On a side trip from Montepulciano, we visited La Foce. This grand estate was originally an inn at the end of the 25th century for the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala.

It was intentionally built at the intersection of several roads where pilgrims and merchants traveled towards Rome.
In 1925, La Foce was bought by Antonio and Iris Origo, and the property was almost in ruins. They engaged an English architect, Cecil Pinsent to enlarge the house and farm, build amenities nearby and renew many of the farmhouses on the property. Iris Origa seems to be a very interesting and philanthropic person, who I am interested in learning more about. She insisted that the design of the house and the gardens encompass the design through the centuries as well as the breathtaking vistas surrounding the property.

Tours cost 10 euro and are held only on Wednesday afternoons 3 to 7 pm (March 25-Nov 1), and on the weekends for a few tours. You can get additional information here. The property is located at Chianciano Terme(Siena) and can only be reached by car. There is no bus or train service to the area. If you get a chance to visit, take it, it is incredibly beautiful!

The Spring vegetables are coming in, and boy are they delicious! I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, but this dish is easy and takes 10-15 minutes. I grill it on a stovetop grill, but you can do it on an outside one if you like. I purchased the tiny, tender sprigs of asparagus, so if you chose those, make sure they don’t fall through the grill!

Break off the stem end of the asparagus at the point where the stalk easily snaps when bent. Wash them, drizzle and coat with olive oil and lightly salt and pepper. Place on the grill for about 10 minutes, rotating slightly ever so often until tender. Grate fresh Parmigiano Reggiano and sprinkle over the top! Enjoy!

There are hundreds of travel books and catalogs and it can be overwhelming trying to choose one. I recommend the Eyewitness Travel Guides Top 10. These are small and compact and usually come with a map of the city. Eyewitness has larger guides as well with more detailed information. The photos in these guides are magnificent and high quality and they can be heavy to carry around. The top 10 guides for most cities will get you to the places you need to see, be comfortable for carrying around, provide enough information to get you started, and allow time for exploration on your own. If you like to get into all the historical details of a specific place, I would purchase the guide from that venue or museum as it will be more current and complete.

When using these guides, I would stay away from the restaurants and hotel recommendations. There are only a few recommended, and most people that buy travel guides go to these restaurants resulting in restaurants that were once great finds, turning into the typical “tourist” place. I think there are equal to or better places in any given city and more current resources on the internet for these things.