......and many undulations aka HILLS!
Last Saturday we said farewell to our agriturismo and set off for San Gimignano stopping on the way at a huge newly built factory outlet where we spent some time buying cheap light clothing and eating a cheap light lunch before driving to our destination.
Our apartments here are stunning, obviously very newly built, clean, decorated in the Tuscan style with lovely prints and interesting dried flower arrangements on the walls. The views and gardens are lovely and we're just ten minutes hilly walk away from the town. The town here is set high up on a hill enclosed in walls, somewhat touristy but very pretty with quaint little shops, restaurants, gelateria and lots of character. San Gimignano originally had 72 towers but there are only 14 remaining. The towers were built in the 12th and 13th century as symbols of social and economic power. From the the tops of the towers the enemy could be spotted approaching from far away.
Sunday 1 July
At 9am we went for our first run here allowing us a little time to recover from lots of vino the night before! Our run started on the downhill which of course mean returning uphill and those hills are tough!
We explored the town today and Mr B and I walked through the Civic Museum where there was some amazing artwork including frescoes of 'the wedding night' scenes then we went on up to the top of the Town Hall Tower up many many flights of concrete steps followed by wired see-through ones (didn't like those) and at the very top there was a very narrow steep flight of steps up into the open air. Here I stopped as vertigo took over and Mr B took the prerequisite photos for me. I was happier surrounded by walls and could admire the views through the safety of the glass!
Later we met up with the CJs and had a gelato from the gelateria purported to be the best in Italy. It was pretty damn good and may require more visits. In the evening we drove back up to town and ate at a recommended restaurant where we were seated by the window overlooking gorgeous views of the countryside. Ah me, I love Tuscany!
Monday 2 July
This morning we reverted to an 8am run and ran a few downhills and flattish country roads as well as incorporating uphills. It was a really enjoyable run.
Calories burned: 500
Later we drove to some nearby villages stopping first at Monteriggioni, a tiny medieval hamlet only two streets wide and entirely enclosed within medieval walls. We walked through the village and around the walls and had a coffee - it didn't take long! Then on to Chianti wine district, firstly stopping at Castellina, the most medieval of the Chianti towns. We had lunch here before driving on to Greve. Apart from wine shops galore and free samples of cheese and prosciutto, this town had a street of butchers' shops with amazing window displays. We browsed inside one with its 200 year old cutting table on the street and prosciutto hanging in the window. It was fascinating - very clean with fabulous cutting tools and benchtops and many samples to taste.
In the evening we dined at the CJ's next door for a home-prepared Italian meal - bruschetta, a lovely pasta dish and panacotta for dessert. Limoncello, Italian wine and chocolate Lindt balls completed a beaut meal with great company. Thursday night is our turn!
Tuesday 3 July
Mr B and Mr CJ drove into Maranello (approx 200km away) to visit the Ferrari Museum dropping CJ and I off in Florence on the way. Here we spent the day browsing through the market stalls and shops and soaking in the atmosphere. We had three good cappuccinos and a gelato in the course of the day. The markets were totally overwhelming - stalls and stalls of leather bags, belts, t-shirts and souvenirs. There were hundreds of tourists. We walked past the fancy shops in via Tornabuoni and looked at the statue of David, popped our heads into duomos and walked over the Ponto Vecchio several times ogling at the amazing jewellery. The street artists were painting stunning works of art on the pathways for all to enjoy and the black Africans selling fake bags, sunglasses and paintings were everywhere, just like in Rome, ready to pack up all their goods in a big hurry if the signal came through that the 'polizei' were nearby.
We had a big day and were pretty exhausted by the time the boys finally arrived to meet us at 7.30pm. We found a lovely little restaurant to eat (people were queuing as it was very very popular) and after a scrummy meal we walked around the piazza and over the Ponto Vecchio where we had already walked several times in daylight. In the evening it was quieter and buskers were playing on the bridge - very talented ones though. It was a lovely atmosphere and much more peaceful than during the hot, busy day. Our plan is to return to Florence with the boys on Friday.
Wednesday 4 July
This morning we drove to Sienna. It was market day and as we just really wanted to explore the town we pushed our way through the crowds and walked to the 'piazza del compo' where the horse race (the palio) was held a couple of days earlier. We watched a parade of the victorious team marching through the streets holding the flags with the 'oca' (goose) on them. The atmosphere was great.
Sienna had some lovely shops and streets and we headed for San Caterina's duomo. It was really interesting to read all about St Catherine (especially for CJ) and we headed for St Benedictine's church too where her thumb was on display and we read more about her there! The frescoes and gorgeous stain glass windows and ceilings are truly awe-inspiring.
My time on this net is running out so I will continue this when time permits. Tonight is our turn to cook so Mr B and I must head for the supermarket. On Saturday we leave San Gimignano. It is such a pretty town. We have run again today (Thursday) so I will update this from my entry on Sienna yesterday. Suffice to say we are making the most of every single moment!