Italy - Assisi, Cortona & San Gimignano

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Europe » Italy » Umbria » Assisi
May 22nd 2007
Published: October 22nd 2007EDIT THIS ENTRY

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Italy- Assisi, Cortona, San Gimingnano

Soccer Crazy KidsSoccer Crazy KidsSoccer Crazy Kids

Also staying at this hostel were a group of kids who were in a world school in Rome. These are kids from all over the world that are studying in Rome. This was their reaction when a goal was scored.
I got up around 7 and decided I better do laundry as I was out of clean clothes unless I wanted to wear my long underwear and sweatshirt. Considering it has been in the 80's, I did not really want to sport that attire. Of course nothing comes easy. I had no change for the laundry machine and ask the front desk for change and they said they had none. I said what? I had already on a couple occasions complained to this hostel and I did not want to press my luck and come across as a complainer. The first complaint however had to do with not being able to shut the door to the room, which is not exactly knit picking in my mind.

They suggested I walk down to the cafeteria and ask them for change. I went to the cafeteria and no dice there either or change for that matter. I then went back upstairs and ask for their recommendation on where to go. They then said sorry, we do have change. I paid 6 euros for the necessary tokens to run the washing and drying machine. The washer was actually very big and I
San Gimignano TowersSan Gimignano TowersSan Gimignano Towers

The uniqness of this town is becuase of all the towers. Most towns do not have as many remaining standing as San Gimignano.
was able to wash all my laundry in one load. During the washing time I did the daily chore of typing. At times all this writing is a little like work, but I think it does serve the good purpose of keeping my mind going. If I just sat around, slept, walked around, and took pictures I think this trip might be less productive fore me. The typing I believe is a positive and will be something great for me to read someday after this fun is over. Although that is going to be a long day as I have typed a lot. It will be neat to read again some day and will be interesting to see how my life resumes after this trip. Will I find a job right away? Will I be bored with the mundaness of routine? That page has not been written yet!

I was waiting for the breakfast line to decrease, but they were serving a boat load of people again today. I was trying to time the eating during the wash cycle as the drying cycle was going to require a little more attention as some of the stuff like the nylon
My GearMy GearMy Gear

Most people were surprised this is all the gear I had. You can really get by with very littlle gear and it makes the trip much more enjoyable if your not lugging a lot of gear around.
pants and the shirts will have to come out after only a few minutes, whereas the towel and cotton fabrics will need additional drying. I put the clothes in the dryer and went back and got in the breakfast line. The line had subsided now and it was a short wait before the food was on my tray. After a few minutes a couple French kids came over to my table to say hi. They were the ones I had met the second day I was here. They were very nice kids and I enjoyed talking to them.

After scarfing down the meal I went back and took some of the clothes out. The clothes were so hot I could barely hold them but were not yet dry. It was like there was a pipe directly to Hell pumping in that air. I shut the door and the dryer would not start again. According to my clock it had been 40 minutes so I thought maybe the time was up. I then wondered about the coincidence of me opening the door and the dryer shutting off. I tried several more minutes, but the dryer would not restart. I went
Monastery HostelMonastery HostelMonastery Hostel

This is the Hostel where I stayed in Cortona. It used to be a monastery.
ahead and got another coin and it started fine. I got the clothes out and took them upstairs to stow in my backpack.

It seemed like the morning was flying by and I found myself being rushed a little. I got packed and headed out the door leaving a “arrividerchi” meaning goodbye in my wake. Near the hostel exit I met a lady who was loaded down with gear. She had a big backpack on her back and a small day sack in front of her. She seemed to be holding her own however. I asked her if she was heading to the Train Station and she said she was. That question was almost rhetorical by the looks of her. You had to first take the bus which took you to the train station. I ask her where you get bus tickets and she said you don't need one. I said ok and followed. Your supposed to have one, but since they do not check, you can normally get by without them. I have read about nightmares however when people did not get tickets and got checked. We got on the bus and were on our way to a

Sit in these hill towns of Italy with a glass of wine and let the blood pressure plummet.
metro stop. I ask her the standard questions where you from, how long are you traveling for, where have you been and where are you headed? She said from Argentina, Buenos Areas in particular and is travelling for 4 months and is on her way to Sicily. I forgot where she had been or all the places she still has to go to. Like me she quit her job which was in advertising to travel. She did say it was hard for her to travel as it is so expensive. I felt a little sorry for her, like I did the two other Argentina women. They are hard working people who just live somewhere where they do not make a lot of money.

