A selection of day trips…. 2020
I was asked by a woman whose husband wanted to stay at my large Montisi Villa for two weeks, “But what would we DO for two weeks??!!!” Well, for two weeks there is a wealth of interesting, relaxing things to do. And il Nido is just 14 km west of Montisi so all things are possible. The Montisi chefs who cook at the Villa will even come to il Nido and give you a private lesson which becomes your lunch or dinner on the terrace. Or deliver a finished meal to your il Nido frig!! Alessandro Piccinini Tuscan Chef firstname.lastname@example.org ; Alessandra Benassi (email@example.com). Alessandro has opened an intimate (8 student) cooking school in nearby Montisi, too.
So, here’s a sample of activities for a visit to il Nido. There are 2 weeks’ worth of visits, so lots to choose from –
- Sinalunga morning market – Tuesday right outside your doorstep
- Summer village swimming pool – around the corner
- Hot baths at Bagno Vignoni, 45 minutes
- Pienza and the Pope’s palace, 30 minutes
- Cafes and restaurants throughout the towns and villages
- Ancient frescoes with a guide, 35 minutes
- Wine and cheese tastings
- Brunello in Montalcino, chianti in Radda in Chianti and vino nobile in Montepulciano
- Buonconvento morning market – Saturday, 30 minutes
- A day in Florence, 1 ½ hours north
- A ‘first weekend’ visit to the Arezzo Antiques Fair, 45 minutes east
- A day or 2 in Siena, 45 minutes northwest
- High fashion shopping at The Mall, Incisa, on the way to Florence
- Rome, 2 ½ hours south
We’ve arranged them in a flow of days….
Arrive no earlier than 4 pm, and settle in. If you have stopped for a selection of groceries put some white wine in the frig while you unpack your clothes. Make a little platter of antipasti and climb to the roof deck to enjoy the view and the end of the day bustle of Sinalunga alta. Later, be sure to enjoy the sunset. Dinner options in the piazza are the restaurant/pizzeria right below the nest or Il Cassero, under the edge of the piazza facing the old bocce courts. Enjoy! Off to sleep.
Sunday – Day of exploration and relaxation. Perhaps a country drive!
Italian breakfast (fresh-squeezed orange juice, cappuciino and pastry) in the piazza at Bar l’Angolo or buy pastries and juice and carry to the roof terrace with a pot of coffee! Nice view! Plan your day. If you didn’t stop for groceries both supermarkets are open Sunday morning 8:30 to 12:30. In the summer they have afternoon hours, too. Unwind from your trip with lunch on the terrace overlooking the view or the park. Walk around the old town, Sinalunga alta. See map, __________. You can see from the aerial that it was originally a fortified hill town and it dates back to Etruscan time. Have a leisurely drive to Montisi. Arrange for a guided walk with a local, Liz Cochrane and visit her Montisi art studios. www.elizabethcochrane.com. Your walk should include La Grancia at the end of the village, the last of the granges, which, during medieval times were located at 1 day travel intervals along the road from Canterbury to Rome (entrance to the private Grange is by appointment only which Liz can arrange). Schedule a wine or cheese tasting lesson/session with Antonella Piredda. She can even arrange to bring the tastings to you, in il Nido if she’s available!! www.vitisviniferamontisi.com Book in advance. Dinner in Montisi, Trequanda or Sinalunga restaurants or at il Nido.
Monday – The hot baths of Bagno Vignoni
Café, orange juice and pastry at the village café downstairs; Bar l’Angolo. (Keep in mind that in Italy “bar” means “café.” They open early and stay open late – and generally serve little dishes, sandwiches, ice creams and a full range of beverages throughout the day. Off to Montalcino to sightsee, taste brunello wine and have lunch. After lunch a short drive to Bagno Vignoni for an afternoon of swimming in the hot mineral pools and relaxing out the last of the travel-weariness. At 6 pm, when the baths close to the public, head for the showers and then head back towards Sinalunga. Dinner in Bagno Vignoni, Pienza, Montisi, Trequanda or back in Sinalunga. Pizza can be had in Trequanda at Café Paradiso and in your own piazza Garibaldi.
