There’s something about the Tuscan countryside that is perfect for recharging one’s emotional batteries. From panoramic vistas to formal gardens to shadowed lanes in hilltop towns, Tuscany offers a feast for the eyes, and the perfect antidote to the bustle and chaos of modern city life.
One of our favorite haunts is Montepulciano, a hilltop town known for its wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Its main square offers a tower to climb, the enoteca (wine shop) for Poliziano, one of our favorite local producers, and cafés and restaurants to supply ice cream or a plate of pici (the local pasta) and a glass of Vino Nobile. Head down the lanes that lead from the main square, beneath the colored medieval flags, and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the Tuscan landscape. Montepulciano is the distilled essence of Tuscany.
No trip to Tuscany is complete without a visit to Siena, which offers the same pleasures as Montepulciano but on a larger scale. Almost unchanged from medieval times, its narrow streets are largely untroubled by cars. From the bell tower in the Piazza del Campo you can see for miles in all directions before descending to explore the city’s lanes and alleyways, with colorful flags and symbols of the 17 rival neighborhoods, all overlooked by the distinctive black-and-white striped tower of the cathedral.
We opted to stay in a house on the nearby estate of La Foce, which looks out across the Val d’Orcia towards the dormant volcano of Mount Amiata. In addition to this gorgeous vista, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, La Foce offers the more formal splendor of its gardens, designed in the 1930s by Cecil Pinsent for the Origo family who bought the estate and dedicated their lives to reinvigorating agriculture in the surrounding valley. The gardens look across to the famous “zig zag” road, lined with cypress trees, which is featured on many postcards and calendars of Tuscany. Was the zig-zag deliberate, or a happy accident? It doesn’t matter! It’s a great example of what makes Tuscany so pleasing to the eye: the harmony between natural and man-made elements of the landscape.
Strada della Vittoria, 63
53042 Chianciano Terme
+39 057 869 101
Kirstin Mckee is a London-based family doctor who loves food and photography.