At the metro stop I made the comment that you are definitely going to have to get a ticket here as you have to go through the turnstiles. She said no we can go around if there is no attendant. Her English is not great, but it is not bad either. When we got there sure enough you could go around and we did just that. I was amused a little at her confidence in breaking
Basilica of St. Francis of AssisiBasilica of St. Francis of AssisiBasilica of St. Francis of Assisi

View from the castle in Assisi looking over the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi.
the rules. She just seemed to be extremely street savvy in a community she has only been in for a few days. I told her I wasn't sure where in Argentina I would be going but, she gave me her email address in case I was in Buenos Ares. At the train station I followed her for awhile, assuming she would be extremely astute at the train station as well. I know the exchange rate is like 4 to 1 for her and offered to buy her lunch thinking that was the least I could do. She said her train leaves it 11:16 and didn't have time. I looked at my watch and it was like 11:10. I was thinking holy crap I can not believe this lady is not running and is staying so calm while talking to me. I told her she better get going and that I did not want to be responsible for her being late so I said I will see you later and headed in another direction. I perused a little and then walked up a flight of steps to the train platforms. Someone tapped me on the back and I kind of jumped away a little startled and looked back and it was Paivi again the lady I was just talking to. She must have gotten turned around a little. She continued on and could not have gotten to her train more than a minute before it's departure. I was amused by her antics.

I went to the ticket counter and told them I wanted a ticket to Assisi and I have a Eurail Pass. They said just hop on the train and that it left in about 30 minutes. I went across the street and grabbed some McDonalds. I know I am in Italy eating McDonalds? I just can not eat pasta everyday. I bet the Romans even occasionally would forgo pasta for McDonalds. I again had a happy meal and gave the toy away. The young kids I gave it to seemed to be having a blast with the toy. I again wondered why I gave the toy away as I could be having that much fun. That's it the next happy meal toy I keep!

The train ride to Assisi was pretty uneventful although it was very hot. The people on the trains had all the windows down. It's quite amazing how hot it has been in Italy in the month of May. I cannot imagine what it is going to be like once Summer gets here.

At Assisi's train station I got on a bus that takes you to the hill town of Assisi. I walked around Assisi for awhile and went to St. Francis's Basilica. The church was not as big as what I had seen in Rome, but it still was big. Knowing St. Francis and his life of preaching modesty and less materialism in the church, I did not expect it to be huge. I was surprised there was a lower level to the church, where the original church use to be and still is for that matter. That also is where St. Francis lies in rest. There are four other people buried there as well. The story goes that St. Francis was told by God that his church is in ruins and asked him to fix it. From what I understand he pledged a life of faith against his families wishes and/or their religious beliefs. He was a great man and one that I have the highest admiration for. Getting back to

You see lots of Monks in Assisi. Of all the saints St. Francis is the one I like the most. I wonder if I could enroll in monk school? I suspect however my ACT score is not high enough.
the nuts and bolts of things and living the Golden Rule. He is a rock star in my mind. I had always heard his name mentioned in church readings and really new very little about him. I am definitely glad I decided to make the stop in Assisi.

From there I walked to the Hostel, which is in the country below Assisi. I stopped at a bed and breakfast and ask them the cost and they said 75 euros, but they are full now. I wasn't planning to stay there anyway, but was curious. I made it to the hostel and was impressed how nice it is. Everything was immaculate. I got to my room and I was the only one in the 6 bed room. The restrooms too were amazing. I decided to lay down for a few minutes to kind of recharge not to sleep, but to just close the eyes for a bit. Then all of the sudden I heard a van pull up and I looked outside and saw to my horror, a van full of teenage kids. I thought damn, I knew this was too good to be true. I continued laying down and then all of the sudden I heard somebody trying to open the bed to the room I was in. I had the only key so I knew they couldn't get in. I decided to get up and open the door, but by then they were gone. I had dodged that attack at least for now.

