2015 European Adventure travel blog

Looking back at Montalcino

Off we go

The rocky part of the track

Views from the presbytery

Bell tower of Abezza Di Sant Antimo

One very old olive tree with a very wide trunk

The countryside

Jack and more food

Another later start, 8:45, had us walking out of Montalcino and heading uphill, of course, on our last walk. This is not part of the Francigena Way but Salvatore tells us that it is a beautiful walk. I have to report that he is correct. Although the surface is the usual mixture of asphalt road, gravel path, muddy track and stony trail the walk passes through magnificent stands of oak forest with a few undulations (this is Tuscany after all) but with more sections which follow ridge lines giving us glimpses of great views. With our poor camera techniques no photos will ever do justice the rich tapestry of fields, forest and hillside towns. We pass by olive groves, vineyards and villas turned into 'Agriturismo' resorts.

After about three and a half hours of walking we have covered nearly 12 kilometres and arrive at the Abazzo di Sant Antimo which is at the base of Castelnuovo dell'Abate where the abbot used to live. The abbey church stands on a plot where an 5th century church used to be. The current church dates back to the 12th century although the bell tower was built in the 11th. When Napoleon conquered this part of Italy in 1870s and secularised all church property the monks left. The church fell into disrepair but was restored at the beginning of the 20th century. Monks returned in the 1970s and have been here ever since. Each day at 12:45 they celebrate one of their prayer sessions with Gregorian chanting. This has become a tourist attraction and bus loads of people from many European countries arrive to listen to the chants. We arrived early and sat at the back. With about 5 minutes to go the bell chimed 48 times and suddenly people seemed to arrive from everywhere. It was almost like the bus loads of Japanese tourists arriving at Phillip Island for the penguin parade.

We left the abbey and walked a short distance to a restaurant of the same name where Salvatore ordered lunch for us. We had antipasto of bruschetta with tomatoes an with olive oil, lightly cooked spinach with lemon and fagioli beans. This was followed by two types of pasta - tortelli with spinach and ricotta and pics with a cheese sauce. Both tasted just fabulous - I am a convert to freshly made pasta. Although we probably shouldn't have, we opted for some dessert which was Crema Catalano a sort of custard. Coffees rounded out the meal Kai was the only one to have wine the rest of us just had water.

After lunch our minibus driver from yesterday was waiting with our luggage, no extras today, so we piled in for what Salvatore said was a two hour drive to Orvieto. Given that the speed limit on most of the country roads is 50 kmh I can believe that it could take that long to travel 60 km or so. There were some hairpin bends that were so tight that if drivers of a full size bus didn't get it perfectly right they needed to back and fill to get around the bend. After just a bit more than an hour we were in the outer suburbs of Orvieto. Above us on an imposing hilltop with steep cliffs on the southern side was the old city of Orvieto where we were headed. Our minibus driver was able to get his vehicle through the narrow Main Street but I don't think that a full sized bus would make it.

We checked in and the met Salvatore who took us to the Ristoranto Zeppelin for an Aperitif. This consisted of a tasting of a sparkling Spumante, a white Romanelli wine and a red whose name I forget. This came with two big trays of 'light snacks' which contained on one tray two kinds of sliced meats and some pecorino cheese and on the other, some pizza slices as well as three kinds of stuffed pastries. Bear in mind that our lunch finished at two o'clock and it was now about 5:30. Somehow we managed not to disappoint or insult our hosts and we managed to drink most of the wine and eat most of the food but there was no way that are going to have dinner tonight.

By the time we finished it was nearly seven so Maree and I took a walk through the town which is bigger than Montalcino but smaller than San Gimignano. On the way we spotted a cafe which looked like it might do tea so we stopped there on our return and discovered that indeed the did tea. They had a list of about 50 different types but we were boring and just had English Breakfast. It was very nicely presented in silver teapots and nice china. We are now back in the hotel which has pleasant rooms and we can hear rain falling gently outside.

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