Italy's Great Hill Towns
Connoisseurs of Italy find that its quintessential charms survive in its classic hill towns. From San Gimignano's medieval towers, to Cortona's charming lanes, to Orvieto's papal intrigue, to Civita di Bagnoregio's cliff-hanging vistas...all sit on lofty stone perches that now protect them only from the modern world.
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Orvieto Classico white wine is justly famous. For a short tour of a local winery with Etruscan cellars, visit Tenuta Le Velette, where English-speaking Corrado and Cecilia (cheh-CHEEL-yah) Bottai will welcome you — if you've called ahead to set up an appointment (tel. 076-329-090, mobile 348-300-2002, fax 0763-29114).
Giovanni Adreani exudes energy and a love of his city and Tuscan high culture. He is great at bringing the fine points of the city to life and can take visitors around in his car for no extra price (tel. 0575-630-665, mobile 347-176-2830, firstname.lastname@example.org).
Abbey of Monte Olivedo Maggiore
Five miles south of Asciano, the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore houses a famous fresco cycle of the life of St. Benedict, painted by Renaissance masters Sodoma and Luca Signorelli (free, tel. 0577-707-611). Once you reach the town of San Giovanni d'Asso, it's only another 12 miles southwest to Montalcino.
For up-to-date specifics, see the latest edition of the Rick Steves' Snapshot: Hill Towns of Central Italy travel guide or the Rick Steves' Italy travel guide — or join us on one of our free-spirited Italy tours.