Going off season to any popular tourist area has the advantage of limiting the number of other tourists you meet (on and off the road) and increases the chance of meeting locals going about their daily routine. With that in mind, we hopped over to Italy for a short holiday at the beginning of December.
Tuscany always delights the eye regardless of the season, even more so when coming from a semi-desert environment like we do.
Our destination was a small town (village, really) just about half-way between Rome and Siena, Bagno Vignoni with its thermal hot springs. Of our 4 brief days on the ground, we had mostly chilly (for us) and sunny or windy and rainy weather. Regardless, we visited many towns nearby: Pienza (our favorite, recommended by the woman at the car rental office in Florence airport), Montepulciano, Montalcino, San Quirico d’Orcia, San Antimo Abbey (where we bought Tuscan spices to bring home), San Gimignano and, of course, Siena.
Being off-season, many of the shops and eateries were closed, but wherever we could we stopped for coffee and a little something sweet mid-day.
Our hotel included half-board, so we happily returned to enjoy the hotel’s thermal pools and spa in the late afternoon and have a wonderful chef meal in the evening. That also meant we were off the narrow, twisty, one lane in each direction, no shoulder, unlit roads after dark, which suited me just fine.
We had one (too) close call driving down from Rocca d’Orcia (across the small valley from our hotel, seen at the very top right of this post) when we came around a bend in the road only to spot a light blue Fiat 500 zooming towards us, on our side of the road and no where for us to ditch. It’s scary how clearly one sees things in that brief (and thankfully not last) moment of terror as the blond woman driving the car rummaged for something on the passenger’s seat swerved back into her lane and passed us.
Ah, Italy! Our first and nearly our last love.