Are you tired of being hassled by crowds? Fed up with being surrounded by people who all seem to be looking for the toilets? Scale things down and relax with a program that you can make up as you choose, depending upon your own interests and tastes. Stay for one night, or three nights, or two weeks. Montisi is a wonderful home base for exploring—Florence, Siena, Cortona, Arezzo, Perugia, Assisi and even Rome, just 2 hours south.
Explore small, simple villages on foot, find gourmet meals, and settle gently into the culture Tuscany.
Feeling more active? Take a quad bike out for a half day tour through the fields and back trails, get up early and go hot air ballooning, go horseback-riding, or watch the fall harvest of olives and wine grapes. Savor a taste of pungent new oil in November. Or learn to paint or draw with a professional artist. Book a wine tour, or a tasting either at home in Montisi, or in the nearby wineries producing Brunello and Vino Nobile. Or take day excursions to see the great art and architecture of Tuscany's historic cities and towns, shop Italian designer wares, hear Gregorian chants, wander through the monthly Arezzo Antique Market, learn at the Etruscan museums or enjoy a cappuccino or vino at a café on Il Campo in Siena. And when you get back after a busy day relax with a deep massage from Lalla, here in Montisi.
Alternatively, sit under a tree with a glass of wine and a book, and spend the day looking out over a classic Tuscan landscape. You will be welcomed by the Montisani, and you will leave enriched by contact with a slower way of life and real country values.
If you don't have a rental car, you may find it useful to engage the services of 3rd Services by Gianmarco, our local driving service. Cell: 338.1868798. Web. Send him a message in simple English and he'll be there to meet you! He can pick you up at the Rome or Florence airports or drive you for a full day of wine-tasting. Single car to 20+ passenger van.
Discover the hidden gems of the Val d'Orcia, the backstreets of Siena, medieval villages nestled in the hills, Renaissance gardens, famous vineyards, winetastings of undiscovered small producers, all with a licensed tour guide who will bring the area's history alive. Tours are completely customized to your taste and will take you far off the beaten track, to the real heart of Tuscany. For information, (licensed tour guide for Siena, Arezzo, Cortona and Siena province, and cheese and wine expert), or telephone her at +39 347 4565150.
We have put together a set of excursions for people who want to meet the locals, taste real food, smell the Tuscan air, and enjoy some exercise. They are not exhausting hikes for fitness freaks, more a gentle stroll of a few miles, with the occasional scramble over a ditch or bank. There is usually a convenient location where you can safely leave your car, and we can return you to that point at the end of the day. Close by is often a good restaurant where, if you wish, you can get a memorable evening meal to round off the day. If you need help organising this do not hesitate to get in touch!
Alternatively, sign up for one of our all-inclusive, fully-guided walking tours, and let us take the strain. Moreover, for the really incompetent—hire an experienced tour guide for the day! The landscape is a mixture of olive groves and wooded valleys, tightly cultivated farmland and open rolling hills with big fields and a huge skyline. Always present to the south is the imposing 5000 foot Monte Amiata, where you can go and see the last of the wolves, kept in their wild state on a reserve with deer, chamois, and the now-rare Amiata ass, together with birds of prey and other local fauna and flora—a must for nature lovers!
Here is an example of a popular itinerary: Pear and Pecorino
Non faré sapere al contadino com'é buono la pera ed il pecorino. ("Don't let the peasant know," as the local saying goes, "how good is pear with pecorino.")
The implication is that if you do he will spend all his time lying under a hedge and indulging himself! We hope that you find it an appropriate name for an easily accessible route for first-time walkers in this area. It will give you a taste of a landscape that is soft and intimate, with carefully tended olive groves and vineyards on steep slopes, giving views across the rolling downland of the Crete Senesi to Montalcino and the great bulk of Monte Amiata beyond.
