1 Randy and I woke up on Saturday morning to this view from our bedroom window, beckoning us to rise.
2 The morning was splendid in Umbria. The early morning light is just so amazing!
3 This is our host's living room in her wonderfully restored home in Umbria. The stunning vaulted brick ceiling is original to the villa. This area served as the attached barn where all the farm animals were kept.
4 The room had no fireplace and this one was designed by our host after finding this massive cornice in a stone salvage shop in Tavernelle. We asked her to take us there.
5 The name of the salvage/stone yard is Marmi Gobbini - Gobbini, the owner and Marmi, Italian for marble. As you can see, the inventory includes many fabulous objects.
6 This, for instance, is a traditional grinding stone for making olive oil. The olives are crushed into a mash by the upright wheels, which are turned by donkey power, as the attached donkey walks around and around.
7 These are similar planting troughs like the one I showed you in my first guest blog from Italy. That one, probably from India, was purchased here.
8 This is most likely the surround for an ancient water well.
9 Many sizes of water troughs
10 This is an ancient bathtub. I hope the stone was a bit more polished when it was in use many, many years ago.
11 The fascinating salvage yard is just one facet of the business. This is the very diverse stone yard, which provides stone surfaces from an amazing inventory of both old and new.
12 It was the weekend and the crew was off. On any given week day, this large stone saw is whirring away, cutting custom stone surfaces.
13 Another apparatus that smooths and polishes the cut stone
14 After the stone yard, we drove to the Medieval hilltop town called Panicale. Lake Trasimeno, in the distance, is where the Romans suffered one of their worst military defeats by Hannibal, of the Carthaginians, in 217 BC.
15 Panicale is a walled town and every building inside the walls of this tight-knit community is literally attached to every other building!
16 At the center of town is the beautiful Chiesa Collegiata di San Michel Arcangelo, or Church of St. Michael the Archangel.
17 While we were there, a funeral was taking place for one of the local town's people. The procession wandered down the steep hill to the cemetery. As expected, as the mood in town was very somber as the church bells tolled.
18 The facade of Chiesa Collegiata di San Michel Arcangelo
19 It was very dark inside the Duomo, but this photo turned out well despite the low light, revealing beautifully preserved paintings and frescoes.
20 One of the tiny markets in the village where the locals shop and get all the latest news and gossip - In addition to a few different grocery stores, there are hairdressers, flower shops, a pharmacy, restaurants, and cafés.
21 This arch was especially intriguing with it's incredible detail. It even has an air-shaft, allowing for sunlight. Notice the flower blooming in the window box overhead?
22 A very high arch between buildings with a connecting room at the top
23 There are many rooftop gardens - this one has plenty of culinary herbs growing.
24 I really liked all this greenery growing between the stones.
25 One must be in great shape to live in this village with it's many steep stairs and ramp ways.
26 The Medieval lookout tower beyond helped to warn of impending danger in ancient history.
27 Obviously, these buildings were constructed extremely well of bricks, stone, and mortar.
28 The views are spectacular.
29 Another great view across the terra-cotta tiled roofs and the valley below
30 After Panicale, we drove a distance to the famous wine region of Montepulciano. This Medieval and Renaissance hill town is another walled jewel, which overlooks Umbria and Tuscany.
31 Montepulciano, has an elevation of 605m, or about 2,000ft. The narrow streets are lined with many shops and eateries. Wine connoisseurs consider Montepulciano's Vino Nobile among Italy's best.
32 I was immediately drawn to this charming little shop, redolent of the elegant aroma of tartufo, or fresh truffles.
33 Staircases lead to even greater heights.
34 Narrow streets require narrow trucks, like this delivery truck on its morning runs to the local restaurants.
35 Beyond narrow
36 There is great pride in how one's home looks, even on the top floor.
37 Looking up at this building, notice the gorgeous wavy old glass window panes? Again, there is so much history everywhere!
38 Thinking of getting rid of your old shoes? Think again!
39 After a pizza and a glass of Vino Nobile, our next destination was the Tuscan hilltop town of Montalcino, also world-famous for its wine, in particular, Brunello, and also for its fine honey.
40 Like many Medieval towns of the area, there were long periods of peace and prosperity. However, it was important to be prepared for the interruptions of battle. This is the Fortezza, a 14th century fortress with impressive ramparts.
41 A fabulous selection of wines may be sampled inside the Fortezza in the Enoteca.
42 The shelves of the enoteca are lined with an amazing selection.
43 At the tasting bar, we ordered a taste of Brunello and Sassicaia. Both were outstanding and we bought three bottles of the Brunello.
44 Sassicaia with its distinctive 'star' label
45 Two great Brunello labels
46 The first walls of this fabulous Medieval town were built in the 13th century.
47 This is the Piazza del Popolo.
48 The most important monument of Montalcino is the 13th century Palazzo Comunale, or Palazzo dei Priori, whose tall and scenic brick and stone clock tower dominates the picturesque Piazza del Popolo.
49 A band was warming up on a terrace rooftop for the evening's entertainment.
50 The band
51 This vacationing couple was out for their Montalcino jog.
52 The paint colors throughout the area are superb.
53 One of several enotecas
54 Two local ladies, perhaps sisters, strolling through the piazza
55 Caffé Fiaschetteria Italiana in the Piazza was founded by Ferruccio Biondi Santi, the inventor of the Brunello wine. The first great vintage of Brunello was the legendary 1888.
56 Beautiful and colorful detail on this building
57 A closer look
58 A study in roof tiles and the fields beyond
59 A view from Montalcino as we were leaving
60 Vibrant Tuscan colors
61 An estate in the distance with tall, narrow cypress trees and bushy pignoli, or pine nut trees.