Montepulciano, Tuscany

24 Aug - 1 Sept

Feeling awfully unmotivated to write, possibly because I've left it 2 weeks and now it feels like an eternity ago. I recall Tuscany being pretty spectacularly beautiful. I have heard, somewhere or other that there is this mathematical equation that architects and designers use to produce things that are pleasing to eye, something about proportions of things in horizontal and vertical planes (details are so fuzzy in my head that I might actually be making this up). Anyway assuming there is some truth in this, what I've heard is that the rolling hills of Tuscany conform to these rules of proportions and also I'd argue for colour palettes. It has an aesthetic that is almost too perfect to be a random environment, it is very much like a talented artist sat down and painted the most soothing and pleasing vista, and this vista extends into every direction you look. For the first time this trip I felt no pull to go and see anything beyond what was immediately in front of me. We visited numerous small villages, built of stone and perched ontop of a hill and each one adhered to these rules of aesthetic perfection. The whole experience was very soothing for the body and soul. I can see why people return year after year.

Again beautiful cheap fresh Italian food, good wines, lovely little shops (including well priced Italian leather shoe outlets), wonderful people and festivals - everywhere we go there's always a festival. 

This time we were staying in a little hill side village called Montepulciano which is renowned for its wine, which I must say was very well priced and pleasing to the palate. The town is broken up into 8 areas called Contradas and once a year, since 1373 on the last Sunday in August the Contradas compete by rolling wine barrels up the 1.8km uphill route through town to the cathedral at the top. The winning Contrada wins a banner painted with the icon image of the city's patron saint - St John Decollate. The barrel race in Montepulciano is preceded by a week of festivities which culminates in a procession through town just before the race where each division of town displays its traditional dress accompanied by flag throwing and drumming. It was a wonderful tradition to witness and share in the excitement, unfortunately just as the barrel race was to begin it started to rain, cancelling the race as it pretty hazardous rolling a 80kg wine barrel up slippery wet stone paved streets. 

During our stay in Tuscany we took two days out to visit Rome. We spent an afternoon in the Vatican and while I was expecting to be pretty blown away by the Sistine chapel, I was unprepared for the grandeur and opulence of the museum itself. While the collections within the Vatican are amazing, it was the painted ceilings and mosaic flooring throughout the complex that left me speechless. I was completely in awe of the Gallery of Maps, a 120m long hall which leads towards the Sistine Chapel with 16th century topographic maps of Italy painted down its walls. The ceiling above was 6m wide and was painted with religious and historical rendering, reflecting the region painted below. In some way it seems so wasteful as an observer can never fully absorb the detail and the beauty in the works above their heads while they simply travel down a hall way, unlike the chapel where you may sit and reflect. It was the one place I felt I needed to buy a book on just this room to be able to appreciate what I was seeing, it was quite phenomenal. I had been a little nervous about the kids in Rome, coping with long days of sight seeing but they did really well and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.

  1. Montepulciano from our back yard.
  2. Heralds announce the arrival of the medieval parade, Montepulciano Bravia.
  3. Traditional Flag tossing.
  4. Medieval parade.
  5. Medieval costumes.
  6. Medieval costumes.
  7. Medieval costumes.
  8. Kids in Montepulciano old town.
  9. Hills of Tuscany from Pienza.
  10. Gorgeous view, Pienza.
  11. Hills of Tuscany from Pienza.
  12. Siena Cathedral.
  13. Siena by night.
  14. Mummies in the Egyptian Museum, Vatican City.
  15. The round room, Vatican City.
  16. Ceiling Art, Hall of Maps, Vatican City.
  17. Ceinling Art, Vatican Museum.
  18. With the Swiss Guards, St Peters Basilica, Vatican City.
  19. View of St Peters from the Restaurant.
  20. Angel on the Bridge of Angels, Rome.
  21. On the Spanish Steps, Rome.
  22. Kids throwing away perfectly good money, Trevi Fountain, Rome.
  23. Trevi Fountain, Rome.
  24. Colosseum, Rome.
  25. Under the arena floor, Colessum, Rome.
  26. Who doesn't love a surprise birthday cake?
  27. Semifredo (semi-frozen) strawberry hedgehog cake... delicious.
  28. It tasted as good as it looks.
  29. Leaning tower, Pisa.
  30. - 32. Kids give the tower a hand.