Tuscany Italy

Doreen, Eitan, Limor, Aviv
4th - 15th May 2023

Doreen writes:

We have visited Italy many many times mostly for bridge events (for example) but also for family or other events like our Family Reunion.
When the opportunity arose to invite Aviv and Limor - even though they have visited Tuscany before - to join us we didn’t realize what an important get together this would be. We do spend a lot of time with them, either in Eilat or in Netanya and especially during Jewish holidays, but this was the first time since before their marriage (on a trip to South Africa) that we have been alone together – without siblings or their children.

We visited
Rome first and after two days we hired a car and stopped at a couple of places on the way to Montepulciano for a stay at Villa Poliziana.
Being together was a wonderful bonding experience, with no tension whatsoever. Conversation never flagged and was always easy. The only thing was they would not let us wash the dishes or tidy up while Aviv always offered to save us walking by bringing the car to us – which he did on a few occasions.

The villa was spacious (see picture) with an expansive view of Lake Trasimeno and the mountains behind. Each morning when we got up we would look to see another beautiful sunrise.

villaVilla Poliziana

Vila computer

After Aviv drove to buy bread and whatever we needed, we ate a leisurely breakfast.
We also prepared dinner at the villa with long conversations warmed by the glowing
wood in the fireplace.

San Gimignano

The villa was well situated for touring the amazing hilltop villages; San Gimignano was our first outing. It is hard to say which village was more impressive but San Gimignano with its 14 stone towers was definitely one of them. At the height of its importance there were some 72 towers in the village.  Saffron was produced in the town and some believe that the towers were to dry the lengths of saffron-dyed cloth. But they certainly served to show the political and economic power of the rival families,

San GVilla Poliziana

Eitan and I sat on the steps of the Piazza Publico while Aviv and Limor climbed Torre Grosso.

San Gim

In the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta, dating from the 1300’s
we were fascinated by the frescoes that covered every inch of the church.
On one side was a cycle of frescoes from the New Testament
and on the other long side were frescoes from the Bible.

Cinta Senese Farmhouse

The following day we visited a farm where the main attraction was the Cinta Senese piglets. They are very friendly and gladly guzzled handfuls of green grass that we offered them. What can I say? We also enjoyed the prosciutto.
Villa PolizianaVilla poliziano
Villa PolizianaVilla PolizianaVilla Poliziana


We drove to Pienza to walk through the narrow streets lined with shops selling mainly local products. We bought the famed Pecorina di Pienza  made from goat's milk, as well as special aged Balsamic Vinegar. The 180 degree view from Pienza of the mountains carpeted in green was relaxing.
Villa PolizianaPienze


On the suggestion of our host we drove through Monticchiello to see the stately cypress trees gracefully lining the contours of the landscape.

In Montalcino we bought Brunello wine. That night over dinner we couldn't resist and drank the bottle we had bought for for Mikhal (very good). A few days later we drove an hour back to Montalcino to buy Mikhal a bottle of wine from that same place.

The weather had turned and here is Limor posing like a statue in the rain.

Villa PolizianaVilla Poliziana


In the afternoon we drove to Cortona and enjoyed walking around the town. While visiting the Basilica of Santa Margherita we were interested to see two men with a ladder, a light and a tool box struggling to open a glass case with reliquaries inside. I thought if I climbed the ladder, I just might be able to help them (smile).

Villa PolizianaVilla Poliziana
That night on returning to our villa it was so cold that we lit the fireplace.


Parking in Siena is a huge problem. We drove around for over an hour until we found a public parking place that didn’t entail walking up the steep hill.

Many years ago we arrived in Siena the day after the Palio to find that the race had been postponed to the next day because of bad weather, and we were fortunate to see the flags display and ceremony and the race.
The horses race around the outer edge of the piazza. First horse to reach the winning post – with or without a rider - wins.

We took pictures of the piazza where the races are held.


Siena synsgogue

We had been to Siena twice but this was the first time
 that the synagogue was open and we had a meaningful visit.

We sat down to lunch and in addition to the excellent pizza we
unfortunately were treated to rolls of thunder and lots of rain. It hailed most of the way home. When we returned to the villa, I was exhausted and went to rest. Aviv and Limor went shopping.

Chianciano Terme and Ciusi
train stationon the planr

The following day we drove to Il Buco in Chianciano Terme. It is another restaurant that we always visit when in Tuscany.
Aviv and Limor
were flying home that night and we dropped them off at the Cuisi train station where they caught a train to Rome.

Back at the Villa we lit a fire against the cold, but also to counteract the feeling of loss after they had left.


