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where to stay in the area?

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Memphis, TN USA
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where to stay in the area?

I've read so many interesting and helpful posts on these forums and I hope someone will be able to help me. We plan 5 nights in "southern" Tuscany in June. In my imagination, I see a village not overrun with tourists (but where people speak some English since I know very little Italian) where there are some cafes and restaurants, a few shops to browse (not souvenir shops :-), and friendly locals. In my dream village we can walk the promenade in the evening and stop for an espresso or cappuccino on the way back to our inn. This will be our base to visit the beautiful surrounding area by car. My question is "does this village exist anywhere other than my imagination?" Have you ever been there? Thanks for any suggestions.

Sydney, Australia
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1. Re: where to stay in the area?

In summer, any Tuscan town that is attractive and is in this general area will have a fair number of tourists. However, my impression is that Montepulciano and Montalcino do not have the overwhelming presence of tourists that you can find in the popular parts of Siena and San Gimignano.

Montepulciano, Italy
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2. Re: where to stay in the area?

These places very much exist in real life and Nick's right in that Montepulciano and Montalcino do not see the massive influx of tourists that you find at San Gimignano. I would say both fit your requirements, though note there will be shops selling items to attract tourists as this is what visitors invariably want! Pottery, straw hats, olive wood items, leather goods, wine, olive oil, etc are all found in both. You'll meet people who speak varying amounts of English (especially in cafes, restaurants) and hopefully the locals will be friendly. But, as with elsewhere in the world, that's always down to the individual and I can think of a handful of people in my village who are as miserable as sin to everyone year round. Trying to use a few words of your Italian, no matter how faltering, often helps break the ice if people are a bit cool. The most "touristy" village (and it's all relative) in this area is probably Pienza but if you visit in the early morning or early evening, you should avoid the bus tour crowds.

Memphis, TN USA
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3. Re: where to stay in the area?

Thank you both! I was hoping you would chime in, lastraniera. I see many replies that you leave and appreciate that you take the time to share your expertise. And I see that sidneynick agrees :-). Sidneynick, I may be contacting you for train information once I get to that stage of the trip. I had both these towns on my list, so now I'll feel better about making reservations.

Thanks again!

Sydney, Australia
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4. Re: where to stay in the area?

If you would like a traditional, family-run Italian hotel, I can recommend Il Marzocco in Montepulciano. When we stayed there in 2009, it was a bit in need of renovation in some places, but everything worked and the bed was comfortable. This was the view from our room: nickbooth.id.au/Europe09/Images/Monte/view_M…

See www.albergoilmarzocco.it

Los Angeles...
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5. Re: where to stay in the area?

As usual, sydneynick and lastraniera are right on in their recommendations of Montepulciano, Montalcino and Pienza. All three are charming and so very Tuscan. I would perhaps also add San Quirico to the mix.

If you provide your nightly budget, I am sure we would come up with some concrete suggestions for places to stay. I would caution you to get cracking for a June visit. The area is very popular and prime properties may be picked over.

Cetona
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6. Re: where to stay in the area?

Hi all, I would like to suggest Montepulciano or Pienza insthead Montalcino because from there is easier to reach other nice locations, only because they are nearest the prinicipal roads to Siena, San Gimignano, Cortona, and why not, Florence, Perugia, Assisi...

Montalcino is fantastic, really nice and you don't have to miss it for the superb wine they have, but the road is not too nice, so if you have to move from there every day could be a little work!

Sydney, Australia
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7. Re: where to stay in the area?

I'm sorry, but I don't agree with Mary. Montalcino is actually closer than Montepulciano to Siena and San Gimignano, and the road out is not difficult. I really do not think that ease of travel is any reason for preferring either Montalcino or Montepulciano.

Montepulciano, Italy
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8. Re: where to stay in the area?

Nick, I quite agree, it's only 7 or 8 mins from Montalcino down to the Via Cassia from where it's straight up to Siena. And that poor old road up to Montalcino gets such a bad press sometimes on this board, quite unfairly I feel. Sure, there are two switchbacks as you come into the town but these are easier to navigate than many of the streets in Montepulciano, especially the approach roads. I always park nowadays by Porta San Donato coming up from the main road via Via dei Filosofi / Via San Donato and it's a narrow, windy, steep road that's far more challenging than the approach to Montalcino. Also, before the ZTL was introduced, I used to drive through Montepulciano regularly and following the one way system down was a nightmare for it was so narrow and had a couple of extremely tight turns. I remember once doing that in a Fiat estate car and it was touch and go that I got through. Unfortunately, narrow roads and steep hills come with the territory in Tuscan hilltowns but I would urge people not to be put off visiting or staying in Montalcino on the basis of the last few hundred metres of road which, unless it's snowing, is perfectly manageable when taken slowly.

Edited: 4:36 am, February 09, 2011
Montepulciano
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9. Re: where to stay in the area?

I would also consider that in Montepulciano there are really a lot of things to do and see in town. I don't want to say that Montalcino is not an interesting place, but from the architectural point of view the Fortess is almost the only point of interest.

In Montepulciano you have an incredible number of masterpieces of the Italian architecture: mentioning only few of them, you have the churches of San Biagio by Antonio da Sangallo, Sant'Agostino by Michelozzo, Santa Lucia with its unique baroque style and painting by Luca Signorelli, Santa Maria, Chiesa del Gesù by Andrea Pozzo.. And then the Town Hall and Piazza Grande with the Cathedral, the museum with paintings by Sodoma, Luca Signorelli and ceramics by Della Robbia, the historic wine cellars of the Renaissance ( Cantina del Redi and Cantina Contucci, both by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder).

Consider that most of the architect involved in the costruction of St. Peter's Basilica have worked in Montepulciano.

Then Montepulciano has a prestigious theatre of the 18th century (Teatro Poliziano) ,an important institution for music as the European Music Academy of Palazzo Ricci, with a season of concerts, a very known school of Italian language for foreigners ( Il Sasso), two school of music, a school of mosaics, events as meetings with famous Italian writer in Caffé Poliziano ( "Aperitivo con autore" ), the famous Barrel Race in August, the perfomances of Cantiere Internazionale D'Arte on July..

I mean, I think that there is no other hilltown in Tuscany so rich of architecture and culture ( all year round, not only for tourists' pleasure) as Montepulciano !

Memphis, TN USA
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10. Re: where to stay in the area?

Thank you all for taking the time to give me your thoughts and suggestions. Based on these, we have decided to make Montepulciano our base for the 6 days in the area. We will have already spent 9 days in Cinque Terre/MontecatiniTerme/Florence/Lucca. We will use the train as we visit these cities and then rent a car to come south. The driving should be interesting...:-). I'm a little nervous about it but will hope for the best.

Again, thank you--grazie--I'm getting more excited by the day and it's still 4 months off. If you'd like to add any advice or suggestions, please feel free. They will be most appreciated.

Jo Ann