Tuscany and Umbria
In all of Italy, Tuscany and Umbria are tops in my book. Friends who’ve visited all tell me they love it and although I normally don't follow the herd, I have to admit I love it too. To me, Toscana and Umbro epitomize the Italy that travelers' dream about "“ with all the intact medieval architecture and towering cyprus-lined lanes, plus wine and the flavors of delectable food.
As with any trip time is limited, so are six days/seven nights going to be enough to cover these towns? Realistically, the answer is no "“ but road trips are built with a travel style that allows more variety in destinations but a shorter stay at each. Just remember that the joy lies in the journey and moving in and out of a destination is just part of the adventure.
These are my 5 favorites…
Spoleto is the perfect place to sample the small town spirit of Italy. Situated 150 autostrade miles north of Rome's international airport, it makes a great first-day stop on the way to Tuscany. Take some time to walk the medieval cobblestone lanes and take in the local ambiance. Must see places are the Museo Archeologico for the Roman and Etruscan artifacts alongside the adjacent restored Teatro Romano (Roman Amphitheater).
Bevagna is a hill town without the hills. Walking this Umbrian town is different from the next favorite, Montepulciano, as it occupies the valley floor so very little's vertical and things are only an easy walk from anything else. Park just outside the walls and go in the direction of Via di Porta Guelfa "“ underneath the medieval architecture is the mosaic floor of a second century AD Roman baths. Strike up a conversation with any the welcoming residents and they are more than happy to show you where.
Montepulciano is well known for its famous Vino di Montepulciano wine. While the city is very walkable, it's best for those with strong legs as the topography emphasizes the "hill" portion of hill town. Take a city bus to the top and walk down the main street to visit the many medieval churches and palazzos you see on the surface. Realize however that these are layered on top of a foundation of ancient Etruscan ruins – ask to visit a wine cellar and find these subterranean worlds.
San Giovanni d’Asso
San Giovanni d’Asso is a village along a curvy drive through Le Crete Senesi. This road trip traverses a roller-coaster set of clay hills coated with vegetation that color morph with the seasons. Buy some Pecorino Toscana Fresco (a sheep's milk cheese), prosciutto, and a crusty loaf of fresh baked bread for an impromptu road-side picnic.
Siena is the Tuscan town all tourists seem to love. Though its popularity shows, there are many walks in this UNESCO World Heritage Site that venture far from the maddening crowds. Catch an early morning sunrise on the Fortezza di Santa Barbara fortress walls while enjoying cafÃ© and croissants. For lunch walk just outside the old city walls to a park-like area along Via del Giustizia for an off-the-beaten-path picnic. Or just don't worry and relax at the end of a day on the Piazza del Campo, Siena's front porch, and with gelato in hand watch a moon rise over the plaza. Siena is just so enjoyable it won't matter much how many it's shared with.
Header photo : Steve Smith, all rights reserved
Spoleto Ruins photo : Christine Johnson, all rights reserved
Bevagna Gate photo : Christine Johnson, all rights reserved
Montepulciano Vineyards photo : Steve Smith, all rights reserved
San Giovanni d’Asso photo : Wikimedia Commons (remixed by Steve Smith)
Siena After Dark photo : Steve Smith, all rights reserved