DAY 4 of 5 – Italy
Case Nuove Farniole Bagno Vignoni Poggio Alle Mura – 120 km
Are you ready to go shopping crazy?
In Farniole, in the province of Arezzo, there’s a little village which has all the same features of a typical Tuscan town centre. It’s called Valdichiano Outlet Village.
With more than 140 big brand shops selling goods at incredible prices, this place can sate the thirst of any shopper.
Where do we start? Dilemma! There are so many brands here that deciding where to start without missing out on any of them is a tough one.
Like the best Tuscan town centres, there are streets going in every direction. We take one.
We go crazy for different coloured t-shirts in all kinds of styles. And they’re endless here, each nicer than the last.
Whenever we travel we need three things: lightweight, robust luggage; tracksuits; sweatshirts; and glasses. Here at Valdichiana Outlet Village we’re spoilt for choice. The prices? Incredible! Come here to do your shopping, along with over 4 million others who do so every year, and see for yourself.
If you like typically American clothing, make sure you take a look at Spitfire – it’s a wonderland.
Valdichiana Outlet Village is open seven days a week, it has a play area for children, including a fantastic merry-go-round in the centre of the main square (Piazza Maggiore), it has a beauty salon, a newsagent, and bars and restaurants where you can taste local delicacies.
Travelling around Tuscany by car enables you to stop anywhere you like. Given the beauty of certain areas, we stop many times to indulge in the lush fields, taking photos and being a momentary part of these wonderful landscapes.
As we make our way along the roads that criss-cross the hills and their beautiful shades of yellow, green and brown, we meet a group of youngsters who are savouring the flavour of the Tuscan landscape even more than us: on a Vespa. Long live Made in Italy!
We arrive at Bagno Vignoni, part of San Quirico d’Orcia, home to just 30 residents.
Bagno Vignoni is situated in the Val D’Orcia nature reserve, an area of incredible beauty and home to world-famous vineyards.
It’s also known worldwide for its Roman baths.
Bagno Vignoni is unique. Why? This tiny village sits around what is referred to as a “Square of Springs”. Not a paved square like those you find in all other villages, but a volcanic, thermal spring which rises from deep below the earth.
The result? A piazza which is completely covered in water, and around which the village has been built.
We sit on a wall to enjoy the view of the Square of Springs. Wow!
A short distance from the Square of Springs, perched on top of a hill and spreading down its steep side, lies the Park of Mills. A complex and fascinating example of water hydraulics, it’s a one of a kind.
The entire system was built on the side of a steep hill. The first two water mills, called Mulino di Sopra and Mulino Buca are underground. The other two, Mulino di Mezzo and Mulino da Piedi are partly above ground (the milling rooms) and partly underground (the wheels).
Water conduits are carved out of the rock, as are the accumulation tanks and access routes.
The mills were in working order until the mid-1950s.
The entire site has been restored and it is now possible to visit it via a steep pathway along the hillside.
The view is amazing. From here we can see other small villages built on the hills in front of us.
Descending along the back of the hill, we cross various rivulets of thermal waters which have carved their way through the rock, leaving limestone deposits as they go.
Here and there on the back of this hill, there are people sunbathing on small, naturally formed terraces.
We continue to pick our way across the rivulets; climbing up, climbing down, creating pathways through mastic bushes, when we suddenly spot a small waterfall hidden from view by plants.
We manage to get through the vegetation. Now what? We’re tempted to dive in, but we don’t have our swimming costumes. So… underwear should do, right?
And we’re under the waterfall! In this heat, it’s a Godsend.
Near the waterfall, we discover a natural pool where a group of adults and children are cooling down in the water.
We leave Bagno Vignoni for Castello Banfi, which lies 16 kilometres beyond Montalcino. It’s here that the famous Brunello di Montalcino wines are produced.
In the village around the castle, all the guesthouses are full. It doesn’t matter though, because in the midst of the vineyard, there’s an agriturismo. Part of the same property, we have this little jewel all to ourselves.
Kitchen, study, sitting room and loft bedroom.
We enjoy another sunset across the Tuscan hills from our garden, then we head for bed. Tomorrow we’re off to discover the world of Banfi: the castle, the village, the vineyards, the wine cellars, the wine shop, the museum of glass and bottles, the restaurant and the pub.