The walk starts with a gentle stroll downhill along a tree-lined avenue through woodland, with occasional views to Siena, or to the Val d'Orcia and Petroio. This tiny conical village, crowned by a thousand-year-old castle , is famous for its terracotta pots, still made today in the time-honoured way by local artisans. After exploring the village, exit by the west gate and walk along the contour following the Strove valley to Castelmuzio. The road follows the old Etruscan track from Chiusi to Siena, and overlooks the monastery of Sant'Anna in Camprena, where much of the "The English Patient" was filmed. You may choose to have lunch in one of the bars or restaurants in the village of Castelmuzio.
After the heat of the middle of the day has passed, visit an isolated Romanesque parish church which was in Roman times a baptisterium for the fundus (the largest of the Roman farming units) and before that an Etruscan temple. The present farmer has assembled an interesting collection of traditional agricultural implements in a corner of his farmyard, but beware, his wine is local! On the way down the valley, call in at a sheep farm, and catch your breath in the shade of an old mill.
Then make your way up the valley to Montisi, located on an Etruscan road that linked the Maremma coastline with the rich city of Arezzo. Montisi is perched on a crag and built around the castle that forms the nucleus of the village. At the edge of the village is the fortified Grancia or grange, built around a courtyard that stored provisions for the Spedale of Santa Maria della Scala in Siena. This extraordinary organisation took care of the flood of pilgrims to Rome that travelled the Via Francigena from the 12th century onwards, and was always in need of supplies. The itinerary is along old tracks, tarred in parts, otherwise gravel and grass. Distances a.m. 8 km, p.m. 5 km.
Ballooning in Tuscany was established in 1990 by the husband and wife team, Robert Etherington and artist Liz Graham-Yooll. On their retirement, they handed over the reins to Kenneth Karlstrom who owns and operates Virgin Balloon Flights, the UK's largest and most successful balloon operator.
The pilot in Montisi is Chris Monk who has worked with Robert over the years and maintains the local and friendly face of the team whilst enjoying the backing and professionalism of Ken's larger company, providing a personal and enjoyable flying experience.
The balloon launches from the beautiful valley below Montisi. Every flight is different as we fly with the winds of the day and lasts about an hour, looking down at forests, vineyards and historic towns. On landing, enjoy the finest prosecco and a picnic of locally sourced food.
Ballooning in Tuscany is licensed by both the British and Italian Civil Aviation Authorities and maintains an impeccable safety record.
In Montisi we have painters and noted sculptors. Two fine professional painters are ready to take you out painting!Elizabeth Cochrane came to Tuscany in 1995 and immediately began to organize watercolour painting courses in Cortona. Elizabeth is a talented landscape painter working in oil and watercolour, and she found the light and the rhythms of the Tuscan landscape a perfect environment for her work. She is a recognized as an expert in the capture of the dramatic Tuscan skies in watercolour. Liz teaches drawing and painting to beginners as well as accomplished artists. Whether painting in her courtyard, the lanes of the village or in a private garden, lessons from Liz are both fun and satisfying. She lives in the center of the village and her studio can be visited by .
Liz Graham-Yooll has painted and lived in Tuscany for many years and now divides her time between Montisi and a small village in central France. Whatever painting subject she might pursue, her pleasure is still in setting up an easel in the middle of a field and working en plein air, working in acrylics, watercolor, or sketching to capture what catches her eye Not only has she taught watercolour painting, but she has also worked as a guide for walks in Tuscany and so she knows the local countryside like the back of her hand. Walking with a sketchbook is a way of combining her two great pleasures and a chance to share this with like-minded people. She is offering two very different painting experiences.
If you have rented a house or villa in the area, several very talented Italian chefs are available to cook in, teach you, hands-on, the techniques for making local specialties or prepare celebratory meals for you and your friends. Prices are reasonable and the chefs will work with you to tailor the exact menu you prefer and will provide wine or advise you on suitable wines to accompany your menu. All speak excellent English. These services MUST be arranged, at least in general well in advance as they are very popular. For weddings and similar celebrations you can get assistance with music and flowers.
