I wake up in Pienza with a Dissertation – based nightmare. A quick shower later and it’s down to the usual peculiar 3 star Italian breakfast, in which we are the only people dining. We decide to go for another coffee at a local bar where you are supposed to buy tickets for the bus. The coffee is good but the bar for bus tickets is closed on Tuesdays. We head to another bar, purchase our tickets for Montepulciano and return to our B&B to collect our luggage. “How do you ask,’I have forgotten to unplug my i-Phone charger?’ in Italian”, Mr Bluebird asks of me. Clearly, the mountain air has got to him, as my Italian could get to “How do you…?” but would then fade away in linguistic incompetence. Fortunately his charger is retrieved and we are bang on time for the 1205 bus. It starts to rain.
The 1205 bus doesn’t come. The rain, on the other hand, does. I hide under my jacket under a tree. A nearby American couple, delirious with happiness that we are English speakers, would like our help in dicyphering the bus timetable. I can, but have misunderstood that the summer timetable has ended, and that as it is now October 5th, it is the winter timetable. Thank goodness. That meant we were delayed by two hours. And if it had been summer, and the 1205 bus had turned up we would have missed the delights of La Trattoria da Fiorella. This restaurant doesn’t have its own website for me to big it up, but TripAdvisor’s reviews are here : www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g644280-d1451273-Reviews-Trattoria_Fiorella-Pienza_Tuscany.html. The very, very best pici with tagiolini of our entire trip was eaten here, with fabulous house wine (“A litre?!” asked our innocent waiter, disbelievingly. “Oh yes please,” chirruped Mr and Mrs Bluebird). A gorgeous table on the balcony of this family-run trattoria gave us the benefit of staring at everyone else’s plates and analysing what they were eating. So jammed was La Trattoria da Fiorella that they had to start turning away diners at 2.15pm, who were pushed out in the heavy rain. A double espresso (you gotta love that caffeine, kids) spirited us out of the door, through the rain and onto the 1425 bus for Montepulciano, which dropped us off by 3pm.
At Montepulciano you have a choice. You can either push yourself uphill for the 15 minute walk to the top of the town, where the Piazza Grande crowns the town, or you can take the little orange bus that delivers you there in a quarter of the time and runs with remarkable efficiency every 15 minutes from the bus station. Of course, we did the latter, rolling up the beautiful streets of Montepulciano, until we emerged, blinking and gasping at the views, in the Piazza Grande, close to our apartment. If I could only work out how to upload pictures from my husband’s I-phone I could show you the splendours of it, but it still wouldn’t do the city justice. It’s perched on a great slab of volcanic rock, sitting pretty over Chianti and blissfully peaceful in early October. Our apartment was in the lovely www.palazzobellarmino.com, a splendid house now converted into affordable apartments right off the Piazza Grande. It enables you to feel quite the resident, although rattling about in a large flat with nothing but a suitcase full of crumpled dresses and a battered EM Forster made the whole place seem empty. We tripped out for an evening stroll amidst grand hill and blush pink skies, rolling down roads between rotund American tourists. A supper of the best vongole my husband said he had ever tasted was preceded by a visit to a little bit of Vienna in Montepulciano, the alarmingly belle epoque www.caffepoliziano.it which had a vast, high-ceiled tea room covered with velvet brown booths and huge gilt mirrors, as if stuck in a Edwardian time warp. Espressos can be supped on a precarious balcony overlooking the Val D’Orcia and you can feel like you’re in a film. Coo. Even the pre-dinner spritzer that Mr Bluebird ordered arrived filled with James Bond joie de vivre in a classic martini glass, a change from the usual Italian tumbler.
Getting pissed is fine because you’re going to struggle to find your way home to the apartment anyway. High black alleyways crawl up to pedestrianized streets, lit by dark yellow lamps, and if you feel that the road is bending up and around in front of you because you are drunk, it actually is bending up and around in front of you. You must climb up until you collapse in a fuggy, sweaty heat on the steps of the cathedral. The Chianti table wine kills the pain in the calves. At the top, we would sit outside the cathedral, finding ourselves the only people in the square at 11pm; Montepulciano seems to close for business early.
In the morning Mr Bluebird couldn’t locate spoons and had no option but to stir the Lavazza coffee in the cafetiere using the wrong end of his toothbrush. Then he tried to ‘plunge’ only he forgot how espresso coffee is as fine as fairy dust. The whole lot exploded over our pretty apartment. Eventually he manoeuvred it into the diddy, tiny dollshouse espresso cups. Everything in Italy is either tiny-weeny, or enormous. This is not a country for the moderate, my friends.