Published: May 4th 2009May 4th 2009
Arriving in Lucignano was a bit of a culture shock for all of us. Rome and Sorrento were loud and alive with constant activity and crowds, Lucignano was asleep by 9pm! (seriously, a walk around the circular road of the town confirmed this, not a single Lucignanian was sighted!). This was not entirely unwelcome as it forced us to slow down and catch our breath for a while. The language barrier however, became more obvious than ever. Not only was it nearly impossible to find someone who spoke even broken English but we noticed differences in the Italian language between north and south. A visit to the Pharmacia to buy antihistamines for Jess resulted in me making strange throat clearing noises and scratching at my eyes in an attempt to communicate the issue. After several minutes and many other hand gestures I was handed of box of something (all in Italian) and I left praying that I was not about to poison my daughter!
Our hosts were delightful, Luigi spoke some English but Antonella spoke none. This did not stop her from communicating continuously with us in Italian. I think she thought we would just eventually get it.....we didn't! I
asked for an iron and after 20 minutes of hand waving and gesturing we figured out that she was telling us that she would do all our ironing for us! Ken (our friendly Kiwi, later advised us that this was normal and that Antonella would be deeply offended if we did not allow her to not only iron but also wash our clothes!). We also arrived home the second day to a huge chocolate cake she had baked for us!
Our first day in Tuscany was a Sunday, so everything in Lucignano was closed. We decided to get in the car, turn on the SatNav and find the nearest town which happened to be Cortona. For most, images of Cortona are confined to multiple watchings of Under a Tuscan Sun. Those cynical among you may think that Hollywood worked its magic on this majestic hillside town. Not so. In fact the film cannot do justice to the one of the most visited villages in the Umbria region. Though the showers joined us again, nothing (not even 15km of winding mountain road) could stop Kerry from reaching one of her holy grails for our trip.
(something Tuscany seems to specialise in) were of course as spectacular as the food. On arrival the temperature had plummeted yet as if by magic, through the steady drizzle Cortona revealed to us another face of a very special town.
Best know for its narrow streets of terracotta roofed houses, as the site of the famous annual “Paolo” horse race around the Piazza IL Campos and more recently the opening scenes of James Bonds Quantum of Solace.
Its not until you see first hand the small cobblestoned race path in Piazza IL Campos that you appreciate the skill of the jockeys and sympathise with the poor horses. The square is a hive of activity ringed by many shops cafe's and restaurants where you can (as many do) sit and watch the world go by. A spot of shop wandering and a slower pace today, always popular with the girls. Rounded out the day with our own sit and watch session.
A walled city know for its fifteen Towers, San Gimignano is the cover girl of many an Italian travel brochure. On first look you could be forgiven for thinking it is some
type of medieval theme park put together by Warner Brothers. Yet tourist both international and local flock to San Gimignano every day. We climbed the largest of the towers with over two hundred and forty steps. After brief use of an oxygen bottle we were rewarded with vistas that stretched far enough to see the earth curve. Kerry made a smart choice and passed on the big climb choosing to enjoy a coffee and a large slice of sanity.
Gave the car a rest today. We drove to Arezzo and caught the train to Firenze (Florence). Once know as the “river of gold” because of all the trade that flowed into its many ports, the Arno River splits Florence in two. Crossable at many points, it's most famous is the Ponte Vecchio. A group of mostly high end jewelery stores propped up for over a century by what resembles a patchwork of two by fours. The crossing labours daily under the weight of not only its famous jewels but also the thousand of tourist and their expectations of a bargain.
The centre of Florence is marked by Piazza San Giovanni, home to the Duomo, the
Baptistry and some of the best shopping we have found to date. Florence is a city with soul. In much the same way that Rome grabbed us with raw sense of history, Florence is its classy rich cousin. Home to the statue of David in Piazza Del Signoria and often frequented by other great classical artists. It is the home of good food fine wine and great art. Florence changes you before you realise it. You cant put your finger in a moment or an experience but it seduces you quickly into slowing down to the pace of life. To illustrate how much, at 5pm after walking our feet off all day and not wanting to return to our country abode just yet, we went a bit mental. We decided not to ! An hour later we had found hotel at the foot of the Ponte Vecchio, drove an excellent last minute bargain on the price, found a great restaurant and stayed for the night. We had only the clothes on our backs, the money in our pocket plus a credit card (yeah baby!) We blew half a day the next day continuing what we had started the day before
and caught the afternoon train back to Arezzo fighting to keep our eyes open all the way. It was one of the most impromptu experiences you can imagine and one our fondest memories.
On Friday we hung out at Lucignano. As the weather was good we decided to climb the tower at IL Cassero gaining insight into it strategic positionn in the great war between Arezzo and Siena, how it was once occupied by the Nazis and howLuigi'ss great grandfather used its location to save the village from destruction during the war.
Kerry went located and appropriate alcohol source and went into serious training for our final car trip, Lucignano to Venice. 335Km 3.50mins.
There are more photos below