Yesterday, Gabriel from City Tours (www.caftours.com) picked us up at our hotel at 8:30 a.m. for our luxury minivan tour of Siena, Monteriggioni, San Gimignana, and Pisa. Already on the van was a family from Rochester, MN; a couple with three young-adult offspring. Their son is in college and the next oldest is a girl who’s looking at colleges this summer and is interested in Mercyhurst College in Erie. Small world.
I’ve added some photos to this post, but I can’t add captions with this mobile app, so I’ll add those later.
Our first stop was Siena, a medieval city with a beautiful cathedral and spacious Piazza del Campo, which is slanted and shell-shaped and where twice a year the “Palio” takes place. The Palio is a race between the wards of Siena, with ten horses and ten men who ride bare back. Although they put three layers of sand down on the stone surface, there are still a fair number of injuries, and many horses cross the finish line without riders. it was in Siena that we saw the Museum of Torture, which we were tempted to visit out of curiosity, but decided not to. We then saw the same museum in two other towns, so we’re convinced that it’s pretty gimmicky.
From Siena, we traveled the sunflower and vineyard-filled winding and hilly roads of the Chianti region and stopped in a 13th-century walled city called Monteriggioni, where every inch is a photo opportunity. We mused that we were actually viewing the architecture that so many restaurants and theme parks imitate in the US. As we rounded a corner, we observed a woman in a group who had fallen and skinned her knee. At the same point I almost slipped as well. The stone street had a bit of moisture on it, and it proves how slick and worn those surfaces are. There are some pretty steep lanes in the medieval cities, and I’d hate to have to get from one end to another in the rain.
The highlight of the day was the Tenuta Torciano Winery (www.torciano.com), which was founded in 1720, and is still owned by the same family that founded it. Three adult siblings, who now own the vineyard, conduct the instructional tasting and lunch. Carlo was the star and had some definite ideas about how one should taste wine. They were very generous with the number of wines they shared with us (10), and they also provided a delicious lunch, which included a salad with field greens, cheese, and some sort of large pieces of salami or something (no thank you to the salami). Now, maybe you have heard of this, but they actually served balsamic vineger in a spray bottle. Honestly, their balsamic vinegar is so good, you woudn’t have to put another thing on your salad. The salad was followed by Ribollita, which means re-boiled. It is Italian bread soup, where they take stale Italian bread and lots of vegetables and cook them all day. It looks like mush, but is so good. There are lots of recipes for it on the Internet, so I’ll definitely try to make it at home. Next, we were served lasagna, and that was so so. . . Dessert was biscotti and dessert wine. We dipped the biscotti in the wine for ten seconds. It was a nice way to enjoy biscotti.
After the winery, we traveled to another walled medieval town called San Gimignano, and we walked from end to end. At one point, we noticed a tunnel with a sign that said the restrooms were that way. Jim wanted to see what was in the tunnel, and I stayed behind. But soon, he was calling me to join him, because he had found the most wonderful breeze. As I mentioned in another post, it’s been extremely hot here, around 100 degrees. The tunnel opened up to another street, and we never did find the toilets that the sign referred to.
The final stop of the day was Pisa, and even though they say there’s not much to do there, I’m glad we went, because it’s really something to see that tower leaning so far over. We didn’t take pictures of ourselves holding the tower up or pushing it over. It was more fun to see all the other people and the creative ways they found to pose in front of the tower. It was also interesting to see how many people were lounging and posing on the grass, ignoring the sign that says to keep off it. Every once in a while, we’d hear the police whistle, and the people would move off the grass, but it didn’t take them long to get back on.
Twelve hours after we had been picked up from the hotel, Gabriel returned us safe and sound, along with some great directions for taking the scenic route through Chianti to our next destination. Our biggest challenge the next day would be getting out of Florence without running into a person on a bicycle, scooter, on foot, or in another car.
More tomorrow, I hope. But Internet connectivity continues to be a challenge, so I’ll be back as soon as I can!
Italy Blog Posts:
- We’re Off to Italy!
- Who Really Needs Luggage on a Transatlantic Adventure?
- Reunited, and it Feels so Good!
- The Vatican – Best Experienced by Adults!
- The Colosseum: Are You Afraid of Lions?
- Driving in Italy: Oh My!
- Florence/Firenze. Which is it?
- A Twelve-Hour Tuscany Tour
- Out of Florence and into Radda in Chianti
- Isle of Capri: Did I Ever tell You I’m Afraid of Heights?
- Relaxing Day on Capri
- Flat Tire! In Italy?
- A Walk through Troia and through Time
- Troia’s Procession for Patron Saints
- Relatives in Troia and a Tour of a Castle
- Another Festival Wraps Up Our Journey
- No Place Like Home
Suite 101 Articles:
- Preview Italy: Bare Facts
- Preview Italy: Avoid Accidents or Injury by Paying Attention
- Preview Italy: Keeping Children Safe During Visit
Ann Silverthorn (Twitter: @annsilverthorn) is a versatile blogger who also writes about a wide variety of topics in numerous genres, including technology, travel, creative, and grant writing.