Montepulciano: A Medieval Wine Town in Tuscany

Montepulciano.

Prior to this trip to Tuscany, I had only ever associated it with the cheaper-end red wine found on the lower shelves in Tesco, one I long overlooked and definitely wasn’t giving the respect it is due.

Montepulciano is a quaint and lovely hilltop town located in southern Tuscany, in the verdant Siena province.

We were visiting the Tuscany and Umbria regions of Italy for five days and had driven down from Ravenna which took just over two hours.

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One Day in San Marino

San Marino, the 5th smallest country in the world, is located within the geography of northeast Italy, bordering the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Marche.

San Marino is just 10km away from the popular Italian tourist destination of Rimini. San Marino is not a member of the European Union.

It is officially known as a micro-state and is said to be the oldest republic in the world.

So why is it a country of its own if it is so small (with an area of only 61 km squared) and is surrounded by Italy?

The simple reason is that it wanted to be left alone to live in peace, away from wars and away from the conflicts and politics of other countries, hence it is known as Most Serene Republic of San Marino.

When the Italian states were going through the process of unification in the 19th century, Italy and San Marino signed a Convention of Friendship in 1862.

This remained peaceful until WW1 when Italy suspected San Marino of hiding Austria-Hungarian spies, resulting in Italy cutting off San Marino’s telephone lines.

Their flag is one of the nicest I’ve seen, with white, sky blue and their towers, with the motto in Latin as ‘Libertas’- freedom.

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The ‘Pearls of Slovenia’: Portorož and Piran

Portorož and Piran’s nickname, the ‘Pearls of Slovenia’ are not my words but how these coastal towns on the Adriatic coast, near the border of Italy (Trieste) have come to be known, and it is for good reason.

They literally shimmer under the sun owing to their position on the Istrian coast and warm-but-mild climate in a place that is immaculately clean yet rarer to tourists than Mediterranean favourites.

We drove there for four hours from Ravenna in Italy, but if travelling from the UK or another country, you could fly into Trieste and the drive from there is very short, roughly half an hour.

Another way to get there would be to fly into the capital city of Ljubljana and travel by car/coach for 1hr 30. Once you pass the Slovenian border, you see the Adriatic sea along the Istrian peninsula within a few minutes which is a hazy, brilliant blue and stretches out far and wide.

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Rimini & Ravenna on the North-East Coast of Italy

Rimini and Ravenna are located in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy, which is in the centre-north of the country. This is a region very much celebrated for its food (like all of the regions of Italy) such as Ragù sauce and Parmiggiano Reggiano cheese.

This was my third time in Ravenna but my first time in Rimini; a place I had long heard about but knew nothing about.

Rimini is a seaside town located on the north-east coast of Italy, on the Adriatic sea. Cross some miles of sea and you will reach Croatia, just to give you an idea of whereabouts it is located.

Rimini is usually most popular with Russian tourists, to the extent that some signs and menus come in Italian and Russian, however that is not the case at the moment due to Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.

My partner was presenting in Rimini at SciVac, the Italian committee for veterinary surgeons of small animals, and I was fortunate enough to be off work for the May half term to go with him. As he was giving two presentations, they paid for two nights for us in the Grand Hotel Rimini.

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From Austria with Love: Learning to Ski in Höchfugen!

This blog entry comes two months after the trip but testing positive for Covid the day after our return and feeling unwell for around four weeks then the everyday busyness of work and a trip to my old home city of Córdoba, Spain, have delayed this a bit!

I’m a secondary school teacher and was part of a team of 5 staff who took 50 of our students on a ski trip to Höchfugen in the Zillertal region of Tyrol in the Austrian Alps, for a week. We were supposed to go on this trip back in 2020 but for obvious reasons, it was postponed a couple of times until February half term, 2022.

We were originally meant to travel for 28 hours via coach and I was not exactly enthralled at this prospect and had started scouring online for a decent neck pillow, so when it was decided that we would fly into Salzburg instead, it was excellent news for all. It was still a full day of travelling, however, with an hour’s coach to Manchester airport, a few hours waiting, two hour flight, then 2 hours to Höchfugen.

We were tired and freezing when we all arrived into the dark, chilly, Austrian night around 10pm with snow quietly falling down all around.

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