By then they were getting wound up and were running everywhere. This house, that was so peaceful minutes earlier is now a zoo. I decided to get up and go outside and type at a picnic table. It is a beautiful place here with the large beautiful valleys in the distance. I thought how reflective this place in and how the blood pressure just seems to plummet. I was having a moment. This is great, relaxing in the country side. I typed for about an hour and then decided to see where these clowns were from. They were speaking German. I ask them if they were from Germany and they said no Switzerland. The chaperone introduced himself, and the 5 boys that were sitting around him followed suit. I couldn't recite any of the kids names now a day later but the chaperone’s name
Assisi's CastleAssisi's CastleAssisi's Castle

A view of the castle overlooking Assisi.
was Tony.

Around 7:30 I went in for dinner prepared by the hostel. The food was very good. I was a little disappointed by the fried potato cakes, but the pasta and chicken was really good. The chicken I think was prepared with oil, garlic and I guess parsley. Anyway when I get home I am going to cook with more oil and garlic. I think the same marinade was on the pasta as well, which was fabulous. The people I was sitting with seemed to be very nice. The wife of the pastor, yes the one guy was a pastor, said they had done charity work in New Guinea. There son and his wife were with them as well. Not sure how it came up, but I learned that they are supporters of George Bush. That follows suit with my theory that the really religious people, along with the gun people and rich people got him elected. The pastors wife was the most outspoken. I was ready to move in a different direction with the topic of conversation, but she kept talking about it. She told me how she feels George had good intentions for going into Iraq to help those repressed people. I told them I think he may have had good intentions, but all the reasons he gave us for going to war in his address to the nation turned out to not be true and then he had no plan for what to do after the initial attack. I didn't know it at the time, as I am not a military guy, but we went in and removed the stability of that country who was Saddam Hussein and George thought Iraq would welcome us with open arms. He then goes on the aircraft carrier and tells us mission accomplished. The son said the media blew that out of proportion, which is a common thing Bush supporters do is blame everything on the media. They then said it was the Navy who said to put up the Mission Accomplished banner. I was thinking you do not think Bush had any review over what is shown on National TV. The whole thing was a big public relations deal flying in on a fighter jet. I remember a guy at work who pretty much only worries about his money, telling me how cool that was. I finally said if there was not oil in that region of the world, we would not care what happened to the Iraqi people. You could tell they were in disbelief of that comment. I said to the pastor’s wife that people are being slaughtered all the time in Africa and we don't hurry over there with humanitarian and military efforts. I told her to watch Hotel Rwanda sometime. That is how the righteous US reacts to Countries that do not have stuff we want like oil. Anyway I think all parties involved had enough political talk and we decided to change topics. Some religious people really scare me. They are so blinded by it, that they do not see the big picture. One extremely religious person that I met on this trip that was traveling with a church group doing good deads for the poor ask me where I was staying during my travels. I told him primarily in Hostels. He said his daughter traveled in Hostels in Europe and told me with certainty that all they do in those Hostels are get drunk and have sex. I was thinking buddy you need to be a little more open minded than that.
Assisi WineAssisi WineAssisi Wine

While in Assisi you have to drink the town's wine.
Another person in the same group said there was no such thing as evolution. We are today like God created us 1,000's of years ago. I believe in the combination of both. I agree with these religious zealots on somethings. Homosexuality does not make a lot of since to me as it would result in the extinction of man kind. How can that be right in the scheme of things. I do believe however some homosexual parents are better parents than a lot of bisexual parents. I also believe in a higher power. If there wasn't a higher power really what is the point of it all. It just makes the most since to me. I believe too to that the bible is a great way to live your life. If you live the way of the bible, there will be less pain and suffering in your life. I over generalize I know but I still say just live the Golden Rule! But then again who am I. Pretty much a nobody with a few opinions and of course with those opinions comes a butt hole as the saying loosely goes.

