This post concludes our time in Italy.
Today, we had planned on spending our last day driving through the hills of Tuscany.
Tuscany is a region in central Italy. Its capital, Florence, is home to some of the world’s most recognizable Renaissance art and architecture, including Michelangelo’s “David” statue, Botticelli’s works in the Uffizi Gallery and the Duomo basilica.
Its diverse natural landscape encompasses the rugged Apennine Mountains, the island of Elba’s beaches on the Tyrrhenian Sea and Chianti’s olive groves and vineyards.
Click here to see a map of Tuscany
Tuscany is Italy’s fifth largest region. Within its boundaries you’ll find six World Heritage Sites. They include Florence, Siena, Pisa‘s Piazza dei Miracoli, Pienza, San Gimignano–the city of towers– and the Val d’Orcia.
We started our morning out with a complimentary breakfast at the hotel.
It definitely wasn’t anything like the other breakfasts we had eaten at our other hotels..very few options and some items were even packaged.
However, this was a very small property compared to the other hotels we had stayed at.
After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel, the Villa Magnolia Park.
The hotel had beautiful grounds
It also offered secure parking which is one reason I chose this hotel after reading stories about tourists having their vehicles broken into.
When leaving the hotel, you had to drive through the hotel’s very narrow driveway.
I had planned out an itinerary for our drive through Tuscany but knew we would probably have to adjust it along the way due to our time constraints.
Volterra is approx. 1 hr 10 mins from Pisa and Monteriggioni is 1.5 hrs.
On the way, we passed the Arno River.
It is the most important river in central Italy after the Tevere (the Tiber). It’s 15o miles long and covers 5112 square miles.
It crosses and neatly divides Florence into two parts, the city in which Dan Brown’s novel Inferno is set.
We also passed this beautiful tree lined driveway….it was located in San Miniato.
You will pass lots of olive trees and vineyards along the way.
There are lots of tunnels in Italy!
This area was near San Gimignano which is a very popular place to visit in the Tuscan region.
You will pass through many small towns on the way to Monteriggioni….one of those being Poggibonsi.
It’s a not a very touristy place to visit but definitely worth a stop on your drive through Tuscany if you have more than a few hours.
After driving for about 1.5 hrs, we finally spotted the walled village of Monteriggioni.
After getting parked in the gravel parking lot that’s located right outside of the city walls, we walked a short distance to the medieval walled village.
Tip: The cost is 5 euros to park here for up to 24 hrs
This historical walled town was built in the 13th century and hasn’t changed much over the centuries. It’s surrounded by massive walls and two huge gates that were built to protect it from invasion.
Mostly constructed in the 13th century some minor work was carried out in the 16th century, however little restoration has been done since then.
Today, the entire municipality has a population of about 10,000, with about 50 people still living directly in the historic castle complex.
Tip: Every year in July the town has a medieval festival which is very popular.
You will enter through one of the two portes..which means door to the city.
The walled village is very small and can be visited in less than an hour.
However, you can spend as little or as much time as you want here exploring this medieval place.
Of course, like most small Italian villages, the piazza (main square) is the area where all the shops and restaurants are located.
One of the main attractions here is the Pieve di Santa Maria Assunta.
The church was built in 1213.
The church was very simple on the inside…it consisted of a single room with a rectangular end.
After leaving the church, we spent a few minutes exploring the town’s tiny side streets.
The locals decorate the narrow passageways with flowers.
Of course, we just had to take our pictures in front of this cool looking bicycle.
If you are into the video game, Assassin’s Creed, you will recognize Monteriggioni’s walls and towers.
The town also has an Arme Museum where you will also recognize some of the armor.
Read reviews here
We walked into a nearby vintage shop, La Bottega Toscana.
The store was full of vintage items as well as newer items, paintings and more.
There was a hole in the middle of the store that was covered with plexiglass. I can’t remember now what it was used for.
My hubby snapping a picture of the hole in the floor.
You could walk downstairs to view it.
The stairs were very steep and narrow and only wide enough for one person to walk down at a time.
The store had hung beautiful paintings downstairs that you could purchase.
After leaving the store, we continued our stroll through the town admiring all of the decorated walls.
As we were walking the streets, we spotted the second Porte (door to the city).
If you look closely, you can see the walkway that was built along the top of the walls. For a small fee, you can walk along the walkway for some really beautiful views.
Of course we had to take our picture in front of the porte
From here, we turned around and headed back towards the town center.
In the center of town, there is a small stone fountain, which is a very popular photo spot.
We decided to grab a delicious looking crepe at one of the outdoor cafes.
It was so good!
After our crepe, we walked around for a little while longer.
The picturesque square had a few restaurants and cozy cafes with outdoor seating available.
Tip: Click here for the only hotel inside the walled village
We loved all of the cute little shops.
The area is known for its honey, olive oil, jam, art, home wares, and jewelry. You’ll also find a leather shop and ceramics shop.
After wandering the town for about an hour, we decided to continue our drive.
Another shot of the first Porte you will see when you enter the walled village.
The village was surrounded by grapevines and olive trees.
