Our first stop this morning was La Chuisa. I had left my umbrella there last night and we still had rain this morning so I wanted to pick it up right away. The prep chef was working in the kitchen, so I got to see where the magic happens and also took a picture of our table from last night when we walked through to grab the umbrella.
Then we were on the road heading east to Chiusi, where ironically our waiter last night was from. The city is just after we crossed the A1 (autostrada). The drive over was fabulous. The hills and valleys were so green after the rain. It was cool but not cold.
Chiusi is an Etruscan town with a complete underground city. It is known for its Museo Archeologico Nazionale (The Etruscan Museum). The Museum was our first stop; the building itself draws you in.
According to Boris, many believe this to be the best museum of Etruscan artifacts. The Etruscans borrowed freely from the Greeks and the Egyptians, which was evident when you looked at the museum’s offerings.
The items exhibited are from the 7th, 6th, 5th century BC found at or near Chiusi and shown on two floors of the museum. Pictures were ok without a flash so I went crazy. There was quite a collection of Etruscan funerary art. Even the less well off had cases with their likeness on the lid to be remembered fondly in death.
Leaving the museum by the lower floor door, (the guide mercifully let us out this way so Boris would not have to climb back up the stairs) we went to the Cathedral Plaza, Piazza C. Baldini, just “kitty corner” to the front of the museum.
There is a Roman cistern in the front of the bell tower and under the plaza from the 1st century BC; the bell tower was built in the 12 century with the brick bell chamber atop it was added in 1585. It was All Saints Day and mass was just ending when we arrived, so the Cathedral was open and we were able to go inside. On this occasion, all the reliquary is displayed and we made it in before it was removed. The Chiusi Duomo, the Cathedral of St. Secondiano, is built from Etruscan and Roman fragments and is the most ancient cathedral of Tuscany.
We toured around other parts of the city down Via della Miscericorida passing the Church of Saint Maria Novella and ending up in Piazza XX Settembre with its fountain, municipal buildings, and Palazzos. From here I could see the pigeons favorite roost, and went in to see the Franciscan church and lit a candle for Mom. (I have tried to do this for her all over Italy, but especially on all Saints Day.)
We ended up making just a short loop around as Boris’ foot was swelling. I “deposited” him in the car and went off in search of a bathroom, but there was only squatters to be found. Our car was parked near the Piazza C. Battisti with its column and wonderful view of the countryside, including Lake Chiusi. There are actually three lakes near Chiusi, and we took a detour to see them. On the way, we passed several nurseries and I wanted to get Emma some cypress trees to replace the ones she lost in a storm, but just didn’t know how to get them home.
There is much more to see/do in Chiusi if you are not physically challenged and like archaeology and/or underground sites. There are Etruscan tombs, catacombs, an underground city tour, and even an underground labyrinth. In the right weather, the lakes are another nice option. (Just use the bathrooms at the museum and avoid the public bathrooms).
From here we went back in the direction we came once again passing through Chianciano Terme, famous for its baths, but not enough to entice us to stop. Boris need to rest so we decided to do a some drive through/by locations. On our list before arrival had been the gardens at La Foce, open to the public in the winter months only on Wednesday afternoons. The weather had kept us away yesterday, but we decided to drive by anyway just to get a feel for the area.
The 15th century farmhouse was purchased by the Origos in 1924 and they began a restoration of the home and countryside. The Marquis was Italian, his wife was Anglo-American (her father was American, her mother was an Anglo-Irish aristocrat). During the second world war, the Origos used their estate as a partisians’ refuge, including 20 refugee children cared for by the family. Next to La Foce is Castelluccio, a castle ruin the Origos used to hide wounded British Soldiers. Some of this information is in the guidebooks, but most I have learned from Boris who read Marchesa Origo’s diary, War in Val d’Orcia, An Italian War Diary 1943-1944.
At the turnoff for La Foce, the run turns rough and while signposted, lacks state maintenance. You have to want to go there. There are some spectacular views. Since we saw only one vehicle while traveling to and from, I felt comfortable pulling over and taking a few pictures. I shot one and as we drove on Boris said he had seen that some vista in a book and then went back in read that Prince Charles had painted that view while in residence. The family still live at La Foce.
From here we were back on paved roads making our way to San Quirico D’Orcia and traveling through a national park. The Valley was extraordinary and at one point we saw the sun peaking through and we hopeful for better weather.
We drove through the small hamlet of Monticchiello with its medieval forts and town walls. The Cassero tower can we seen from the distance. Heading on through the Val d’Orcia, I saw this fabulous castle come into view and was certain that was where we were headed, but our turn was in the opposite direction. So for me, explore Castiglione d’Orcia with its ruined fortress. The roads are said to be “tortuous, but beautiful.” It is also the route to the Abbey Sant’Antimo. Our destination was San Quirico d’Orcia, recommended for its beauty and accessibility for Boris.
Boris got to the top of stairs from the parking lot and I could see we were doomed. I went back down, carried the wheelchair up the stairs and pushed him uphill. Once there, he was pretty good about letting me park him in a spot with a beautiful view and then me venturing in or around for pictures. He read the guidebook and told me what to look for. At the top of the hill was the Collegiata Church with the Chigi Palace next door.
Farther downhill was a small market with food products by one of the city gate and the public gardens. Boris read and shopped and I walked through the Horti Leonini (gardens).
I came out in time to suggest he get some cookies (dolci) for the ride home. His next parking place was a fire next to The Church of Santa Maria Assunta made entirely out of travertine.
Just outside the city gate, I noted the city walls looking very castle-like. Everything has a modern purpose though. There was a playground next to it with small children on the equipment and the older children, out of school today for the holiday, were playing soccer. I edited that out of my shot and then regretted it.
After I collected Boris, we continued to walk downhill to a Bar we had seen on the way in. We had not had lunch yet and decided to eat a full meal now and then snack on our market finds for supper. We caught the end of the lunch service; the same bar had been packed when we arrived in town. Afterwards I took Boris down to where the “pedestrian only” area started and he waited for me there while I collected the car and then him.
It was about 4:30 and the glorious sunset was starting. Unfortunately, we were headed in the opposite direction. That made it easier to drive (not looking into the sun), but I hated to miss the view. Unfortunately, the traffic was heavier and there was nowhere to pull over to get the picture. The memory of what I saw in the review mirror however, is embedded in my brain. We got home about 5:07 just after the sun set.
Boris took a nap. I chased the sunset around Montefollonico and then did a little laundry to make the packing easier tomorrow. Tomorrow!!! Not such a good idea as it turns out. Either I did it wrong or there is no spin cycle because it is all wet. I am not sure it will be dry when I need to pack. There is no dryer.
We had some fresh gnocchi, so I made a sauce for it and we melted some sheep’s cheese like we have seen in the restaurants and added some of our sliced meats to make it a meal. Had a little of the local Trequanda wine to go with that. Now Boris is sleeping and I am blogging. He asked what I wanted to do tomorrow on our last day at the house. There are so many choices. I guess it really doesn’t matter as long as I have dry clothes to do it in. Happy November from Tuscany.