Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Italy Day 6 - 1st September 2009

As my diary, watch and television shows keep telling me it's the end of December and yet my senses here in Florida tell me otherwise, I thought I'd return to our Italian trip last summer for another post.

To be honest, I'd quite gone off the idea of blogging and was going to pack it in, for a while anyway. I guess the 'muse' had left me and being lazy by nature, I didn't feel like going off looking for it. I have about 200 tv shows to catch up on plus about 60 downloaded movies. Add to that, hundreds of photos and many hours of video footage to edit and you can see how writing a regular blog could easily become a chore.

But, if nothing else, I do want to document our Italian trip if only to have a place where I can return to remind myself what the hell we did there as my memories are already fading fast !

So last time, we left our intrepid explorers (including me) shacked up in the overpriced but quite beautiful Hotel Salivolpi on the steep road leading northwards out of Castellina in Chianti.

We drove down into the village and took the SS429 westwards as we were heading to San Gimignano which we had read was a not-to-be missed walled medieval hill town. To get there, we had to pass through the small town with the hilarious name of Poggibonsi. Well it became hilarious to us anyway and we were slightly disappointed to find that when we got there, there was nothing funny about it, apart from its name.

On the way we did pass lots of iconic Tuscan countryside and we had to stop frequently to get out and take photos. Here are a set of four images of the same two views.....far off shots taken with the Nikon compact and then switching to close up shots taken with the Canon SLR and 200m lens.

As I couldn't decided which pair I liked best for this post, I've put them both in.

Westwards ho and we finally approached San Gimignano, the town of a thousand towers. Ok the town of 14 towers then but come on, that's still a lot of towers to have survived centuries of wars and passing AC Milan supporters, somewhat lost on the way to Naples.

Despite dominating the surrounding vine filled Tuscan landscape, San Gimignano was a huge, if not towering (groan) disappointment. Yes it was a lovely drive up from the plains towards this walled town, but once inside and parked up, we soon realised that the magical memories we'd carried forward from Sienna the previous day had set the 'oooh factor' bar too high for San Gimignano to match. Yes it was quaint and had a lovely piazza complete with ye olde fountain but those towers....well they were just so......dull.

So wooohoo for there being 14 of them but I'd have been happier with just one or two decent ones that would've lived long in my memory (ha !). But the town did have the usual awesome narrow streets with all sorts of tourist tat for us to pick up, look at and then put down ! And did I say the piazza was pretty ? Well it was, fountain an 'all.

Speaking of tourist tat, I wasn't sure what to make of these offerings but in the end, my Euros remained firmly in my pocket, bum bag/fanny pack and false heel of my shoe. (This was Italy - I was taking no chances).

Leaving San Gimignano we needed to return to Castellina In Chanti to pick up the main road northwards to Florence and this meant passing through (hehe) Poggibonsi once again. Having stopped giggling like a bunch of schoolgirls peering into the boys changing rooms, we decided to stop in the town and go to our first Italian supermarket as we wanted some snack type food items. Sadly it was a boring Co-Op but it did have some 'different' offers on display.

I was fascinated by that last one as it was my first experience of mini octopussssses although it was sad that they were vacumed packed and frozen solid as I'd have enjoyed seeing them in a tank, like lobsters. Maybe a tank WITH lobsters ! What fun.

Anyway they were nasty looking critters and the label description of 'octopus vulgaris' was pretty accurate.

We ate at a small food area just beyond the tills and then headed off on a different route back to Castelina In Chanti. This route took us past some more stunning Tuscany countryside and by now we were all in love with the place.

Rejoining the main SR222, we headed a few miles north towards Florence and decided we needed an early night so when we came upon the 3 star Residenzia Del Sogno and the owner offered us an appartment, we took it. We unpacked and then went about 50 yds along the hotel path to a restaurant for a not very enjoyable but still quite expensive meal. I really donno how Italians can afford to eat out regularly !

Back at the hotel we discussed plans for the next day, when we were supposed to be visiting Florence. We'd walked a lot over the past 6 days and were really tired as, although we may not have travelled far distance wise, most of the walking had been up and down the very steep cobbled streets of these old towns. We fancied a break.

Actually we fancied the sea. So we had a talk and both Stephen and Daphne sat on me till it was all agreed...we'd not visit Florence but instead we'd head for the coast, to Viageggio in fact. To get over the disappointment of missing out on Florence, we decided to visit Pisa as it was on the way to Viareggio anyway.

And so we went to sleep that night, hoping that one wobbly leaning tower would be much more interesting than the 14 upright ones we'd seen earlier.

Oh and it SO was !


Daphne said...

Oh, it's so lovely to read this on a cold December night! Poor old San Gimignano - yes, not a patch on Siena and, as you say, the only interesting thing about the fourteen towers were that there were fourteen of them! But oh, how gorgeous is the Tuscan countryside? VERY gorgeous indeed. Great to have my many happy memories refreshed - - thank you!

rhymeswithplague said...

See, this is why I keep coming back to this blog. Absolutely fascinating narrative -- interspersed with humorous asides -- accompanied by riveting views of Tuscany. I have never even been to Italy and yet my many happy memories have been refreshed as well. Such is the power of excellent blogging. No wonder you are this year's recipient of Yorkshire Pudding's Susan Boyle Award for being the Top Transatlantic Jet Set Blogger. I bow before your superior writing abilities and your contributions to the coffers of the Nikon Corporation.

In a word, B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!!!

Jay said...

How dare you even think about Not Blogging? Are you mad? I shan't talk to you any more!!


And what's wrong with those towers, they look gorgeous to me! Fussy, fussy ...

The whole place looks lovely, actually. We MUST get over there next year.

Jennyta said...

Don't be daft! You couldn't possibly stoip blogging - especially now that you have an award from YP. You have to live up to that! Happy New Year to you.

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