I WAS looking forward to the Tuscan countryside in Italy — visiting small villages, tasting the food, drinking Chianti wine and photographing the beautiful landscapes.
But I was unaware that June 2 is a public holiday in the country, and there were no buses going to the small village in which I had booked my bed and breakfast that day.
I ended up taking a bus to a nearby town instead and arranging a private taxi from there.
When I arrived at Fattoria Poggerino, though, I was grinning.
Perched atop a hill overlooking the Tuscan countryside laced with vineyards, the beautiful traditional old stone house has been retrofitted to suit modern living in a setting that is just picture perfect.
Travelling by public transport in Tuscany, while possible, is quite inflexible, as evidenced from my trouble in getting there.
So I decided to rent a scooter in the village of Radda in Chianti 2km away.
The scooter rental requires only a valid driving licence, and as I had some experience with a scooter in my travels some years ago, I thought it would be cool to tour the area on an Italian Vespa.
Unfortunately, the rental agency recommended another scooter model for beginners instead of the Vespa. Slightly disappointed, I had to make do with the alternative.
As I rode through the countryside, the air sweeping past my face felt refreshing.
There are a couple of villages and towns worth stopping in, with Greve probably the most famous as it is considered the “gateway” to the Chianti region from Florence.
Others include Gaiole and Radda, where I was based.
All these villages are small — one can walk through them in 15 minutes — but the charm of it is just to admire the country-scape and stroll the streets at a leisurely pace.
To top it all, the setting sun on the Tuscan countryside was fabulous, and I was glad I had the scooter with me. The freedom to explore at my own pace was intoxicating.
The following morning, I caught the early morning bus to the next town — Pienza.
Pienza, situated between Montalcino and Nobile Montelpulchiano, benefits from its location and boasts a good selection of highly regarded wines from the two towns.
It is also famous for its pecorino, a kind of Italian sheep cheese.
The town, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is delightful to wander in.
The Piccolomini Palace, representing the very best of Renaissance architecture, and the Duomo cathedral are all must-visits.
The pretty cobbled streets are lined with shops and plenty of gelato cafés. The town provides commanding views of the surrounding landscapes too.
Known as Val d’Orcia, the surrounding region is also listed as a Unesco World Cultural Landscape.
Viewed in the early morning and late evening hours, the rolling hills, varied shaded fields and well placed trees provide a stunning image.
I flew on Etihad Airways to Milan and reached Florence by train. From Florence to the smaller towns and villages in Tuscany, public transportation is limited to buses.
- For the flexibility of moving around, car rental is recommended. However, remember not to drink and drive.
- For an authentic winery-cum-guesthouse stay in the Chianti region, check out Fattoria Poggerino.
- Aside from the wines and cheese in Pienza, the region is also well known for its olive oils and truffles.
Source: SG Travellers © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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