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Drive to Montepulciano

Cindy's Birthday

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Today was Cindy's birthday, and we were celebrating, but Cindy kept saying that a birthday in Italy was all she needed.
We ate breakfast at our old cafe and gave it a sad goodbye. We grabbed our bags, lugged them down the three flights, and to the bus stop.
The bus driver skipped our stop and then crossed the river. We pulled our luggage back across the river and the six or eight blocks to the car rental office.

Picking up the car was easy. The office wasn't large, think your living room, situated on a narrow street with no place to park and definitely no cars. After signing all the papers and paying the 500 euro deposit, we crossed the street and into an almost hidden garage. We were given the keys to a little white Fiat Panda, four doors, and room for a few carry-on bags.

There is a little anxiety when driving in a new country. I have been fretting about parking, blue lines for paid parking, white for free parking, and yellow is restricted to something special like police, handicapped, etc. Then there is the Zona Traffico Limitato (ZTL), and you will pay dearly if you enter those areas. People warned me, "You are crazy to drive in Italy." Others said it was fine. We have been here enough days to see that drivers may be a little enthusiastic but not wild or crazy. They generally keep in their lane and are polite at intersections, but if there is a conflict over who had the right away, even with pedestrians, you can bet there will be shouting. We have already seen several people jump out of cars to yell. All that being said, the real issue here is narrow, and I mean narrow streets. You will be surprised by what narrow lane they can squeeze a car, truck, or street sweeper through. I had my challenge.

We pulled into the street, navigated multiple roundabouts, and finally found a winding road through scattered settlements. In places, we could have reached out the window and touched both sides of the street. Finally, we arrive at an actual motorway, a limed access toll road. Oh crap, how does this work? We picked up our ticket and were off.
At 110 kilometers an hour, we headed to Montepulciano. The toll booth was a little confusing, but finally, I threw enough money in the hopper. We stopped in a small town for a drink and break and decided to head to Siena for a quick look, then to Montepulciano. At Siena, after winding up a long hill towards town walls and entering a narrow roman gate. We parked the car along a wall in a row of parked cars. We looked around, trying to determine if we were safe to park. I asked and was told to park only if I wanted to be towed.

We found a paid space, fumbled with the machine to pay then walked to the central plaza. The Piazza del Campo, a massive fan-shaped brick plaza surrounded by a large building sloping down to the fan's point where a large church stands. At the top of the fan is a square fountain. The Palio di Siena is held here each year, a bareback horse race between various neighborhoods. Horses and crowds all crammed into the piazza for a wild three laps, which takes only 90 seconds.
We were back in our car and finally found Montepulciano, a collection of towers and buildings perched on a hill. Montepulciano is another walled hill town, old, high, narrow, and with limited car access. We had to have permission to enter the city and park.

The owner sent us a map. We followed the road along the wall, through an avenue of cypress trees, turned at what looked like an old church, Tempio di San Biagio. We had a steep climb to a very narrow gate marked no entrance. We stopped, but someone signaled to come through the gate. I sent a message to the apartment owners. She came to direct us to a small parking lot. We pulled our bags up the hill and into the narrow streets of Montepulciano. Our apartment was wonderful.
Montepulciano is not flat with no straight lines. Cobblestone streets wind all over the place with connecting passageways of stairs and or ramps. It is a workout. After unloading, we set out for supper. We had wine and cheese at the Croce di Febo with a great view of the vineyards and olive trees below our town. Below us were rolling hills, larger hills with large stone houses, rows of grapes, and plowed fields. In the distance, we could see a large lake and mountains.
We found a place with a view for supper, tried several wines, had a cheese tray and called it an evening.
The apartment owner sent us a message wishing Cindy a happy birthday. She had just noticed it on her passport. Another great day.

Posted by Deuxenvacances 20:12 Archived in Italy

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