Friday, September 7, 2012

Our Day in Tuscany

Last night after a delicious dinner at La Botteghe di Donatello, followed by divine gelato at Le Botteghe di Leonardo (which I swear was mere coincidence), we got back to our room at almost midnight. Boy Wonder had a cup of gelato that tasted like cream with wine it. So excellent!
Obviously we slept like the dead only to get up six hours hours later and drag our butts to the train station for our tour.
You know you're on the right tour when your guide tells you that during lunch you'll be consuming great quantities of wine. And pasta. And cured meats. And cheese. And bruschetta. And this was before we even arrived in Siena! During the drive we also saw the American cemetery for our WWII soldiers who died here helping to liberate Italy from the fascists.
Siena is so neat. It reminds me a little of Edinburgh only because of the crush of tall narrow buildings and dark alleyways like the old "closes". The church of San Domenico houses the relic head of St. Catherine, who was from Siena. The cathedral of Siena is gorgeous! Moorish influences on the decoration brought by traders mixes with the colors of the city's crest. Four popes are buried here and if you're lucky enough to visit in September, as we did, they uncover the floor. Its completely decorated in richly done pictures all in marble. Various scenes from humanity's history and leading to the birth of Jesus, next to the altar.  18th century building creations are built next to 15th century banks that are still in business... as banks! The medieval Piazza del Campo, where the Palio horse race is still held annually for the last 600 years, is a sight to see. Its shaped like a clam shell and surrounded by 17th century buildings.
On to the argiturismo of Poggia Alloro, which is a winery that also produces olive oil. We had a wine tasting with a Tuscan lunch of rigatoni bolognese, meats, cheeses, salad and a dessert of cantuccini with vinsanto wine. The view from our lunch spot looked over the rolling hills of Tuscany, plot after plot of vineyards spreading for miles into the horizon.
You'd think we'd be too tired to walk after that but ten minutes later we hit the pavement in San Gimignano. Its a town of 14 soaring medieval towers and home to THE best gelato shop in the world. There's also a medieval torture museum but I'm bummed we didn't have time to see it. We tried the gelato (omg so good), took goofy pictures next to a fountain with the new friends we made from Australia and Mexico, and wandered the shops. Next stop:Pisa!
An hour and a half drive/nap later, we arrive at Pisa. We thought our guide was joking when she said we had to get on a train to get to the city center. Well it was: a la Disneyland train. Except it went out into traffic! And with Italian drivers, well, it was like taking our lives in our hands. Pisa was known even in medieval times as turning out experts in math and geometry, such as Galileo. Its also known for its leaning tower (and you know we had to take the cheesy pictures!) And pretty cathedral. I think I would like to stay here next time I come to Italy, whenever that may be. If you'd like to use the same tour, visit Walkabout Florence's website and when you book ask for Eliza. She's really nice!
Tomorrow we leave for the Eternal City:Rome!

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