Tip: When leaving the parking lot, you must first take the ticket you had to pull at the entrance gate, to the nearby machine at the covered hut and pay for your parking. You have 10 mins to leave after you pay.
As we were leaving Monteriggioni, we pulled over at the end of the road to take a few more pictures of the beautiful walled village.
A couple of minutes after leaving, we came to an area that gave us a great view of the walled village with a sign that had the town’s name on it.
After leaving Monteriggioni, we drove through the area of Asciano.
Asciano is a small Tuscan town about 15 miles to the south-east of Siena.
Tip: About 6 miles from Asciano there is bendictine monastery called Monte Oliveto Maggiore with some famous frescoes
We didn’t stop as we were heading towards the Crete Senesi area.
The Crete Senesi area is known for its rolling grassy landscapes, exposed white ravines, traditional Tuscan farmhouses and long driveways lined by tall cypress trees.
As we were driving, we spotted one of those long driveways lined by tall cypress trees.
We decided to drive one of the driveways when we noticed that it led to a hotel…
We just wanted to check out the views from the hotel.
The land around here was very dry and barren looking.
After arriving to the end of the driveway, we parked and got out of the car to take a few pictures of the landscape.
After snapping a few pictures, we headed back down the driveway and continued our drive through the Tuscan hills.
Tip: Click here for the 7 most photographed areas in the Crete Senesi
Tip: Click here for other areas to visit in this area
The landscape here was beautiful and unique however, I was more interested in seeing the grapevines and olive trees that Tuscany is known for.
The Crete Senesi area is full of scenic spots. Several of these panoramas are found along the Via Lauretana. Many of these points are well signed and in some cases there are also places to park.
Tip: The most famous delicacies in this area is the truffle and the Pecorino cheese. There’s even a truffle museum and a truffle festival held every 2nd and 3rd weekend in Nov. You can also book a truffle hunting tour.
The landscapes here are often described as ‘lunar’, as much for the odd shapes formed from the clay, as for its grey and off-white in color.
This area is known for its “S” shaped road that’s lined with cypress trees.
We stopped at the Crete Senesi Panaromic view point to take pictures.
The ‘Sienese clays‘, which means that the soil in this area is rich in clay. Over the years erosion phenomena have formed the malleable landscape into unusual formations;
After this area, we decided to head to the Chianti region.
We had to turn around and drive back the way we had come.
The lunar like landscapes continued for miles.
The views along the way were so incredible!
We finally started seeing a lot of vineyards and olive trees!
We found ourselves driving through Castelnuovo Berardenga.
This small town is deep in history, with churches dating back into the year 600, and noble families who have built gorgeous villas and gardens.
Tip: The most scenic road in the Chianti region is SR 222
Once we started seeing the grapevines, we pulled over to snap a few pictures.
There were a few vines that still had grapes but most had already been harvested.
After leaving here, we continued our drive.
We spotted olive trees along the drive.
After driving for a while, we passed a restaurant called La Capannina.
So, we decided to turn around and grab lunch.
We loved all of the outdoor cafes in Italy!
We ordered some of their cheese served with local honey.
Then, for our main course, we both ordered sandwiches.
After our sandwich, we decided to order some of that yummy tiramisu.
The grounds at the restaurant were beautiful.
After lunch, we decided it was time to head back to Venice which would be our final destination.
The drive would take approx. 3 hours.
We made a few stops along the way.
The views in this area were postcard worthy!
We drove through Castellina in Chianti.
We pulled over to take a quick picture of these cypress trees.
We pulled over again at another nearby viewpoint.
More view along the drive
Once again, we pulled over to take pictures of the views.
A shot of the nearby hilltop town of Panzano
Driving along SR 222 in Greve
We made another quick stop to take more pictures.
You will definitely find yourself stopping a lot on this drive!
After this stop, we decided we couldn’t make anymore stops or we would never make it back to Venice!
More views along the way before getting on the autostrada.
After driving the autostrada for a while, we had to pay a toll to exit.
If you are driving in Italy, make sure you are familiar with how the tolls work.
It can cause a tremendous amount of stress if you don’t!
Do not go through the yellow telepass line as that line is usually just for locals.
Look for a lane that shows a sign that has cash or card.
Tip: The best tip I can give is have cash to pay the tolls..it makes it a lot easier and quicker! Most of the tolls we went through were unmanned.
After about a 3 hr drive, we finally arrived to our last hotel, the Annia Park Hotel Venice Airport.
We chose this hotel because it was only a 5 minute drive to the airport.
We booked a double room with a queen bed.
The room was located in a newly built building just a short walk from the check in desk.
Our room was very spacious and modern.
The bathroom was huge!
After getting settled into our room, we decided to go have dinner at the hotel’s restaurant.
I ordered the seafood pasta and the hubby ordered the lasagna.
Both were very good!
We then ordered a slice of lemon cake to share.
After dinner, we headed back to our room and called it a night!
Thanks for reading!
Stay tuned for Day 10 that will include tons of useful tips to help you plan a stress free trip to Italy!!