We've been in Montefollonico nine days already, but have spent those days exploring nearby hilltop villages and the historical rival-cities of Firenze and Siena. As spectacular as those adventures were, I've craving a simple day around town: less driving and more hiking. When Erwin wasn't up yet by the time Frankie and I finished breakfast, we headed out on foot, planning to stop at the playground, then pop into the little grocery store on our way back to the apartment. A pair of adorable and super charming Italian boys were at the playground. The older brother kept trying to get Frankie to play with them, but my shy little guy was overwhelmed by the language barrier and the 7-year old's friendly exuberance, and kept running back to me. I chatted with the kids a bit, but when their Dad kept interceding to tell them to give Frankie some space, I decided we should clear out. The kids were so sweet, I didn't want to provide the attractive nuisance that would get them in trouble.
The tourist office is right across from the playground, and was quite clearly open, so I decided to pop in and ask if there were any local trail maps available. Jackpot! I got four little brochures with maps and trail information. Most of them weren't a good fit for Frankie, too long and hilly for little legs, but the Sentiero Rosso at Parco Il Tondo was enticing. Best of all, it was here in town; the map showed the hike starting right at the tourist office. Erwin showed up at the grocery store while we were re-stocking, and I shared our discoveries. We decided to drive after all, and park by the cemetery, to give us more options after the hike (and we ended up driving around to the base of the hill on the other side afterwards to check out the ruins of an old monastery). What a delight to stay close to home and explore our immediate surroundings!
Montefollonico is certainly worthy of the attention. It is a borgo medievale, perched on a hilltop between Val di Chiana and Val d’Orcia. Our rental apartment features a 12th century tower, topped by a terrace with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside. As ancient as that seems from our American perspective, it was great fun exploring Il Tondo with the knowledge that people had been wandering these hillsides for not just hundreds, but thousands of years -- quite literally. The area has been occupied since Neanderthals roamed the land, as evidenced by the Lithic tools/utensils dating back 60,000 years that have been found within the park. And the views are pretty amazing, too.
|monument at the intersection of Via del Cimitero and Via Fonte dei Bighi|
|checking out the signs at the trailhead along Via del Cimitero|
|Heading up the trail|
|cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)|
|we tucked Frankie's pants into his socks after I received several painful bites from some rather unwelcoming ants|
|star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum sp.)|
|talking about Lego spaceships|
|field scabious (Knautia arvensis)|
|valerian (Valeriana sp.)|
|teasel (Dipsacus sp.)|
|history of the park|
|the trail starts to open up... views ahead!|
|Frankie took pictures, too|
|It's hard to wrap your brain around such splendor.|
|we found a shady spot to rest and soak in the views|
|Montpellier maple (Acer monspessulanum)|
|fire lily (Lilium bulbiferum)|
|back in the woods|
|downy oak (Quercus pubescens)|