Day 04 - Wednesday, April 10, 2019 – Drive to Lucciola Bella Nature Reserve; Explore village of Montefollonico, Dinner in Pienza
The morning began bright and sunny but we could see building clouds in the distance. The temperature was 51 degrees and the weather forecast was for rain most of the day.
We began our exploring by driving south and east of Pienza to the Lucciola Bella Nature Reserve. This hilly and rocky park protects the eroded rock formations of the ancient Tyrrhenian Sea bed. The Italians call this their Badlands.
Most people just drive on the paved roads and gaze at the worn rock formations, but our little Renault took us up to the top of the limestone path and to La Bandita farm house and agro-tourism center.
We also stopped at the Lucciola Bella Overlook and watched hikers who were really exploring the Reserve. Many species of birds are protected here as well as million year old fossils of ancient sea creatures.
From the reserve we drove to the village of Montefollonico, a hamlet overlooking the Val d’Orcia. In the beginning, the village was originally a Roman fortification where the inhabitants gathered and died wool.
Montefollonico was definitely not a tourist town. There was not a shop for souvenirs or a postcard to be found. There was a little bar and a small grocery store for the locals. Most of the homes were red tile and stone that looked very well kept. Almost everyone had a flowerpot with pansies or primroses by their front doors or windowsills.
We hiked through the two main streets to the Church of San Leonardo and marveled at the thick medieval stonewalls that still surround the old city. The views were spectacular and we could see more thunder clouds gathering in the north.
We left the mountain village and drove back to Pienza. Today was our last day before driving to San Marino tomorrow. We went to fill up our tank at the one and only gas station in the town.
As it was not yet 3:00, there was no one there and the pumps were turned off. We went back to the hotel to regroup and activate our cell phone for our highway journey tomorrow.
Vic had pre-purchased an Orange SIM card so we would have a cell phone in case of emergencies. The cost was cheaper than a Verizon International Plan, and if used rarely, it seemed the way to go when traveling abroad.
After 4:00 we drove back to the gas station and filled up the car. Gas has never been cheap in Europe and in this little town with only one station; it was 34.92 Euros for half a tank, a little over $7.20 per gallon. The taxes escalate the price and we wondered how the locals could bear the costs.
The cafés and restaurants do not usually open until after 7:30 so we worked on the pictures and the journal and then walked to the city center to find a light dinner. Tourist season will not begin until the first of May so many establishments were still closed.
We found a little café that served a light dinner, the Bar Gelateria, served panini sandwiches and ice cream. The sun was setting as we returned to the Piccolo so we enjoyed a stroll along the city walls to photograph the sunset.
Tomorrow is a travel day; we spent time organizing our bags and getting ready for our drive to San Marino. We washed the windows and cleaned the car by hand because Marco informed us the nearest carwash was 20 minutes away in Montepulciano.
Accommodations: Piccolo Hotel - - - Meal: B, L, D
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Tagging along, though time is going to fast. So much to see and hear about.
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All so beautiful! Thanks for sharing your adventures! Love you both!
The Preserve was set aside to buffer some of the ecologically sensitive karsts in the area from encroaching neighborhoods. Karsts are caves that feed directly into the Edwards Aquifer below ground.
Because the three caves can be dangerous to hikers and nonprofessional spelunkers, they are...