I remember some friends of a friend coming back from a long holiday in Tuscany one August to announce that the time “had been characterised by rain and conversation”.
Which sounded like such an improbably made-up E. M. Forster type of remark, and not quite the sort of thing I wanted to come back saying (for a number of reasons), that I began to get seriously worried on day two of our stay with Val. Thundery skies rolled in relentlessly… but they did, at least, make the remarkable view from Brolio Castle even more dramatic than usual.
The view across to Siena never really seems to change. I love these timeless towers.
The skies were angry but sunshine was never too far away.
The gardens are Brolio are not just about the view. There is a green leafiness to much of them that reminded both Charlie and me of the shady part of Rousham.
We had our usual display of spectacular sunsets, it goes without saying. When suddenly there is that moment that the sky lights up like fire:
Before a perfectly cooked dinner by Valentina. Flowers by Charlie.
Now that I am a married man, no more Palio blogs (but I suggest you search back for them if you don’t know what I am talking about….). Siena is, I think, the most beautiful Italian city.
(Maisie, this one is for you:)
I loved our evening walk back to the car through the dark streets… children kicking around their football in front of the facade of a great Baroque church… only in Italy.
Days had drifted by, and the following morning Charlie and I set off south, to Pienza. We called at Montalcino on the way, the roofs of the town forming a pattern like the fields and hills below.
We arrived in Pienza to a fleeting rainstorm
soon followed by a wide, strong rainbow. And a perfect evening walk around town, quietening down from day visitors. This is one of the most beautiful small villages in Tuscany, famous for its realisation of the ‘Ideal City’, but all the more spectacular for its vast views over the Val d’Orcia.
Finding little corners with Pomegranite trees in gardens, we made our way to a delicious supper, the best we’ve had in Italy, at Il Rossellino, although to read the reviews on tripadvisor you would think I was going mad. (I am really not sure I trust tripadvisor, do you?).
We work early on Saturday, to find the little town sparkling in a bright light and a gentle breeze.
The Palazzo Piccolomini is worth a visit. The tours are with those earphone wands, in a multitude of languages, which I found a bit strange, but the building is incredibly beautiful. Photographs are not allowed inside, I am afraid, and for once I obeyed the rules. There was a blind lady in our group. Our tour guide took her hand and ran it over every surface, carved Renaissance fireplaces, scagliola table-tops, and wooden furniture. A wonderful moment.
The cathedral has a beautiful ceiling.
Of course I adored the 1980s guide phones the most of all.
And this sign at the entrance.
We ate lunch in Monticchiello, with amazing views back to Pienza, and a beautiful, silent church.
And in the evening, we had an amazing drive south, to La Foce, the beautiful house and gardens created by Iris Origo and her husband Antonio in the 1930s. Our friend Maria had fixed a visit in the evening, with Iris’s daughter Benedetta. Amazing. It was an incredible moment.
Benedetta’s wonderful daughter delivering a box of freshly picked plums to their restaurant that they have opened next door to the gardens. with this view…
I woke up incredibly early this morning, and as the sun rose I made a quiet walk around silent Pienza, chalky-grey in the early light.
And then we made our way north, and collected our friend Catherine, and now we are driving to Lucca for Valentina’s birthday party tomorrow, and then…. as if all of a sudden, it’s time to go home. Goodbye, late Summer in Tuscany. Hello, Autumn in England… we are looking forward to seeing you now.