Under the Tuscan sun (what else would I say?)
29.05.2011 - 29.05.2011 26 °C
The temperature today was much more bearable, around 26 I think, and bright sunshine again. It’s soooo nice to have a light breeze and not be melting from the heat.
Schlepped my bags to the bus station, about 15 mins from the hotel, and took the bus to the airport for 5 euros. Much better than 23 euros for a taxi.
I think I got the same car as last time – a black B Class Mercedes. Perhaps they kept it just for me. Yet another model of GPS to learn, so I changed the voice to “Tim” instead of “Jane”. He sounds like Jeeves, much better than the poncy chick anyway, and I’m sure he won’t mean me any harm. Everything went swimmingly & it’s strange how close the Tuscan countryside is to Florence. It’s instantly recognisable having seen so many scenic Tuscan shots in movies and in books, almost like I've been here before and I was able to get a nice shot or two on the way.
I got to San Gimignano too early to check in so went into the village, which is really lovely. Yes, it’s another walled medieval village – they don’t just do them in France. The Italians do it more colourfully too, instead of boring grey stone blocks, theirs are different shades from cream to peach to tan to different shades of brown, with a little grey thrown in. San Gimignano is a tourist spot because, of its original 72 towers, 14 have survived, unlike many cities and towns in Italy which have had theirs destroyed through war over the ages. Tourists can’t take cars in, but there are tons of (paid) parking areas that you can walk from. Although the parking areas were really full, there didn’t seem that many people in the town. It has a nice, airy feeling, you don’t feel hemmed in because the main streets are quite wide and there are a lot of flowers in window boxes.
View from inside San Gimignano to the countryside
Inside the walls of San Gimignano
Because of the angle you drive up to it from Florence, you don’t really see it from a distance, so the first view of the towers I had was when I walked inside. In a way, it almost looks like high rise buildings at first. There’s such a contrast between the beautiful curved arches and the square sharp lines of the towers, it’s almost hard to believe they were constructed together.
I got a little arty-farty with the photos, because of the interesting angles.
I followed the main street uphill, checking out a couple of shops on the way. At the top is a piazza, with eateries and other shops.
There’s a gelateria that won the best gelato in Italy a couple of years running, and they have 40 different flavours! I had 3 in a tub – mint (delicious & creamy), pink grapefruit & sparkling wine (quite nice, with a little bit of a bite to it), and blackberry & lavender (not bad, but not very lavender-y or blackberry enough). I wasn’t keen to try the gorgonzola and walnut flavour though – there’s something not right about a savoury ice cream, especially one that’s bound to taste like vomit, though you blue cheese freaks would probably love it!
On the way back to the car, I stopped in at the Archeological Museum that has some Etruscan artefacts, but frankly I wouldn’t waste my time again. There’s not a lot there, but it was really cheap to get in so I guess you get what you pay for.
Headed off to my accommodation – a fattoria, or farmstay-agritourism place – about 5 km out of town. The road it’s on isn’t an official road so it’s not in the GPS, so I gave Tim a break once he got me to San Donato, the area it’s nearest on the map, and followed the instructions from the website. It’s about 1.5km down a narrow gravel road (just for a second I thought I was in another GPS nightmare!), that ends in a lovely peach coloured building in typical Tuscan countryside. You can see the views from my room in the photos. My room is fairly spartan, to say the least, a bit smaller than my Venice room, but here it doesn’t seem to matter so much because it’s a farm.
View from my door
There’s a pool, which the pretty, slim young things also staying here were using this afternoon – bikinis, long tanned legs without cellulite & flat bellies, and even though I’d fit right in (yeah, right – there’s a Tui billboard if ever there was one!), I just laxed out under a pergola on a lounger & read my book. It was lovely & peaceful after the hustle & bustle of Florence – a great way to unwind. This place also does all meals if you want to pay for lunch & dinner (breakfast is included). While I was waiting for dinnertime, I was enjoying the view & there were dozens of little black birds (like swallows, but with different tails) zooming around, doing barrel rolls, feeding on the insects that come out in the early evening.
Dinner tonight was really nice – pork hock & veges, with panna cotta & berry coulis for dessert. There was also a pasta course, but I never would have eaten everything so I didn’t have that. There are probably about 35 people staying here – at least that’s how many had dinner, so it’s pretty popular, and most are Italian. I sat with a young Swedish couple whose English was perfect, so at least I had someone to talk to. Was a bit sick of eating on my own (table for one, per favore – just one? – si, grazie).
Tomorrow morning, I think I’ll just pick a point on the map that feels right and aim the car in that general direction & just drive to see where I end up. I may even be intrepid enough to only turn Tim (the GPS) on (so to speak) when it’s time to come back.