Magical is not a word that I just toss around like a bone for our dog. In fact, I don’t like the word at all. It seems too girly and feminine and romantic for my tastes. Montemerano, however, is magical. In every sense of the word. The village is located at the top of a hill just 7km from Saturnia and its natural thermal hot springs, and is the best preserved Medieval village in Maremma. We explored the entire village, had an excellent pizza at the Bar Pizzeria dal Moro, and then went back for some moonlit pics of the main square before returning to Saturnia for the night. My words will never describe the rustic villas in tufo adorned with the lush foliage and flowers of the region, the cobblestone streets, or the beautiful silence of a square after dinner.
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137 Kms from Montemerano
If Rome can be described as the city of ancient wonders then Florence is certainly the city of medieval marvels. Known as the cradle of Renaissance, Florence is also the birthplace of the most famous Italian poet - Dante Alighieri and the city where Leonardo da Vinci underwent his apprenticeship. But what amazed me is how underrated Florence is as a tourist destination. Whereas Rome is a pretty hyped up city, Florence is more of a hidden gem. It does not get the same glory as Rome but is certainly no less glorious. To use a cricket analogy, if Rome can be called Sachin Tendulkar then Florence is definitely Rahul Dravid.We chose to begin our sightseeing in Florence with Palazzo Vecchio as it was open till 7 pm which gave us sufficient time to explore it. This medieval palace cum fortress, originally built to host the members of city council and later used as a residence by dukes of Florence, currently serves as the town hall and contains mayor's office and other municipal offices.
210 Kms from Montemerano
My last destination within Italy was Venice, and I wanted do a brief pit stop somewhere before getting there. So bidding Florence goodbye, I headed for Bologna. Bologna is quite close to Florence and is well connected by train. It was Christmas eve and I didn't have elaborate plans, and Bologna seemed perfect.I lazily walked down the streets and walked into the cathedrals before reaching the foot of the Two Towers - Asinelli and Garisenda. It was quite surprising to learn that the Tower of Asinelli was the tallest leaning tower in Italy, much taller than the tower of Pisa (97 meters as compared to 56 meters).
132 Kms from Montemerano
The homesickness eventually vanished as I travelled to the other cities. Florence was my next stop, which is a lovely town just four hours away from Rome by train. The hostel here was more like an inn that I booked through AirBNB. I made friends with guys from London and South Africa and am still in touch with them. It is amazing for slightly shy people like me that while travelling alone you are open to striking conversations and getting to know people, but when you have company, you are so comfortable with your companion that you don’t really want to make the extra effort of talking to strangers. Meeting new people transforms your worldview and makes you a totally different person. You no more want to dwell over the petty issues of life, which restricts you from doing so many wonderful things. Moving on, Florence was exceptionally beautiful and well-designed. I did not really spend any time standing in mind numbing queues to see any of the architectural marvels, but spent the days exploring the different parts of the city, climbing hills, and going to nearby villages. Florence falls in the Tuscan region, which is famous for its wineries. I would recommend to pre-book a tour to one of the wineries for a more authentic experience.
173 Kms from Montemerano
Pisa is 3 hours by train from Florence. After spending a lazy day roaming around the city centre of Florence, haggling with Bangladeshis at the flea market and killing time on the stairs of the Galileo Museum on our first day, we headed to Pisa the next day. Although there are a good number of trains that ply between Florence and Pisa, it's advisable to book the tickets at least a day in advance.