Published: May 22nd 2008May 22nd 2008
Us in Volterra
Dennis & Steph in Volterra. Tuscany
Well, we seem to be the victims of climate change here in Tuscany. Apparently this is the wettest spring in memory. It has rained every day since we arrived - but there have also been moments (even hours on occasion) of sun. With the continuation of great coffee, the rolling hills of Tuscany, ancient villages, risotto funghi, etc etc etc one really can't complain about the weather.
We had the usual disasterous arrival.....got here at 3pm by train on Saturday, car rental place closed at 1pm for the remainder of the weekend. It continues to be the case that all things in life can be solved with money....so we spent a ridiculous 60 Euros ( you would think they would have a Euro symbol on this damn keyboard) to get to our castle. Yes, that's right, castle! We are staying in the beautiful castle of Montagnana about 25k out of Florence. This was always expected to be the piece de resistance for this trip and it hasn't let us down. The whole thing is spectacular...and we have a lovely apartment in the oldest part of the castle. We spend the days exploring Tuscany, but return to our castle every evening for a simple Italian meal and plenty of Chianti - la dolce vita!!
With the rental car it all turned out to be our fault....hadn't read our documents closely enough (not to mention hadn't remembered to reconfirm the day before) and we should have gone to another office. On Sunday we made arrangments to pick up the car from the Florence airport and another 75 Euros later all was solved.
I think I mentioned in an earlier entry that I expected to go into financial shock on arrival in Europe and I was right. It is amazing to think that a couple of weeks ago I would have baulked at the idea of spending $100 on a night's accomodation and now we seem to be dropping that sort of money every day for lunch. The only remedy is not to think about it until I get home!!
Despite the inclement weather we have had a marvellous time here in Tuscany. I actually prefer it to the Amalfi Coast - the pace is slower and whilst there are a million and one tourists there seem to be a million and one places for them to hide, so it doesn't feel spoiled.
A couple of very important things that we have learned here...which may be of value to those who plan a trip to Italy. First, coffee is about the quarter of the price if you are willing to drink at the bar instead of sitting down at the table. Second (this is Dennis' big lesson) it doesn't matter how loud you shout in English....when an Italian doesn't understand you, an Italian doesn't understand you. Third, all traffic rules are for reference only (the Italians share a remarkable amount in common with the Indians when it comes to driving).
The police are a very visible presence here. The thing that catches Dennis' eye is the attractive police women who seem to be at every second traffic circle. Most of the policemen seem to be carrying Uzi machine guns....but the police women all seem to have no gun but a great designer handbag. Go figure?!
We are currently sitting in the one an only internet cafe (also a bar - these Italians really know how to live) in the town of Volterra. One of our guide books identified this as his favourite Tuscan hill town and now that we are here we can understand why. It's off the beaten tourist track somewhat, so not many people....and it's just perfectly beautiful. On a hill, walled, very ancient (before the Romans) it's got everything. This includes, of course, great places to eat and we have just finished a sumptuous lunch with plenty of pasta, pizza, beer and wine. Sadly, today is NOT a gelatti day....but that just means we have something to look forward to tomorrow.
Speaking of tomorrow, it is our last full day in Tuscany and then it's off to Paris where we are meeting up with my sister Julie and her new(ish) love Chris. Paris in the spring time.....could this trip actually get better??
A special thanks to those who have emailed and provided comments - it's great to hear from everyone. As you can tell, I have given up altogether on loading pictures onto the blog, but I look forward to boring everyone to tears on my return with all my pics.