Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Under the Tuscan Rain (Italy)

Well, we did make it to Tuscany eventaully, despite the GPS doing its best to send us around in circles, through construction sites, and off the freeway into the farmland below. The villa we were staying at (you can check it out at http://www.borgoilpoggiaccio.it) had a lovely restaurant - which was fortunate because the villa was in the middle of nowhere - so we decided to have dinner there to recover from the journey. Donato, the lovely Italian Maitre'D, looked after us like royalty, saying 'Don't worry, trust me!!'. He proceeded to bring us lovely bottle of Chianti wine (which we hoped was not the €280 bottle off the menu), lovely Tuscan cuisine, and lots of smiles and stories.

We had four days in Tuscany. Unlike Santorini, the weather was bleak and rainy pretty much the whole time, but like Santorini, we figured one activity a day was probably enough. There was a designer outlet mall only an hour away, so we spent an afternoon looking through discounted Gucci, Armani, La Perla, Marni and Burberry stores. Despite being prepared to walk away with armfuls of clothes and shoes, we didn't end up with anything! At least Karina still has her Gucci bag from Rome!

The next day we went on a winery tour through the Chianti region, visiting two wineries (one small family-owned, one large commercially owned) and a few small villages. Despite us only having 20 minutes in the last village, Karina managed to find an Italian shoe store, find a pair of shoes she loved, tried them on and buy them. Simon thinks it must have been a reaction to not buying anything the day before.

Not wanting to waste the brief period of good weather (and feeling the need to at least try and work off some of the food we'd been eating), we decided to go for a walk through the woods the next morning. We followed what was marked on the map as a "mule track" up past an old castle (in the process of becoming a hotel school), a pond full of frogs, and came to the top of a hill with a fantastic view of the country side. In the afternoon we headed to the village of San Gimignano, and looked around the galleries, shops and old buildings (and tracked down the award-winning, best gelati in San Gimignano).

On our last day, we checked out the town of Siena, which was bigger but not as enjoyable as San Gimignano. Apartly Siena is the safest city in Italy. Simon thinks this is because of the pigeons. What thief is going to stick his hands into your pockets after a pigeon has pooed into it (yes, this did really happen to Simon). Karina managed to leave her camera in an Internet cafe, but fortunately it was still there a few hours later when she realised. After all our adventures, we ran out of time to climb the Siena town hall tower, so instead we went back to our apartment and sat by our log fire all afternoon.

The Tuscan food was good, but Karina did inadvertantly manage to have spaghetti bolognase three times (apparently once with duck, once with beef and once with wild boar - but we couldn't tell the difference). On this trip, she has now eaten Bambi, Bugs Bunny, Donald Duck, and Pumba. The mysterious wine Donato served us on the first night was so good we decided to buy a dozen bottles. It cost us as much to ship home as the wine itself, but since the villa owns the entire 2003 vintage, and you can't get it anywhere else (and since it was the nicest red we'd ever drunk), we thought it was worth it.

Despite our concerns about how long the drive back to Florence would take us, and where the GPS would send us, we made it without any trouble, and with more then enough time to catch our train and head for Venice.

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