I elected to take the long route from Siena to Pitigliano, driving along the smaller, secondary roads in rural Tuscany rather than taking the highway most of the way. It took me 3 hours, which was an hour more than Google wanted it to take – blame it on slow driving and photo stops whenever possible. That was by the way one of the few drawbacks of being alone in the car – I saw so many beautiful spots that I wanted to take a picture of, but there was nowhere to safely put the car, and I didn’t feel like simply stopping in the middle of the road, even though there were hardly any cars at all. I was properly out in the country at some point, with very far between villages. Only proof of people would be a lonely house on a hilltop here and there.
Without having particularly aimed for it, I ended up driving a good part of the trip along the old Via Francigena, a route that I believe the monks of the area used to use. I saw a few hikers along the road when the old path had had to merge with the road; I also (almost) ran into a whole bunch of cyclists out for Sunday ride. There are a lot of them, and they were everywhere but at the side of the road where I, as a car driver, should think they belong. One particularly memorable event was when I rounded a blind corner and found two happy cyclists in front of me, right in the middle of the road. Tsk..
The landscape changed a lot on the drive south; in the beginning it was mostly fields and somewhat faded colors, but as I got closer to Cittá del Tufa which Pitigliano is a part of, the surroundings started becoming green again with plenty of trees along the road.
The first view of the city of Pitigliano is quite impressive, as the old part of town is on a hilltop with a very large natural looking wall surrounding it.
The city itself is fairly easy to overview – there’s a pretty town square, that’s the first thing you reach, and then you can walk off into the narrow old streets. I loved walking around those streets – so pretty and photogenic and with viewpoints here and there.
I had lunch at one of the local restaurants with the promising name of La Chiave del Paradiso (The Key to Paradise). They advertised with homegrown meat (you know, their own cows), and so I deemed this a nice place to try some of the region’s famed beef. I did not take a Steak Fiorentina as I’m not much for the super rare meat, and the steak I got was very good.
The drive to Orvieto from Pitigliano was also quite spectacular. I again took the longest route, because that would get me driving for a bit right next to Lake Bolsena, and go through the small city of Bolsena. There were lots of great views, again most of which I couldn’t photograph, and the city of Bolsena looked so nice. A place I’d love to have a closer look at some time. Today though my intentions were on Orvieto, so I drove on. That might have been a mistake. For some reason, maybe because I was tired from a lot of driving and sightseeing already, I failed miserably to see the true charm of Orvieto. I had some trouble finding parking to begin with. Then I went to the main church which was supposed to be fabulous – all I could think was ‘well, it sure doesn’t beat the one in Siena‘. I spent some more time walking around, mostly following the tourist stream in the hopes of finding something awesome, but it didn’t happen. My heart wasn’t in it. I called it a day fairly early on and retreated to my hotel. Maybe I was also getting a bit lonely – I was definitely looking forward to going to Rome and staying in a hostel Airbnb there..
A note on the speaking of English in the area
My experience was that they understood what I was saying in English, but they didn’t speak the language. I was suddenly very glad that I had made at least a little bit of an effort in learning Italian before my trip, as it allowed me to understand certain one word questions like these without difficulty:
‘Posso?’ – ‘Can I take your order?’
‘Chiave?’ – ‘do you have your key with you?’
‘Caldo?’ – ‘do you want me to heat this pizza slice?’
‘Vuoi cappuccino?’ – ‘do you want a cappuccino?’
I kept up my work on Duolingo while I was there, and it really was nice to be able to track my progress not in golden emblems but in how much I would catch of the train announcements, and realizing I didn’t need to switch to the English version of an Italian ticket site for museums.
Have you been to Pitigliano? Driving through Tuscany? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!