Montelpulciano is a quiet small medieval town about 3 hours north of Rome. Famous for its grand wine, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano the cobble stone streets are steep, narrow and lined with traditional cafes, butcher shops, enotecas and a handful of tourist oriented shops. Arriving mid-evening last night I drove the “hot” Fiat Punto through the gate at Porta al Prato and slowly meandered up the main drag being careful not to run over the feet of any of the many people oblivious to the fact the street is also used for cars. Frankly, Montepulciano is one of few medieval towns in this part of Italy that allows vehicular traffic.
Tim had made the hotel reservation and the information was tucked into his baggage in the trunk. He assured me that he’d recognize the hotel from either a visual reference or by name. As we climbed up the street toward the Piazza Grande we noticed a number of helpful signs that pointed the direction to many hotels — called Albergos. We quickly found our selves leaving the walled city. Confused Tim was drawing on his memory while I negotiated hairpin turns that led me outside the town. Looking for the “return loop” Tim noticed a sign for an Albergo. “That’s it!”
I cranked the steering wheel and rapidly climbed that Punto up a steep path, through a public parking area and down an extremely narrow, moody and very scenic street just past the walls of the city. Tim with his neck craned looking up the 13th century facades for a name of our hotel when I realized something was terribly wrong. “Shit!” I quickly realized that I had passed into town through a “Do Not Enter” sign on a street that was one of only two that led motorists out of town. Keep in mind this street is barely wide enough to fit my very narrow Fiat Punto. Just waiting to get busted or look really stupid going the wrong way. “Stop!” Tim yelled as a brought the car to an abrupt halt. Like something out of a speeded up scene in a Laurel and Hardy movie we pulled all of our luggage out of the car to the side of the road.
As Tim dealt with checking in I did the impossible. Turned that Fiat 180 degrees around in what must be a record number of points in a turn — maybe 20? Oddly enough I remembered too late that this Fiat had an interesting push button feature on the dash labeled “City”. It’s purpose? Cranks up the power steering making negotiating city streets it easier on your wrists and biceps. Oh well.
Tim discovered that something was wrong with our reservation and we would not get the room with the terrace for the first night. No worries. We were there. In Montepulciano. The proprietor of the “Albergo” instructed me where to park and gave me a pass to place on the dash. When I walked out of the hotel I noticed two cars patiently waiting behind my Punto. In most cities the driver would have honked. Nice. I pulled away and parked my car down a steep street a 1/4 mile from the hotel.
I began what would be come a regular ritual while in Montepulciano, I climbed up the steep street back to the hotel. When I rounded the corner I saw Tim wandering rather aimlessly in the middle of the street. He had the wacky smirk that always triggers a smile and laugh on his face. Wondering why he wasn’t getting the luggage into our room, but before I could get a word out he said while laughing, “It’s the wrong hotel!” No wonder they didn’t have the reservation.
Ahhh. The fun and adventure of traveling ad hoc. What else would you expect from a couple guys looking to spend a few weeks in Italy sampling the greatest in gastronomy and wine?
We found our hotel and as I pen the last few words of this post while sitting on the terrace of our room where the morning before I woke up early enough to watch the rising sun over brown Tuscan hills. Surreal.
Photos: (r to l starting at top) 1) sunrise over Tuscany from Il Albergo Marzocco; 2) Looking west toward Siena over rooftops of Montepulciano; 3) Narrow streets of Montepulciano; 4 & 5) Tim and Allan at Borgo Buio an osteria in Montepulciano sampling the local vino