Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Travel Stories Part 4: Tuscany / San Gimignano

Two nights in Riomaggiore come and go in a wink.  Before you know it we are back on Trenitalia heading to Florence (and so is the rest of the world).  In Canada there would be some sort of bylaw infraction for putting this many people all in a train at once - standing no less.  The two previous trains before this connection were pleasant enough but this hour long trip from Pisa is most uncomfortable.  The train was pretty much packed before we got on.  The doors opened and we jammed ourselves in (just barely) and that's as far as we got.  It was a long, hot hour but eventually we made it to Santa Maria Novella train station in Florence.  And I never thought I'd say this but Thank God for McDonald's.  You'd think that someone would think having a public washroom in a train station of this size would be a necessary amenity but apparently not.  There is a McDonald's there which saved the day though.

Necessities taken care of we found ourselves a taxi to take us to the airport where we had reserved a car for the next two weeks.  In the past we've flown in and out of Florence primarily due to its proximity to the countryside and to avoid the traffic of larger cities.  Not to say that Florence is without traffic - nothing could be further from the truth.  But at least the airport is on the outskirts of the city and theoretically easy to get on the the highway from.   The Avis office is right beside the terminal making it extremely convenient to drop of your vehicle and catch a flight.  Our cab driver makes his way through Florence in ways only known to him, including driving through the centre of a pedestrian piazza.  I really don't care how he gets us there just as long as I don't have to drive.  To say I am intimidated by driving here is a a gross understatement.  His route is circuitous and I feel a bit turned around when we arrive at Avis.  My mind is forging ahead on how to find our way to the route to San Gimignano and I barely perceive that the Avis office somehow looks different from our past visits.

A Fiat Cinque Cento is the perfect car for touring the back roads of the Tuscan countryside.  It is small, good on gas and maneuverable and I appreciate the four sturdy little tires that never let me down.   We found our way out of Florence with only minor confusion.  Admittedly the first ten minutes were somewhat frenetic because I'm used to driving in straight lines at home and I find the various turns and curves confusing as does my navigator.  But a basic sense of direction and a dose of common sense goes a long way here.

About ten minutes drive from San Gimignano is the Hotel Pescille.  The hotel is a renovated farm house which is situated in the middle of vineyards and olive orchards with views out to San Gimignano and the surrounding country.   One of the benefits of being a creature of comfort is that this is our third stay at this hotel and we are remembered and treated very kindly by the staff - all of whom have been employed here for a long time.  We are given the best room in the hotel and for in incredibly low price. The Tower Room has 360 degree views of San Gimingano and the countryside.  It would be hard to sleep in this room and not conjure up images of Rapunzel letting down her golden hair to a handsome prince down below.   This is the most romantic room we've ever slept in.

The train trip and subsequent car ride have taken it out of us for the day so we spend the afternoon relaxing at the pool and in the gardens.  It is incredibly peaceful here in this pastoral paradise.  The taste of chianti, the sound of the doves calling to each other, the gentle breeze on this sunny day, the wailing of ACDC being broadcast out the hotel window.  Apparently a bus load of Bulgarians have just checked in and are occupying the back end of the hotel.  One youngish guy was in party mode and must have thought his music would be appreciated by all so he set up his ghetto blaster in the window.  My sensibilities were not prepared for a shot of "TNT" but the guy in his hotel room was clearly having a blast - dancing, clapping and singing this song which I haven't heard since I graduated in 1983.  Luckily the party was short-lived and ACDC did not make any subsequent appearances.

After a good night's sleep we were entirely recuperated and made our way the short distance to San Gimignano.  This is a gorgeous town that is significant from many perspectives, historical, architectural, artistic.  I'd like to pretend to be all "high-browed" about our visit there but the truth is that we went for the gelato and the shopping.  In the main piazza which is supposed to be renowned for the antiquated  well - there is also a world champion "artigiano" gelato shop.  If you ever go there you'll know which one I mean because of the line-ups which start well before lunchtime.   After the gelato the shopping bug hit.  I didn't actually intend on buying hand made leather shoes for myself but they were far to beautiful to leave stranded in that shop!  We also stopped by our favourite grumpy jeweller (he's so crabby he's hilarious) Stefano Gigli.  If you ever go into his shop just remember one thing "DON'T TOUCH"!  And he means it.  A few years ago we bought matching rings for our family and one was lost so we replaced it this time.  We said they weren't going to shop on this trip.  Who's stupid idea was that?   Lets just say that by the time the trip was over there was a $60Euro charge for extra weight from the airline and a new duffle bag purchased in order to get the haul back.  Truly, I don't regret a thing.  We had a wonderful time, came home with a few lovely things for ourselves and found some unique gifts.  It was all worth it.

We spent the majority of our two days at the hotel enjoying the pool and the gardens.  We played endless games of cards al fresco.  One night we somehow found ourselves playing the old pen and paper game "hangman".  We were having such a great time laughing it up that we attracted the attention of a group of Brits nearby.  They got into the game and ended up solving Keith's riddle which coincidentally happened to be "Her Majesty the Bloody Queen".

The Tower Room

In the pool

Buono Notte

Buon Giorno

San Gimignano

Mei Scarpe
Keith told me near the end of our stay here that he originally had some misgivings about returning to the same hotel for the third time.  He wondered if it might feel a bit "warmed-over".  As it turned out it finding ourselves in familiar territory again was exactly the tonic we needed.  We slipped right into relaxation mode at the Hotel Pescille and enjoyed our time there thoroughly.  I'd go back again - but for longer.

1 comment:

  1. I'm now wiping the drool off of my keyboard, what a wonderful trip!!!