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So the taste of the grapes, and then taste of the wine, then, is different. While some are more refined than others, expect muddy roads, manure smells, and tractor engines firing up in the wee hours. Terms of Service | Privacy, Tuscany, Italy: Chianti Wine and Crete Senesi Regions. A highlight of the parade is the actual banner, or "palio." Rick: This is the pilgrims' route! So much to see, so little time. While the Palio takes Siena by storm just two days a year, the charms of the Tuscan countryside can be enjoyed all year long. Siena's 13th-century Gothic cathedral, with its striped tower, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and covered with art. And vineyards welcome guests who call ahead. Rick: So basically, what are truffles? Elegant and stately, Altesino owns perhaps the most stunning location of all the wineries in this region, just off the back road connecting Montalcino north to Buonconvento. We were on the bus from Florence to Rome on Thanksgiving. The resulting church is still impressive. Rick: I love the aperitivo. Your reward: a bird's eye view down at the uniquely shaped square and a commanding view of the Tuscan countryside. Streets are lined with noble palazzos because Florentine nobility favored Montepulciano as a breezy and relaxed place for a summer residence. Head to the Italian countryside for 25 minutes — my full “Assisi and Italian Country Charm” episode is streaming at Sicily serves up a full-bodied and tasty travel experience. But there are wineries that still have the vine from a century ago. A short and scenic drive. Roberto: You find them near the oak trees. Roberto: Absolutely. Pienza's classic main square is famous for its elegance and artistic unity: the city hall, two palaces, and the cathedral. Adamo: Si, si…molto feminili…quello di Slovonia, rovere più maschio, eh? It also represents a rising secular society, one that appeared first in Tuscany and then spread throughout Europe in the Renaissance. Civic palaces like these were emblems of an era when city-states were strong. Mmm! Lunch is the main event on this timeless Tuscan Sunday. We'll enjoy an aperitivo on a great square, marvel at exquisite art, eat cheese in an Etruscan cellar, settle into a farmhouse B&B, learn to make pici pasta, taste one of the world's finest wines, prepare for a festival, and go to the races. Rick: OK. And where do you find them? 6 posts. For coronavirus (COVID-19) travel information, Please sign in to post. And in another chapel, you'll see why Lorenzo Bernini is considered the greatest Baroque sculptor. Beneath the tower, the City Hall [Civic Museum] is open to visitors. So they have a festival every year then, huh? Here it's clear modern technology complements tradition, and after centuries of trial and error, wines are better today than ever before. and roughly hewn by hand, this former tomb now houses the taverna's fine wine and cheese. Adamo explains their wine ages from two to four years in oak from France, Slovenia, and Italy — and that each wood has its own distinct characteristics. Less picturesque and much more rustic than most other wineries in the area, a tour at Santa Giulia is a Back Door experience. Rick: It's open for creativity; a little Tuscan, a little French, Spanish. Roberto: Oh, I love the passeggiata. A Nobile — taste, sir.]. Rick: How are your fava beans doing? But after being weakened by a devastating plague and conquered by its bitter rival, Florence, it's been a backwater ever since. Thanks for joining us. Alabaster is softer and easier to work than marble. Rick: No, don't eat it!…He ate it! In his vineyard, as they do each spring, tender shoots are bursting out of their gnarly vines filled with promise. Then the winners raise their coveted palio high: Champions…until the next race. Complete Video Script. Annie: Which is made into great sausages and ham hocks. In the springtime the rolling fields are splashed with colorful flowers. Rick: So that's the front door of the house? Enjoy this taverna's chic grotto atmosphere as you dine on beautifully presented Tuscan cuisine from a creative and enticing menu. [Products here are from Siena.] It's a family business as Isabella keeps the hospitality flowing, while husband Carlo mans the BBQ. Nearby, the much smaller winery of Santa Giulia offers a more intimate visit. Siena offers a delicious range of opportunities to enjoy the hearty Tuscan cuisine. Roberto: Absolutely, it's the idea that you have to eat quality and not quantity. And these sights have a consistent theme: The Republic of Siena is independent and perfectly capable of ruling itself. In Tuscany it’s still possible to find your own sleepy fortified village. Volterra's Etruscan Museum is filled top to bottom with precious artifacts from centuries before Christ. This is the land of two beloved local wines: Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Tutti Toscana? With construction fast-tracked by papal clout, the town was transformed in just four years from a medieval jumble to a jewel of Renaissance architecture. Rick: So these dogs are onto something. Bleachers and balcony seats are