Subject: Montepulciano
Leslie, I'm always amazed reading about the travelers who feel they must see every church and museum in Italy. While they are quite spectacular in many cases, the true Italy is found in the people and the small villages. You seem to have the right idea. The Tuscan people will love the fact you brought your child with you. Children are welcome everywhere. Montepulciano is an excellent choice for your stay. Do you know exactly where the home is that you will be staying? After a dozen trips to this area, I finally bought an old stone farm house just outside Montefollonico - about 11km west of Montepulciano. Bocca Nuova - just 3 km West of Montepulciano is an excellent little farm to buy Pecorino cheese - a specialty of the area. Il Botteghino - a tiny ristorante - is excellent and two can dine incredibly for less that $20. Half way between Montepulciano and Pienze - turn South to Torrita. Il Botteghino is about 4km on your left. Closed Mondays - its always full of workers at lunch and families in the evening. Try the walnut ravioli - as good as you'll find anywhere in Italy for about $3. Pienze, while overrun with tourists is one of the most beautiful villages in this part of Tuscany. Don't buy much here or even eat here, as most prices are directed to tourists. Torrita di Siena has a great market on Friday mornings - don't miss the roast chicken here. In my village of Montefollonico, park your car at the bar - there is only one - as the village is only 750 - walk through the main gate, take the second left and go to Vittorio Innocenti for local wine. He will show you through his cantina and let you taste all his wines. Just as you enter the gate, on the right, is Francetti - the local butcher. Ask for Lombo - Signora Francetti will give you a taste. As you're driving into the village, take the very first right turn you can on via Rotelli, go about one block and you'll find the best honey you've ever tasted. The store is usually closed - especially in the mornings as he drives the local school bus - but just honk and someone will come out to talk with you. Drive from town to town and don't hesitate to stop in any of them. The Tuscan people are most special, with very big hearts. Don't be hesitant to just throw away your maps and take whatever turn feels right to you. If you feel you want to go to Florence for the day, simply drive (or take the bus) to Bettolle at the Val di Chiana exit on A1 where yu can ride a non stop bus to the Florence train station for about $6. Leave the mobs of tourists, the high prices, the museums and everything else to everyone who is on the tours. Settle back with a good local wine - never pay over $5 - and enjoy the sunsets. If the moon is out at night, you will be able to see your shadow - if it's not, you won't even be able to see your hand in front of your face. This part of Tuscany is the most beautiful in the world and is nearly void of the throngs of Americans you'll find elsewhere. Best of luck. If you want specifics on anything, let me know. Bill