Tuesday – The Morning Market comes to your front door!!!
The Tuesday market starts at 9 and winds down at noon. By 2 pm you would not know it had occurred. MOST IMPORTANT move your car out of the piazza, down the hill, across from the park, MONDAY NIGHT. They tow any remaining cars about 4 am. Nasty surprise if you forget!!
Fresh local produce, clothes of all kinds, kitchen wares, porchetta (crispy whole roasted pork), cheeses, fresh fish, fabrics, even a stall that sells only laces, trims and buttons!! The largest and best of the weekly markets in the area. Buy for lunch and for dinner. Carry them home and then either head out for a day’s adventure
SUMMER SWIMMING POOL – if it’s summer time, go around the corner for a long day at the village pool. E6.50 per person for the entire day. Gated and secure. The hot spot for the entire town. Swimming lessons, grandparents, kids enjoying summer! A real Italian experience!! There is a little snack stand and full rest rooms and showers.
Wednesday – Florence with a stop for ‘designer’ outlet mall or not….
For the serious fashionista – after breakfast, leave for Incisa (45 minutes north, up the A-1), the shopping mecca for high fashion Italian clothing aficionados (it’s an outlet!! Google The Mall Incisa). Shop and enjoy and then have a nice lunch within The Mall if the shopping is intense or drive the rest of the way to Florence (14 km) for a little strolling and lunch al fresco.
OR skip the shopping, and ‘drive on!’ to Florence, about 1 ½ hours total, north up the A-1. Park in the Sant’Ambrogio parking structure, tour the Sant’Ambrogio market (9 to 12:30) and then walk on into the centro for the unique art and other delights of Florence! Arrange a guide if you’d like a focused visit. If you have kids with you and want to splurge perhaps a horse-drawn carriage ride?
Alternatively for Wednesday – Visit the palace of Pope Pio II in Pienza – 30 min drive.
Morning at home, then have lunch in Pienza and after lunch, tour the Palazzo Piccolomini. I strongly recommend audioguides to get the full story. See the piano nobile (the main floor of the palace where Pope Pio II lived). A true glimpse of Renaissance life. World-famous for pecorino cheese, Pienza is a small village with lovely shops and famous belvedere (beautiful walk atop the ancient city wall). Also, you can go in the late afternoon, stroll the village and shops and enjoy dinner.
Make a visit to Monte Oliveto Maggiore, in Chiusure, a tiny hill town to the west, which is the location of very famous frescoes depicting the life of St. Benedict by Il Sodoma & Luca Signorelli. Perhaps time your visit to hear the Gregorian chants, tour the grounds and share a meal on the grounds at Ristorante La Torre. Arrange for Antonella Piredda to meet you there for an hour’s tour to tell you the inside story of the frescoes and how to appreciate frescoes in general.
During the afternoon 4 or 5 market wagons set up in the near part of the piazza – fish, fruits, vegetables and garden plants/herbs. No need to worry about moving your car, though.
How about a pasta or cooking lesson at the nest in the afternoon or perhaps go out for a lovely dinner at Il Conte Matto, in Trequanda, one of my very favorite restaurants for lunch or dinner. www.contematto.it Perhaps let them know you are friends of mine. They are like family.
Friday – A day to rest.
And if you are leaving tomorrow, to pack. But perhaps an afternoon cooking lesson with Chef A – fresh pasta with seasonal sauce, selection/tasting of the local cheeses, vegetables and fresh fish from yesterday’s mini-market in the piazza outside your door, seasonal salad and lesson on making dolce. I’ve now become expert at tiramisu…SO EASY!!!