expensive, but it's free to join the masses in the middle. They also produce excellent olive oil, prosciutto, and salami. Rick: Is that right? And St. Jerome caresses the crucifix like a violinist lost in heavenly music. With our Tuscan farmhouse as a base, there are plenty of things to experience within a short and scenic drive. Roberto: Truffles are mushrooms that live underground. With Adamo's passion and guidance, wine can be enjoyed by anybody visiting Montepulciano. Rick: Oh, there you've got…? With their mascots and flags, these have long been competitive and filled with rivalry. Had it been completed, this square would have been not a parking lot, but the nave itself. All over town, shops tempt you with edible Sienese specialties — gourmet pasta, vintage Chianti, wild-boar prosciutto…. Signor Hescanas rides the chariot into the afterlife. It's worth strolling through the dramatic halls to see fascinating frescoes and portraits extolling Siena's greats, saints, and the city-as-utopia, when this proud town understandably considered itself the vanguard of Western civilization. The Tuscan terrain is dotted by rustic yet noble farmhouses. Tours by Roberto, led by Roberto Bechi or one of his guides, offers off-the-beaten-path minibus tours of the Sienese countryside (up to eight passengers, pickup at hotel). Victoria, with a little help, hauls their fresh milk into her cheese workshop. See the Travel Details above for recommendations highlighted in bold, excerpted from Rick's guidebooks. …whether it's wine, food, art, or friendships. This is not a touristy guided visit, but something far more special: the chance to see busy artisans practicing their craft. Medieval Siena was a self-assured republic, and this tower stands like an exclamation point — an architectural declaration of independence from both the pope and the emperor. Our agriturismo [Agriturismo Cretaiole], perched on a bluff overlooking pristine farmland, is perfect for those who want to settle in and fully experience Tuscany. Unlike other famous towns in Tuscany, Volterra feels not cutesy and touristic…but real, vibrant, and almost oblivious to the allure of the tourist dollar. Rick: Mmmm, oh! BMB provides a great springboard for a world of side trips. Rick: Didn't understand a word he said. Crossing from Umbria into Tuscany, our next stop is Cortona. Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. Siena is a stony wonderland where people rather than cars fill the streets. On the outskirts of the town of Torrenieri, this is a quintessential family-run winery, with an emphasis on quality over quantity (only 20,000 bottles a year). All over Europe, farms are renting rooms to travelers — now harvesting their rural charm as well as their produce to help make ends meet. City Hall also has a fine and manageable museum that displays a good sampling of Sienese art, including Siena's first fresco (with a groundbreaking down-to-earth depiction of the Madonna). We're meeting Fabio and his prized dogs Nic and Susi to hunt the beloved truffles — one of this region's specialties. Rick: So…quanto vecchio? Rick: Tell me about this "slow food." Many hotels won't take reservations until the end of May for the Palio, and even then they might require a four-night stay. www.toursbyroberto.com. This would have been where they would've had a store, but there was no interior staircase, so to get inside the house they'd have to use a ladder up to that door above, that's very narrow. We didn't stray from her directions and were rewarded with lovely drives through Tuscany and on the way to Orvieto all on back roads. Tonight we're learning to make the local favorite — a pasta called "pici." Annie: Just about anywhere you dig you can find something that's Roman. Its population hasn't changed for centuries: It's still around 50,000. And this wedding is not arranged; it's based on love. Rick: But now…passeggiata today. Rick: For centuries! Adamo: Ora vi faccio vedere, come…molto antico…attenzione! We'll enjoy a front-row seat at its wild horse race — the venerable Palio — and marvel at cultural treasures from the days when it rivaled Florence for leadership of Tuscany. And people are walking, to this very day. Siena's loss became our sightseeing gain, as its political and economic stagnation preserved its purely Gothic identity. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick: So how old to the vines get? Lines can be long here — before buying a ticket, check to see if there's a long wait. Rick: The way of the French. And they built this theater down here to seat up to 2,000 spectators. Roberto: Every generation going up and down on the main road, shopping, looking at the last fashion… Farmer: Anche oggi come oggi, qui nelle nostre zone ci sono i funerali accompagnati da…da banda musicale… [Even nowadays here in our area there are funerals accompanied by music bands…] And keep in mind that finding a room in Siena is tough at Palio time. Over 2,500 years ago, long before anybody had heard of Julius Caesar, and back when Rome was just a small town, the Etruscan civilization flourished in this part of Italy. 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