Day 4, Tuscan Hill Towns

Breakfast room at hotel Alma Domus.
The hotel's kitchen baked its own croissant every morning.

Our driver/guide Andrea, in orange shirt.

Visiting a fortified farm of Santa Maria della Scala.

The symbol of Santa Maria della Scala, a staircase,
because the hospital is located in front of the staircase of the Duomo of Siena.

The owner of the vineyard. She explained why each grape plant
was tied to spread out to the right and left only - to maximize its production.

A cherry tree at the farm.
The hostess told us to help ourselves. The cherries were juicy and sweet.

Only three people work in this vineyard. The hostess, her husband, and their son.

The hostess' husband was busy working in the field.

Wine barrel.

Tasting the Brunello wine.

Before leaving the vineyard, Andrea pointed to this village on top of a hill,
and pronounced that it was Montalcino, and that's where we were heading next.

A road sign on our way to Montalcino.

Montalcino's city hall tower.
Like Siena, Montalcino was a republic in the middle ages.

Montalcino's Piazza del Popolo (People's Square).

Montalcino's Piazza Garibaldi.
As you can see, on the day we went there were very few visitors in Montalcino.

A wine shop selling Brunello wine.

Montalcino's 14th-century fortress, built under the rule of Siena.

Sant'Antimo Abbey, a former Benedictine monastery.
We were in time for the last 5 minutes of the Gregorian chant,
but could not take pictures while a service was on.

Views from Sant'Antimo Abbey.

Our lunch restaurant - outstanding prosciutto (but forgot to take pictures).

Rocca d'Orcia was visible high above the hills (toward the right edge of the picture).

Rocca d'Orcia - the remains of the fortress

Views from the Rocca d'Orcia fortress.

Walking down from the fortress 
to the village of Rocca d'Orcia below.

The former mayor of the village of Rocca d'Orcia.
He asked Andrea if we were Giapponese. "No, Americano", Andrea replied.

The public thermal spa of Bagno Vignoni.

Pienza's Duomo, which dominates the Piazza Pius II.

Pienza's city hall, opposite the Duomo.

This view is an often seen picture of Pienza.

This part of Pienza reminded us of Ronda in Spain.

Beautiful scenery outside the town of Pienza.

A picture-perfect farm, just outside the town of Pienza.

Back in Siena, around 7pm, the Goose contrada was having a parade.

color guards ...

.... followed by a religious procession

(the middle section of the religious procession)

We went to Taverna di Cecco for dinner.

Mei-Ching's Osso Buco, veal shank braised with tomato and onion.

Vincent's excellent chicken sautéed with mushroom in white wine sauce.

Siena's Piazza Salimbeni at night.
The building behind the statue is Palazzo Salimbeni, and is
the headquarters of Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS),
the oldest surviving bank in the world.
Founded in 1472 by the Magistrate of the city state of Siena,
the bank has been operating ever since.
Today it is one of the leading banks in Italy.