There, I got your attention. And yes, we kind of drove over a cliff. Details soon, but do you have that dream ever? That terrible frustration dream where you are in an out of control vehicle down an impossibly steep hill (the hill where your car has no power to back up) and headed over a cliff. I have that one every once in a while. It usually involves our long departed 1993 blue Buick, affectionately known as “the tub” by the children. In that dream, I press on the breaks to no avail and we plunge over a precipice. In the end, though, we somehow survive.
Montalcino is a charming little Etruscan era “hill town” on the “Via Francigena”, which is the ancient pilgrimage route from France to Rome. I don’t have a picture just yet. I think we are going back in that direction Saturday, so I will post one when I get it.
The drill to get to these little towns is wind-wind-wind your way up narrow paved roads to an ancient city center, usually with walls and a church and impossibly narrow streets. The ones I have visited come complete with 7-foot archways through which you must drive your 6-foot, 11-inch car. To win this game, you must be certain to drive out the way you came in – any detours lead to terror.
We were looking for the Abby of Sant Antimo and figured it might be nice to poke our head into Montalcino, but workers and detours at the town center threw us off our game. And yes, I found ourselves through an arch with no chance of backing up on an impossibly steep one-way hill headed down. The sign said “twenty percent grade”, and something in probably Etruscan like “Pack mules only”, but we were committed. So I was proud of myself – I didn’t totally freak out, probably because the rental car person said they made a mistake and included the high-dollar insurance package for free. The tiny little switch-back lane went on forever, but our little diesel 5-speed Fiat Qubo did great and we survived nicely and made it back to the highway unscathed.
I wish we would have had the presence of mind to take pictures, but we were just trying to live. So, dear traveler – here is the thing. If you plan on visiting Tuscany and driving, go very slowly and just expect this. Finding yourself in an impossible driving situation is GOING TO HAPPEN. You will be better for it …