Today is our final adventure in Tuscany. Tomorrow we return to Rome for flights home on Sunday. We backtracked this morning over our sunset route then turned to see the spa town of Bagno Vignoni. The Piazza Delle Sorgenti is literally a large bathing area. It was a favorite of St. Catherine of Siena and there is a lovely modern statue of her at the water and a small chapel dedicated to her.
The parking is going to be terrible everywhere. When we passed through San Quirico d’Orcia, the lots were already full. When we arrived in Bagno Vignoni, only 5 km from San Quirico d’Orcia, we created our own space as the Italians often do. I did make an attempt at an even farther satellite lot, but it was full of large recreational vehicles that had totally staked the area and appeared to be in it for the long haul.
Since yesterday was a holiday, people have taken today off, the children appear to still be out of school, and they are making a four-day weekend of it. They have beautiful weather. The sky is perfectly clear; it is very sunny and much warmer. No coat, hat, or gloves needed today.
Bagno Vignoni did have a few shops and I picked up some homemade Christmas decorations. Boris had a coffee (which gave me bathroom privileges) and we sat outside and enjoyed the sun. The area between the parking lots and the square were filled with parks and benches and the children were enjoying the swings.
You could not swim in the historical bathing area, although it was full of water, but another bathing opportunity was nearby and we saw vendors selling wet suits and flip-flops for those that wanted to partake.
We were on the road with the castle I had admired from afar yesterday and we decided to go for it. The scarcely populated hamlet associated with the fortress is Rocca d’Orcia (Citadel of the Orcia). You had to park outside the village and walk up into the town, up to the fortress, and up through the tower. That was all too much for Boris, but I did get a fairly close-up picture.
After learning about the citadel, I am not surprised that I was so impressed with it. The building, from the 4th century, is 560 meters above sea level and dominates the entire Val d’Orcia The scene is not so fairy-tale up close, but I was proud of myself for making the drive up. (It was really not bad at all.)
Next to Rocca is Castiglione d’Orcia, a charming town with a large fountain as you drive in. Near that square is a platform area with a view of the entire valley. We ventured in a bit and came to Piazza Vecchietta with its original pebble paving and 17th century well. There is a UNESCO marker on the town hall with the soaring bell tower. From here you can also look up and see the castle-like ruins of the citadel keep. Not so fairy-tale if you think of it, but closer. I loved seeing the children playing in the piazza. Two had found a grasshopper and were fascinated.
We drove next on winding and less populated roads through the Valley to the Abbey of Sant’ Antimo, only 10 km from Montalcino. The Abbey is next to the village of Castelnuove dell’Abate. Legend holds that the Abbey was founded by Charlemagne as a thank you for the end of a plague that hit his army.
In 1992 a community of French monks of the order of the Canon Regular were installed at the Abbey and have returned to using the Gregorian Chant during religious functions. The monks’ home was just to the side of the church and I saw one washing dishes as I took a picture of their produce garden courtyard.
Prior to viewing the church, we stopped at the gift shop and cemetery. A great bathroom stop (the gift shop that is). The cemetery was filled with evidence of yesterday’s all Saints Day visits by families with the fresh flowers on the graves still fragrant. Some families had also left small framed pictures of the deceased. Battery operated candles also seem to be popular. The roof of the gift shop served as a deck and a large family gathering was taking place there.
The church itself was quite lovely with its wood ceiling and sweeping arches. I particularly liked one of the columns and photographed it, to find out later it is the “famous one” representing Daniel in the lion’s den. There are alabaster and onyx elements that are almost translucent at certain times. I found myself touching some of the marble stones of the church as I walked around the exterior.
I found the Abbey quite beautiful and the countryside lovely. I wouldn’t be surprised if the monks didn’t do a little grape producing as well. There were vineyards on the grounds. This was an unexpected treat and a special stop on our last day in Tuscany. We drove from there to Montalcino to see its Fortress. The city center was closed to traffic as all the parking places had been filled (as we have seen in other cities the last two days). This is one of the cities that they had warned us would be hard for Boris, so we took the no parking as a sign and headed back to Montefollonico, arriving late afternoon. I am beginning to get familiar with these roads (just in time for our departure).
The good news is I got to put the still wet clothes out in the sun to dry. I also got to enjoy a late afternoon in our garden which is one of the reasons we had chosen this house. When it was planned for Labor Day weekend, we had intended to spend more time outside in this private space. Only yesterday did I realize that one of the side walls of the garden was a part of the original city walls. Boris saw it today when he joined me briefly for sunset.
We are going back to 13 Gobbi (hunchback) for dinner and I might have to get that pasta mixed in the large cheese again. This evening I also have to pack. I told Boris some of the packing may have to be done in the morning as the clothes are not yet dry (but getting there). Ah, our last night in Montefollonico…