Not a single trip to Italy is complete without going to Tuscany. A slow-cooking food tradition, the famous Chianti wine region, and the rich artistic tradition of Renaissance style all originated from this territory. In early October, I hopped on the bus with my IES Milan program to Siena, a medieval town in central Tuscany. Although it was a weekend filled with drizzling rain and crisp fall air, my experience of Tuscany was in fact much more tranquil and authentic. The rain suddenly became a “stop” sign to the big tourist groups that are always present in every Italian city, turning Siena into a quaint town, as it has always been.
Siena is not one of the grand cities of Italy. It doesn’t have the history of Rome, the charm of Florence, the energy of Milan. It doesn’t even have the tourist crowd as you would imagine, probably because of the rainy weather. But greatness is often defined by one’s personal response to a certain place. After climbing 500 steps to go on top of the Museum of Opera, I was on an emotional state looking down at this incredible panorama. Ancient, a little messy, medieval-style, tranquil, Siena defines the essence of a typical Tuscan town.
Speaking of Tuscany, it is impossible not to mention its gastronomic richness and fine vineyards. Being the little gem of Chianti region, Montalcino produces Tuscany’s best Brunello and, arguably, Italy’s most distinguished wine. Up in the hills, Montalcino is tucked away by vast greenness and wavy mountains. The fogginess, tranquility, and elegance of Montalcino exemplifies the renowned Tuscan landscape.
After a brief tour of a family-runned vineyard, we had lunch at their farm-to-table style restaurant. A plate of homemade tagliatelle with ground pepper, butter, and Parmesan cheese, paired with locally produced Brunello, constitutes the menu of the day. Simple, fine, irresistibly delicious, this homemade meal defines the Tuscan cooking philosophy.
Now, after two days of immersing in tranquil Tuscan landscape, it’s time to head to Pisa. As touristic as Pisa has always been, the city undoubtedly offers some of the most incredible architectural wonders of the world, including the Pisa tower and much more.