If you can stay another week:
Off to The Buonconvento Saturday market – 10 to 1. Another wonderful weekly market of stalls and trucks of fresh vegetables, cheeses, fabrics, table linens, household goods, clothing, even a porchetta truck. Assemble and purchase ingredients for a home-made Saturday feast. Perhaps stop at Monte Olivetto and lunch on the way back? Two ways to drive to Buonconvento – take paved roads as if to San Giovanni d’Asso but turn right at the center of Torrienieri and take this shortcut to the Highway 2, and Buonconvento. Alternatively, and only if you don’t mind getting your car dusty, turn 3 km PAST San Giovanni d’Asso, to the right, up an unpaved (white) road. This is one of the most beautiful country roads in the area with vistas and photo opportunities everywhere. It arrives into the center of Buonconvento, but if the white road is dry your car will be dusty. There are car washes. 1 just west of San Giovanni d’Asso and in Sinalunga just along from the Coop shopping mall, I Gelsi.
Day of relaxation. Or, off to see Montepulciano in the late morning and dine either lunch or the 7.30 pm seating at Osteria Aquacheta. www.acquacheta.eu See link below….Giulio is intentionally, well, Giulio…see him here….
Acquaceta is worth the drive – always very fresh and authentic local food, very well prepared. It’s often crowded and a bit noisy. In times past known only to locals, but now it’s sought after. Call for a reservation perhaps.
Monday – Tour of Siena, with Antonella Piredda www.antonellapiredda.com . She has a special love of Siena having lived there while attending culinary school. There is too much to see to go, particularly the first time, without a guide, in my opinion. Get a recommendation for a diner spot or come home to your Piazza Garibaldi – fun dinner of pizza or local specialties at Il Cassero below the edge of the piazza.
Tuesday – Slow morning. Schedule massages with Lalla in Montisi, though DO schedule ahead! A ‘catch-up day’ for bucket list items OR plan a visit to Assisi, Perugia and Deruta!! They are all part of the same drive.
Wednesday – Splurge a bit and book a guided wine tasting tour of Brunello and Vino Nobile wines, includes a lunch out with the guide, driver and vehicle(s) can be provided either www.tuscanysienatours.it Attention Gianmarco or through Antonella www.antonellapiredda.com A great way to see the countryside and small wineries. Antonella can also take you to an artisan cheese maker. Very interesting.
Thursday – Day trip to Rome with guide. Leave at 8, return via dinner in Orvieto. Great way to ‘spot’ the elements of Rome that you want to revisit either at the end of your trip or your next time over. Driver and vehicle can be arranged. Contact me for drivers’ rate sheet specific for my guests. Here is the driving company’s website for tours www.tuscanysienatours.it I can recommend 2 guides in Rome that I’ve enjoyed. You will be back the same evening. You can drive yourselves, of course, but it makes the day longer…
Friday – Rest and try to get everything into your suitcase for your departure in the morning, 10:00 am. Schedule your final cooking lesson and “good-bye” dinner by candlelight – a farewell celebration. Or, as I do, enjoy the lovely foods in the frig and chill some wine.
This list didn’t even touch on antiques in Arezzo (famous fair held the first weekend of each month – details on Google), NOR did I attempt to do justice to pottery in Deruta, chocolate in Perugia, the footsteps of St. Francis in Assisi…..or olive oil tastings (fall only), most season truffle hunts very close to Sinalunga, cheese makers….or the out-of-this-world Trequanda artist whose chosen medium is museum-quality art dolls, Brigitte Deval www.bdeval.com Or dining at all our local restaurants or tasting wine throughout the area. So much to experience. And if you are interested in hidden gardens or the true treasures, rarely seen, of Italian art in Siena, arrange such a visit with Contessa Francesca Fumi, a friend of our family. http://personalguideinsiena.wordpress.com/ or firstname.lastname@example.org
So, all these things can happen in the nest, il Nido. Remember it’s a real family nest with our art on the walls and it forms the invitation to just relax on 1 of the terraces and enjoy the view, and the vitality below in the piazza. There is almost no sound that reaches the nest, aside from the church bells which ring only for the call to Mass. Just figure out what activities appeal to you, your friends and family, for this visit and let me know so we can assist in setting it up. It is our pleasure.