The cooking class has been run successfully for several years, in the kitchen of the restaurant La Romita. The kitchen was recently remodeled, creating a slightly larger space with all new equipment. The chef is Giovanna Bindi, the cook for the restaurant and wife of the owner Alberto. They have for twenty or so years created their own specialized Tuscan menus based on interesting "new" combinations of tastes and textures, using Renaissance recipes as a starting point.
The arrival of spices from the east and the gastronomic experiences of the returning crusaders gave birth to the Renaissance in the Tuscan kitchen. Catherine de Medici took her Renaissance Florentine cooking methods and ingredients to France and revolutionized French palates! If you have a passion for the food of a particular period, they will help you learn to create it.
The classes are tailor-made for the students; if there is a specific request, such as "How do you make pici?", they will teach you. Otherwise the class will provide an overview of a full 4 or 5 course Tuscan meal.
This is not a "cooking school" with a formal class schedule. This is essentially a private lesson conducted for 2 to a maximum of 4 or 5 (due to the size of the kitchen), offered by Giovanna and Alberto, in Italian. But as it is a detailed demonstration, the language is not a problem; in fact, it is a delightful and memorable part of the experience Alberto will set up a classtime by arrangement. The classes are in the afternoon starting at about 3.30 p.m. and ending at about 6.30 p.m. If you would like, return at 8:00 to re-join your hosts for a full Tasting Dinner (degustazione) with a choice of dishes proposed by Alberto. In the meantime, you can sit down and relax for an aperitivo at MaMa' across the road.
Explore the rolling countryside of the Terre di Siena along medieval tracks and byways that La Romita has discovered for you! They organize quiet guided excursions using new Polaris 330 Quad Bikes (All Terrain Vehicles) along itineraries of extraordinary beauty. Climb hills and follow ancient country tracks in close touch with nature. There are three itineraries to choose from and your host Alberto Bindi says, "This is the most fun I've had since I was a kid!" Learn more here.
Ayurveda is the ancient Indian health science of "long life" perfected over centuries of research, not only to cure ailments but also as a system of imparting knowledge in leading a way of life that helps attain both physical and mental wellness holistically. Lalla has recently returned from Kerala in southwestern India, and is available for consultation in Montisi. She offers massage in her studio, in the shade of a tree, by the side of a swimming pool, or wherever you feel is right for you. She has a portable massage table so if you are staying at a farmhouse or villa she can arrange to travel to you, performing a maximum of 4 massages a day. Tel: +39-334-1829270 or .
How about a relaxing and regenerating Reiki treatment in a beautiful, vaulted stable overlooking the valley? Reiki Ryoho is a natural hands-on healing method which promotes holistic health and well-being by gently rebalancing the body's energy system. The Reiki energy, channeled by the practitioner's hands, has a beneficial effect on all levels - physical, emotional and mental - whilst favouring a state of deep relaxation. A treatment lasts approximately 45 minutes. Rachel Presswell (Reiki Master and EFT practitioner), or telephone her at +39 346 523-7690.
Held on the Sunday nearest the 5th of August (the feast day of the Madonna delle Nevi, patron saint of Montisi), the Giostra del Simone memorializes an important incident in Montisi's history with a jousting competition between the village's four Contrade. For a week preceding the event, exhibitions and demonstrations of local handicrafts and artisan work are held in the town. Local produce is on sale, plus street entertainments, competitions for five-a-side football teams, Contrada games, and food stalls. This is held every year on. Saturday night preceding the feast day is the occasion for closing the streets of the village as the four Contrade spill outdoors, hosting 200 diners each, for a 5 course Tuscan meal. The ladies of each contrada prepare classic dishes and dining is at very long tables, family style. Sunday's festivities begin at 5 pm with a medieval parade of the four contrade through the village, culminating at the jousting field at the end of the village. Four professional jousting jockeys on specially-trained horses compete for the honors of the victory. Contrada dinners, open to all, are held on Saturdays throughout August. For more information , click here.