Look at all that blossom falling …… oh no, it’s snow – 7/4/15

In change from last week when we had a few days of city hopping we have been exploring some of the Tuscan hill villages which has been beautiful.

After leaving Florence we opted for trying out our next Fattore Amico farm ‘Le Tre Stelle’ which is just outside Certada, this time planning to eat with the family. We called ahead as we weren’t quite sure what would/wouldn’t be open over Easter and were welcomed into the farmhouse for dinner with some other guests that they had for the weekend. The farm itself mainly grows grape (for red and white wine) and olives (for Olive Oil) but they also have a large vegetable garden and some goats, chickens and some very large (one pregnant) pigs… which although we can’t vouch for the ones in the garden their sibling was pretty tasty 🙂

We wandered into Certado which is a small, but beautiful medieval walled village on top of a hill looking out onto the Tuscan hills.

Certada3_20150402And then later in the evening went in to the farmhouse to eat on the long table in front of the fire with an Italian and Bulgarian/Swiss family who were staying in the guest house. Dinner was plentiful to say the least with a bottle of white wine, red Chianti Classico in addition to a bottle of their special Chianti on the table for each family to accompany home grown anti-pasti of salami, ham and bruschetta with olive oil, First plate consisting of home-made Gnocchi with Turnip flowers and sausage, Second plate of Lasagne, third plate which was beef cooked in wine with salad on the side, dessert of a warm strawberry tart and coffee and grappa.

It was home cooking, but it was delicious and we were made to feel part of the family…. Definitely worth the 25 euros. We went back in the morning to pay and were offered coffee and cake whilst learning more about the family and the Italian economy and found out that the ‘special chianti’ is 15 euros a bottle and most of the 70,000 bottles they produce each year are exported to the states…… it was rather nice though!

Moving on we wiggled our way through the beautiful countryside to San Gimignano which is another slightly larger (and much more touristy) medieval hill village.

Most of the photos within the village itself had far too many people in them but thankfully looking out was even more spectacular.

SanGimignano5_20150403

Moving on from San Gimiginano we wiggled a little more through the beautiful Tuscany countryside to arrive at Volterra … another walled hill village which oddly housed a fairly large prison. We stopped at the aire (8 euros from 8am – 8pm) as we had intended to stay, and headed up the steps into the town to have a look around.

Volterra is less touristy than San Gimiginano but equally as pretty and the prison itself was a beautiful building although you weren’t supposed to take photos….

Volterra1_20150403

We had planned to stay a couple of nights, but to be honest were a bit put off by having to get up and be out of the place by 8am, so as we had seen what we came to see we emptied and re-filled and decided to move on to Siena where we parked up at the Stadium roughly 3km from the center.

We knew that the weather was looking a bit grim on Saturday, but managed to get a bit of exercise in and have a bit of a walk through Siena before the skies opened just before lunch. However, when they opened, they stayed open…. And it rained, and rained and rained. Siena is beautiful and appears smaller than it actually is. It is a walled city and as you walk through the gates you are presented with beautiful building after beautiful building – it is one of those places that has lots of corners to explore….and even more patisseries demonstrating their version of Panforte (the basic version is a dense nut, fruit and caramel type cake which is delicious, others contain marzipan or chocolate as well)

By the time we arrived back at the motorhome the waterproofs had done their work, but they had been pushed to the limit and were soaked … everything takes slightly longer to dry out in a motorhome but with the heating on and mushroom and spinach risotto cooking, we settled in for the night.

With grey skies above and the church bells ringing to bring in Easter Sunday we did our morning routine and headed towards Gaiole in Chianti which is apparently the main market town for the Chianti wine region. Oddly we chose it as it was a little smaller and less known than some of the other towns, but after a short 15km of twisting roads we arrived and the Aire and couldn’t have picked better.

After a short walk through the town we found some maps for some local walks and decided to head into the hills to try one out. The skies were blue but there was a chill in the air and although the clouds were closing in quickly we decided that there was enough daylight to complete the short-ish walk…. The route we had opted for was only 9.5km (albeit containing rather a lot of hills), but it passed through some of the most beautiful Tuscany countryside. As is always the way, the signposting lacked the level of detail when it was necessary…. So where we should have turned right just before the main road we ended up doing an extra 5km on the road…. He ho… we enjoyed the walk, but there were a couple of points that I questioned starting out at 3pm ….. all good though as we still arrived before it got dark!

Despite the bad signage yesterday we decided to stick with it as the sun was shining (although it was 5 degrees inside the motorhome), and go for another walk into the hills. As I hadn’t mentioned it before, Gaiole in Chianto is in a valley – so, no matter which direction you go, you go up. On Monday we walked a northern circuit and yesterday we walked an Eastern circuit, slightly longer (than the original planned route on Monday at least) taking in some spectacular views of the snow topped mountains in the distance … definitely clearer skies.

I never knew that the emblem of Chianti was a cockerel …. A long story, but a bit of a family ‘mascot’…. He is rather lovely though…

GaioleDeChianti2_20150406As we like to put something back into the local community – even more so when we are staying on free Aires – we had planned to go out to eat on Monday evening, but arriving back from our walk we couldn’t find somewhere that we fancied so instead decided to try out a couple of local Chianti’s in the bars – all quite nice ahead of settling in to a good Chilli in the motorhome.

We decided to stay another night to walk the southern circuit, but were conscious that the forecast was for a bit of rain mid-morning, so weren’t in a hurry to head off. Just about 10am the wind got up, the clouds closed in upon us and it started to rain, then suddenly it looked like the wind had stripped a very large tree of its blossom – instead however it was snow, continuing for 3 or 4 minutes and then it disappeared with the clouds as quickly as it had appeared …. Quite odd.

The southern circuit which was supposed to be 12km ended up being the South Eastern circuit of 17.5km …. Apparently we missed a blue dot somewhere…..

Gaiole in Chianti is definitely worth a visit if you like walking, hill running or cycling – although it is only a very small place the surrounding countryside is beautiful….. Emma and Paul, you would love it J

I haven’t updated the distances for a while and due to the hop through France we are slacking a little with our walking/cycling…..

3578 km walking/cycling

7550 miles driving

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