The third part of our honeymoon was spent driving through the Tuscan countryside, enjoying the views, the wine and the delicious food. This was meant to be the more relaxing part of our honeymoon, and it was to a certain extent, but really we couldn’t miss all that Tuscany had to offer!
We stayed at a historical Villa near Montepulciano, Villa Cicolina. Although it is technically restored, they preserved it so well, that you feel like you are walking into the past. We arrived there just as it was starting to pour, and our first glimpses of the views from our room were that of the thunderstorm. It felt so cosy and warm!
That evening we decided to explore Montepulciano, and eat dinner there. I think that was really the best dinner we had on our honeymoon, but more about that later. Montepulciano is a small hilltown in Tuscany, very famous for it’s red wine. It is also famous for its beautiful expansive views over the Val d’Orcia, which is the cover picture of this post. For us though, Montepulciano was a cute little historic town with few tourists, that offered everything honeymooners would need. There was a beautiful cathedral at the edge of the town, down a slope that was not fun to walk back up on, and next to the beautiful cathedral was a quaint little shop titled Art Gallery. We looked in to see if they had any water, and the husband and wife owners not only gave us water, but the freshest and most delicious olive oil from their farm, wine (Vino Nobile di Montepulciano) from their winery near by, and a signed copy of a book that the husband (called the Master of Silence) wrote about silent yoga. Unfortunately, the book is in Italian, so I would either have to learn Italian or spend hours on Google translate. We just felt so warm and welcome, I think Italians are the nicest people. We bought some olive oil and this delicious olive spread that I have used to cook chicken with (husband’s favorite) and just yesterday, pan fried okra (my favorite). They also gave us a bag of almond biscotti (made by the wife’s mother) as a wedding present, and that is the most delicious biscotti I have had so far. And yes, the shop was full of paintings and murals painted by the Master of Silence, which is why it got it’s name.
After this heartwarming encounter, we walked back up the slope and into the town, to do my favorite activity – walking without a purpose. Andrew found an ATM, which is also how we stumbled upon our favorite sunset viewing spot – that gave us the gorgeous views of sunset over the Val d’ Orcia.
After sunset, we headed to the best dinner of our honeymoon, at this quaint little place called Ristorante Osteria del Conte Montepulciano . We tried this vegetarian soup called Ribolita that was unexpectedly delicious, I highly recommend it. It was just a beautiful meal in a beautiful setting, and did not make our wallets cringe either. Whenever I travel, I do like exploring museums and old architecture and whatever the top tourist attractions are, but I think these are the memories that I really cherish.
We had a very early morning the next day – because we went hot air ballooning! I have been wanting to do this forever, and I think Andrew was such a good sport to go along with it because he is a bit scared of heights. The basket is really big and totally safe however, everyone should try this, don’t let fear of heights stop you! We had to be at the balloon launch site in Montisi at 6:30 am, and we actually reached a little early! That’s how excited we were about this. There were two other couples, one couple actually went to Virginia Tech and graduated the same year as Andrew. The “small world” cliche lives on.
The Hot Air Balloon Ride was – magical. Right from how they fired up the balloon, to brushing past some trees on our way out of the site, to seeing the sunrise from a hovering basket, to flying around Tuscany and spotting small villages, and beautiful villas – it was a one of a kind experience. You never know where the balloon will land, so new age tech does come in handy to inform the rest of the team your exact coordinates. This was important, since the team was bringing us breakfast. We landed in someones field, and then got to eat a delicious breakfast of fresh pastries and fruits. It was 9 am, and we had already done so much!
Our balloon pilot recommended that we visit Pienza to check out the views from the Panoramic Terrace, and so we decided to stop in Pienza on our way back. I am so glad we took his advice, because it is such an adorable little place. The views were gorgeous, but the town was even better. Sadly, we couldn’t spend much time there due to parking limits, but I do recommend adding this as a stop on your Tuscan itinerary.
That evening, we went back to Montepulciano to explore the underground wine cellars! I have always been fascinated by underground caves and hidden passageways from reading adventure stories, and so this was very exciting for me! The cellars in reality weren’t as exciting as in children’s books (mainly because of the echoing voices of the Spanish tourists taking selfies ahead of us), but the hot air balloon was enough adventure for one day. If you do find yourself in Montepulciano, then this is a fun free activity before dinner. After the cellar tour, you can taste their wine and bruschetta, and the wine was so good that we were roped in to buy a bottle of Vino Nobile. We are opening it for our one year engagement anniversary!
We had another amazing dinner in Montepulciano, at La Botega del Nobile. Don’t be fooled by the exterior, which just looks like a normal wine bar, but dinner is actually downstairs in the cellars. It’s such a unique experience!
My husband planned the next day as a birthday treat for me! Planning surprises for me is very hard, because of my detail oriented and slightly suspicious nature. So pulling off any surprise for me is a big deal. We ate breakfast (with a chocolate cake!) at the Villa and then headed off to thermal springs for a spa morning.
Tuscany has a lot of natural thermal springs, so it was really cool (actually pretty warm) to check these out. We went to a thermal spa in San Giovanni and first had an amazing salt water hydro massage (basically two warm salted pools with hydro jets and showers just for us) and then joined the masses at the thermal pools. The pools smelled strongly of sulphur, and had white salts at the bottom, that people used to rub their faces with, but which frankly grossed me out a little bit. It was very relaxing however, I can see why people called these baths “healing”.
That evening, we went to Montalcino, to visit a winery, Poggio Antico, that produces the famous Brunello wine. They gave us a winery tour and explained the interesting and somewhat tedious process of wine making. Our tour guide even took us down to the cellars and explained the different kind of oak barrels used, and what allows them to stamp their wine with the title of Brunello di Montalcino, which is one of the more expensive wines sold in America. The wine tour ended with a tasting, and then with a dinner at their restaurant.
Dinner from chef Sossio Perrotta was excellent, and the presentation was lovely as well. All in all, this was definitely one of my most enjoyable and memorable birthdays – what is better than celebrating with your husband, in Italy!!
The next morning, it was time to say goodbye to the Montepulciano area – this was our last day in Italy, and we spent it by exploring San Gimignano and Siena. But I leave that for another post.