On our 10th day we drove up the hill to Montepulciano hilltop village. Up until then we had been in the lower more modern area while shopping daily (hourly?) at the supermarket, or visited places where we could buy wood.

When Aviv and Limor left we had a feeling that our holiday had ended and that we had perhaps stayed on for too long. So the following morning we drove up to Montepulciano overlooking our villa. We were glad that we had found parking at the top of the hill when we saw tourists trundling up to the top. We walked along the main street, mainly looking for a place to eat that night. It was pleasant with wide streets and a magnificent view. But the most exciting thing about Monetepulciano was the torturous drive down the hill, both narrow and oh so steep. But that was nothing compared to that night, when after dinner at the very good Osteria del Conte restaurant on the top of Montepulciano I had to drive down those steep and narrow streets in the dark and rain!



We left Montepulciano and drove to Arezzo. After parking we weren’t sure in which direction to walk. A young man directed us, but insisted that we visit the Basilica nearby to see the frescoes by Piero della Francesca. Only 30 people are allowed in to the church at a time, for a 30 minute visit, so after buying tickets we waited for our turn by having a surprisingly tasty crisp focaccia, filled with vegetables.
The large church has fragments of frescoes from various periods, but the jewel is the cycle of frescoes by Piero della Francesca dating to the 15th century, in the ambulatory, the area behind the main altar.

The ten episodes recall apocryphal events relating to the Legend of the True Cross. It starts with Adam who asks his son Seth to find the tree of mercy. The next episode as they call them shows the meeting of the Queen of Sheba with King Solomon. He had the tree cut down to build part of the Temple, but it was found to be unsuitable and he made a bridge over Siloam instead. It later continues to the dream of Constantine that if he had the chiro sign on his flag he will be victorious over his rival Maxentius. It goes on to describe Queen Helena in Jerusalem (more about that later), the battle of Heraclius against the Persian King Croesus and the return of the cross, ending with the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear a child.


It was episode 6 that I found most fascinating.

Queen Helena, Constantine’s mother comes to Jerusalem to find the true cross.

She learns that a Jew named Judas (what else?) knows where three crosses
are buried, that of Jesus and the two crucified thieves.

Judas is captured, tortured and lowered into a well without food or water.

In the next episode by a series of miracles the correct cross on which Jesus was crucified is identified. In all my years as a tour guide I had never heard of this version. I do believe it portents growing tension between Judaism and Christianity which had just been declared the official religion of the Roman Empire

Francesca’s frescoes are based on a book The Golden Legend, written by the Bishop of Genoa Jacobus de Voragine in 1265, which has several versions.

Afterwards we went to Piazza Grande. When Eitan and I visited Arezzo about 30 years ago we watched many takes of a movie being filmed. Imagine our surprise when seeing the movie Life is Beautiful we suddenly recognized what we had seen being photographed. We both clearly remembered the scene with an open car being repeated and replayed until  the director was satisfied. Eitan and I couldn’t agree exactly where in the piazza the car was. No matter, it was a most interesting visit.


Castiglione del Largo - Lake Trasimeno

We drove to Castiglione del Largo which is in Umbria close to the border with Tuscany. The town was delightful. We loved the overlook with the main road leading to a mountain in the distance – our very own Montepulciano.

Lunch was the least successful meal we had on our trip. The restaurant was reserved by a birthday party and we were seated outside. It was really cold and miserable and the food took ages to be served.


Back to the villa to sleep and warm up and happy to have a fire to warm up the villa.  We packed that night ready to leave the following morning.


We were planning on driving to Tivoli to visit Hadrian’s villa, but on the way and on the spur of the moment we detoured to Orvieto. Orvieto has a most imposing church that has bands of black and white stone running all over. The Duomo is light and airy but the main attraction is the New Chapel at the back of the church with amazing frescoes. Begun in the mid 1300’s by Fra Angelico it was richly decorated by Signorelli. Scenes of the Anti Christ by the Temple, Hell, the Resurrection and Heaven were intricately and intimately depicted. My luck was to join a guide who explained many details of the paintings.  Eitan's bad luck was having to sit outside the church and wait and wait for me to return.

On the other side of the church is a reliquary – a cloth with plasma and serum that they believe was from the blood of Jesus.



When we reached Tivoli we stopped at a restaurant – Aromatico, a very fancy and good restaurant – and then went to visit Hadrian’s Villa. It was a huge confusing space with many ruins, including an island with rooms in the middle, guest houses, libraries in Latin and Greek and a recreation of the Nile River where Hadrian’s lover drowned.

From there we drove to Fiumicino Airport in Rome and flew home after a very successful trip.

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On the way from Rome to the Villa

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