The daily diary of a wandering restaurateur
May 24- The Hill Town Tour

The original plan for today was to head to Siena but after looking at the map and figuring out the logistics (2 hours each way plus some severe parking hassles) we decided to check out some of the other hill towns in the area. Frommer's had a list of the ten best -- and we had already visited a few of them -- so figured a tour was in order. Besides, what could be more American than to drive all over the place burning up gasoline . . . at $4+ a gallon?!!

The first stop was Gubbio, decidedly medieval and decidedly unpleasant. It had a very hard edge to it, perhaps due to its historical roots as a fort (remember that life was very predatory around here in the 1300's.) Perhaps because of the feel and perhaps because Margene and Elizabeth did not find anything of great interest in the local shops, we packed off to another town on the top ten list, Cortona.

We figured that we didn't want to have to park the car and walk in if Cortona turned out to be another Gubbio, so we thought we'd just drive through town to check it out before making a commitment. We ended up on what had to be a pedestrian street, no more than 12' wide, crawling through a mass of tourists and shopkeepers who had to flatten themselves against the wall to let us by. After we zig-zagged through some construction in the central piazza, we just slipped out of town before the Carabiniere (local police) could find us! Cortona seemed like a pleasant place but we didn't dare stick around.

We had seen an old church on the way in so stopped there, figuring that there might be more to see in some of these towns than just the linen shops! The church was old on the outside and fairly new on the inside, so really no tour to be had. The cemetery next door turned out to be an interesting side trip which is explained more on the photo page.

On the way out, we drove over the ridge and found a delightful little trattoria perched on the side of the mountain overlooking Lake Trasimeno. Being hungry (and suckers for a good view), we decided this was definitely the time and place for lunch. Lunch options in Italy are rather limited. For sandwiches (panini) go to a bar. Restaurants serve the same menu at the same price for both lunch and dinner. This was a restaurant so we were into a little more of a food adventure than we originally planned. You can read about it on the restaurant photo page.

Last stop on the tour for today was Montepulciano, best known for producing my favorite Italian red wine, Vino Nobile de Montepulciano. There were, in fact, wine shops galore in the town, which we really fell in love with. After a mid-day espresso break at Caffe Poliziano, we started wandering the town. We were doing great until the rain started! Being of sound mind and body, we decided that walking in the rain, even in as impressive a place as Montepulciano, was nowhere, so decided to get out of town and head for a little restaurant we liked from our trip last year. More details on that in the restaurant section.

Finally, around 11pm, we finally crawled back into the villa. It had been a long -- but thoroughly enjoyable -- day. Siena can wait until the next trip . . . and there will definitely be a next trip! Ciao!

The travelogue shots

Todays dining adventures

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