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bucket list | ITALY

Italian Lessons Make Montepulciano your home base for a jaunt through Tuscany. BY KELLY MAGYARICS

ABBONDANZA!: (Left to right) Aperol spritz at Villa la Massa, Agriturismo Nobile exterior, pizza in Tuscany, grapes on the vine at Castillo Banfi, and Banfi Cellar PHOTOS: © KELLY MAGYARICS

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ALL FOODIES DREAM of a vacation in Tuscany — the challenge is figuring out just where to go. Stretching 8,900 square miles, the region is as vast as its wines and cuisine are irresistible, so you’ll want to narrow it down lest you spend all your time in the car navigating rather than lounging under the Tuscan sun sipping a dry red and nibbling on pecorino. First things first: If you really want to see the countryside, you’ll need to rent a car, which you can easily do in Florence. If you care to spend an evening or two adjacent to Tuscany’s capital in all her art-soaked and leather market splendor before venturing further out, consider booking a room at Villa la Massa. The 5-star property lies just close enough to make the city’s museums, restaurants and sights like Ponte Vecchio and Michelangelo’s David accessible yet removed enough to give you a taste of the bucolic lifestyle. Lush gardens surround the hotel, which overlooks the Arno River. Begin the day with a breakfast of charcuterie, cheese pastries, a mimosa and espresso on a patio table at its restaurant Verrocchio, while away a few hours in the pool with an Aperol spritz, and savor a nightcap of grappa or a Negroni at the cozy Medicean Bar. Continue on about an hour-and-a-half ’s drive to the town of Montepulciano, a medieval and Renaissance town in the province of Siena. You can’t miss it since the walled city sits higher than anything else in the

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area — an area renowned for its pork; cheese; lentils; pici (a hand-rolled wide pasta similar to spaghetti); and Vino Nobile, a Sangiovese-based wine that’s dry, grippy and age-worthy. The town itself isn’t navigable by car. (You’ll need to park outside the wall — if you can even find a spot.) But you won’t need to drive there at all if you check into Agriturismo Nobile. Located a stone’s throw from town (with a splendid view), this working farm and winery rents five bedrooms, five one- to three-bedroom apartments and a separate cottage dubbed La Casina. Apartment Stalla, especially inviting, boasts a large working kitchen with a communal hardwood table; all apartments feature local décor including brick archways, terra cotta-tiled floors and exposed stone walls. The pool beckons during hot summer afternoons, and owners offer niceties like a barbecue area, washing machine and drying racks, on-site restaurant and free shuttle service to and from town. Book a table in town on the terrace at sunset at Osteria del Borgo and settle in for a plate of pici topped with cinghiale (wild boar) or bistecca Fiorentina. It’s oh-so-fun to peruse the wine list and see so many bottles of red produced within just a few miles (don’t worry, it’s all but impossible to select a bad one), but it can be even more satisfying to order a liter carafe of the house red, sure to beat anything you can find back home. You’re

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August 2019 Global Traveler