I am back baby.
One of the biggest disappointments of last years travels was being sick while I was in Tuscany, I had 5 days and wasnt able to do much, this year however would be very different.
After having an amazing few days on the Cinque Terre it was time to get back to Tuscany, it is another one of the destinations that is just special without being able to explain why, ‘it just is ok’ :).
I was staying in an Agritourismo in Montevarchi, looking back it was probably 90km to far north of where most of my days were spent, but the upside was that it wasn’t crazy expensive for its standard, but the 2 hour travel time each day started to become a chore by the end, next time I will stay in the Val d’Orcia which is essentially the hub for photography in Tuscany.
My first day I spent going to as many of the spots I had researched, a bit of a reccon mission really, deduce which spots were good, and at what time of day I needed to be there.
I concentrated on the area around Siena, that first day was long and somewhat unsuccessful, none of the locations I had gone to were very good, my last hope was trying to find one of the famous farm houses which is used for soooo many iconic Tuscan sunrise photos, practically right on sunset I found it, and realised it was a sunrise location, that didn’t phase me as the day had finally yielded a result.
As always I try to find something different, I really hate shooting the same angle that is seen everywhere, for me that’s what makes a quality image of a popular location, so I moved from the ‘normal’ spot a little closer, well actually alot closer to the farm, little did I know what was about to happen, the sky literally exploded with bright shades of purple, unfortunately for my entire stay in Tuscany there was an annoying haze, well this haze was my savior, I don’t think I have ever seen colours like this and it was a different angle, perfect, an amazing end to the first day in Tuscany.
The next day I ventured further south, I found a large lake on Google Maps and headed straight for it, I found quite a few interesting locations but eventually decided on what I thought was the one.
I really thought this spot was going to give me something spectacular, in the end I wasn’t that happy with it as a photo location, but as a spot to just sit and relax in peace and quiet, it hit the spot. I did setup all 4 of my cameras though, now looking back it would have made for a spectacular drone shot :), I guess I will just have to go back then :).
The next day I decided to head towards some of the areas I visited last year, around Volpaia and the Chianti region.
I found an amazing stretch of road which I wanted to film, my Macguyver effort on the dash, go pro on the roof and microphone at the ready.
… and I went back.
I was in Tuscany during the summer months which means sunset is quite late around 1030pm, and sunrise is quite early, around 430am, by the time I got home each night, looked at my images, had a shower and got to sleep it was 1am, the thought of getting up an hour or so later for sunrise , well it only happened once, and I am glad I did.
I went back to where the first explosion happened and the famous farmhouse, and well it happened again this time at sunrise.
I spent the rest of the morning getting lost and seeing where roads took me, I also spent a few hours in Pienza enjoying a long relaxing lunch watching people go about their business.
Most of the iconic images of Tuscany have the beautiful Cypress Trees in them, they line driveways, surround farmhouses and add so much to pictures, and one of the famous images with these Cypress Trees is that of a winding road like perfect ‘Esses’ joined together.
Whilst driving around Pienza and Monticchiello I got a little lost, ended up at on a windy stretch of road up a steep hill where tourists were stopping to take photos, I couldnt quite understand why, it then hit me, had I found the famous stretch of road I had seen in so many magazines, books and websites? I found a dirt road that led up a hill directly opposite the said road, as I reached the very top and looked to my left I couldnt believe it, without even knowing it I found it, the famous winding road lined with Cypress Tree.
If the day couldnt get any better, as the sun began to drop it created a golden glow across the rolling hills of the Pienza region.
My final day in Tuscany, I had 4 hours of driving to get to the airport, the very next morning I was flying to Sardinia for the next round of the WRC.
The friendly owners of the hotel I stayed at gave me a few names of places i should visit on my way back to Rome, the first was the small town of Lorociuffena where a waterfall is located right in the middle of the town, very cool, very cool indeed.
The next few hours I spent looking for probably the most iconic shot of the region, Cypress trees lining a long dirt driveway leading to a farmhouse.
The region is known as the Crete Senesi, most of this area is covered with wheat fields, when the wind blows softly it is quite majestic and peaceful and reminded me of the famous scene from the movie Gladiator as he enters the afterlife, anyway, I spent quite a few hours trying to find it, then as if it were kismet in the distance I noticed a long winding row of Cypress tress that led up to a farmhouse, it couldn’t be it could it? I grabbed my GPS tried to work out how far away it was then plotted a path to try and get there, over the next hour or so I drove through peoples properties, over a small river and down dead end roads and finally I reached what looked like it could be it, but there was a gate and it was shut, it was in fact a hotel, then as if the Tuscan gods were rooting for me the gate swung open and a car exited, this was my chance, I took it and it was definitely it, the only problem now, the gate had shut, so I had a plan, it was a hotel so I am just a potential guest ;).
I arrived at what looked like the reception area to be greeted by a lady by the name of Maria, I explained that I was thinking of staying here with some friends next year and really wanted to look at the accommodation, lucky for me she was very friendly and showed me around, unfortunately she was just about to leave for the day so I thought that was all the time I had to take my photos, the next thing she said was, please take your time, have a look around the grounds, here is my number, please call me when you want to leave and I will open the gate for you, wow I don’t think I could have scripted it any better.
For the next hour or so I ‘shot the shit out of’ the place, I actually found the perfect spot off the property grounds and waited till sunset, I honestly don’t think I have experienced anything so peaceful and surreal, it was like I was in the movie, but what happened next made me stop and really take in the last bit of light over the magical scene, when I turned the car back on and the radio turned on, the famous track from the last scene in the movie came on, I kid you not the track ‘Now we are free‘ was on, without question the most surreal experience of my life, even more so than the sunset in Western Australia a few years ago.
Before I came to Tuscany last year I had 3 Images in my head, 3 locations I wanted to find, 1. The Farmhouse ✓, 2. The winding road lined with Cypress Tree ✓ and 3. The Scene from the movie Gladiator ✓, I honestly couldn’t believe it, it just reaffirmed how special this area is and how I want to come back again and again.
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