn’t get hot chocolate, my fingers would endure frostbite. In the café was a local poetry reading. Lucky for me, I got more cultural exposure.

Right after I left the café, I heard music. I didn’t know where it was coming from but I had to investigate. My ear led me to a beautiful church and I curiously went inside to find a church choir performing.  I took a seat and for 30 minutes I had free entertainment.
In the evening my roommates and I went to a beautiful restaurant where music of Pavarotti was playing in the background. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.  Of course, I had to order a glass of wine. The place opened at 7pm and I begged to be let in at 6:30 for two reasons—it was cold and we had nowhere to go, and we had to catch our train back to Florence. We were the first ones there and when we left there was only one other couple. The place is normally packed, but we ate early.
Unfortunately despite all our efforts, we missed our train and found ourselves stranded at the train station. Just as we arrived, the train was departing and there wasn’t much we could do about it. After it left, we realized there weren’t any more trains going to Florence! But this situation provided the accomplishment of my goal to become more relaxed in life. I was totally okay with the situation. I found a train employee and through broken Italian and English I learned of a midnight train coming through and it would stop outside Florence. It was the best I could get, and I had no choice but to wait three hours. Lucky for me I found a café that was open and yet again, I had another hot chocolate and watched an Italian version of American Idol while I waited.
Missed our train
Finally at 2:30am, I found myself back in my apartment wishing that my visit to Montepulciano wasn’t over. One day I hope to return and next time stay for a week. The slow life that the town offers was most appealing and cannot be found easily. But when found, enjoy!!!

Yours Truly,
Roamin' Roman


  1. The picture above is truly the best depiction of Tuscany. Such a great photo expressing all there is to offer in Italy.

  2. Thanks for writing, I very much liked your newest post. I think you should post more frequently. you evidently have natural ability for blogging!

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