I told Carlo I would give up flying to retire in this place. That says a lot.
(Carlo knows my childhood dream had always been to be an airplane pilot. My teenage dream was to become a rock star in Led Zeppelin, but that was just hormones.)
It only took 46 years, but I did become a pilot. So I shocked Carlo with the “give up flying” bit.
Then he saw the pictures.
I had a business meeting in Rome. Rome tops the list of my favorite cities in the world. Incredible history, powerful art, delightful food.
Then I took a weekend off and drove around the medieval fortress towns of Tuscany. That’s when I sent the SMS message to Carlo, about giving up flying.
I picked up a Lancia from Europcar in Florence, Friday noon. When I returned it Sunday afternoon, I had put over 800 kilometers on the trip meter.
I only did 100 of those on the A1 Autostrada.
I drove everywhere on back lanes and twisting mountain roads. My companion and I did a tight, carefully chosen itinerary to make the most of a long weekend (I was due in Paris the next week for meetings, but Monday was Bastille Day, so…).
The scenery was heart-stopping.
Every turn in the road, every hill I crested, revealed a cinema-like panorama. National Geographic landscapes.
Under the summer Tuscan sun, every speckle of color saturated the senses. Everyone who has seen the full-sized pictures say the same things. Like a movie. Like a painting. Like a book illustration.
Exactly how I felt, too. Like stumbling onto a new movie scene at every turn.
Montepulciano was our first town off the A1. Never used the Autostrada again.
The name rolls around your tongue like its Vino Nobile de Montepulciano, considered by wine connoisseurs as one of the best wines of Italy.
It’s a medieval fortified town.
“Fortified” doesn’t mean its 14,000 citizens imbibe their wine for courage.
In the 13th century, Tuscan towns battled each other for influence and wealth.
So each town nestled itself inside fortress walls high in the Tuscan hills.
Montepulciano, atop a 600-meter ridge, has an Etruscan history going back to 700 AD or so. It prospered after allying itself with Florence against Siena, in 1202.
The road to Montalcino, the next town on our list, wound through spectacularly scenic hills carpeted with vineyards. I stopped often to take pictures.
Then we didn’t even stop anymore. We just took pictures from the moving car.
Montalcino, of course, is home to the famed Brunello di Montalcino wine. Every red dot on the beautifully engraved and enameled metal signboard of the Consorzio is a vineyard. Each vineyard is listed on the left of the sign.
The town was hosting a wine and jazz festival in its inner fortress. Alas, we were rushing to get to our overnight stop and had to pass.
We did shop at Enoteca La Fortezza, inside the main tower of the fortress, and the girl recommended two excellent bottles to take away.
As the sun set, we raced the dusk to my favorite magical spot in Tuscany.
I was unusually enamored by the movie, Under The Tuscan Sun. Loosely based on the non-fiction work of Frances Mayes, the romantic comedy is set in the town of Cortona, about an American woman who buys a Tuscan villa on a whim.
But I’m getting ahead of the story.
Posted from Manila, July 27, 2008