We did have some great Assisi Rosso wine.
Olive TreesOlive TreesOlive Trees

You see olive trees all over Italy. I do not like olives in the states, but for whatever reason I really liked those in Italy.
It was only 6.00 euros a bottle. It is amazing how cheap the wine is over here. They actually had some wine that was only 4.00 euros a bottle. Soda however is quite expensive. I often pay over 1 euro for a can of soda.

Even though we talked politics it really didn't damper the evening much, but it probably did a little. They are the first people in Europe that I have encountered that actually said they like Bush. All Europeans despise the guy and most Americans that come over do as well. I think you have to have a little bit of a worldly view to travel in Europe and those types of people generally carry the same opinion as I do, that Bush is bad for the world. It was nice however that even though we did not agree, we did not get overly upset about it. Often politics is so passionate that people let disagreements go right to their heart and take it so personally. I just like discussing them, but have learned that who knows my views might be wrong. They sure don't feel wrong in my heart, but I might be wrong. I
Extending the Olive BranchExtending the Olive BranchExtending the Olive Branch

This is me extending an olive branch to the wife of the hostel owner. She is avery nice lady and said on Palm Sunday they actually get olive branches instead of palms. Interesting.
try to keep things simple in my views. I like things that help the poor and suffering. I think the rich are plenty capable of taking care of their self. I am for the environment and believe people will destroy the environment to make money and destroy friendships as well to make money. I believe money is the root of almost all evils. The bible even says it is hardest to get into heaven if your wealthy. It seems ironic that the Vatican is so wealthy. This is what my rock star St. Francis of Assisi said and I am paraphrasing a little, "Mr. Pope our big churches, nice chariots and our art work are getting a little crazy. I am going out to tell my peeps that this kind of materialism, that we ourselves have, is not right!" St. Francis the Brown Caped Rocker! That’s got a nice ring to it doesn’t it. Wasn’t his band called The Monks!

After the meal I got ready for bed and did some typing down stairs in the cafeteria, where we had had supper. As I type I save the document about every 20 minutes. I have had problems if I
Amber Waves of GrainAmber Waves of GrainAmber Waves of Grain

Looking over the wheat to Assisi on the Hill.
wait and save it after long periods of time. This time however, for whatever reason, the document was not saving right and the icon that indicates it is being saved stayed active and would not say it was saved. Anyway after letting it do this for a couple minutes. I turned the PDA off just hoping everything I had just typed would not be lost. After turning the PDA off I could not get it to come back on. Some of the problem may have been that I had the device plugged in and charging while I used it. The voltage is higher over here and maybe that caused the problems. Anyway the result was, I was done typing. I went back to the room and said hi to my roomy. He was a guy from Chile. He is an orthodontist there and was traveling with his wife and daughter. He seemed very nice. I laid in bed wondering what was going on with my PDA, but not worried about it. This is something that would have really stressed me out in the past. As much as I would have hated to lose that information, life would have went on.
Leaving AssisiLeaving AssisiLeaving Assisi

If you see this sign it means you have just left Assisi and are now sad.
I heard a saying once it stated that if something does not affect your health, or your families and friends health, then don't worry about it. You can always make more money and replace material possessions. Anyway it was kind of nice having a crisis like I was having and thinking you know it is not a big deal.

As I began to get comfortable I heard the Swiss kids getting loud in the hallway. It was after 11:00 and really thought they could respect the fact that a lot of people were trying to get some sleep in this building. Normally I just say well that is Hostel living, but this time for some reason I decided to say something. I didn't put my glasses on, but opened the door and told the kid in the hallway that a lot of people in this building are trying to sleep and you need to keep it down a little. I didn't have my glasses on to see his facial expression, which tells a lot about a person, but I heard him faintly say ok. As I got back in bed I wondered what would happen? Would they get louder?
Monk BurgalerMonk BurgalerMonk Burgaler

In this McDonalds in the town below Assisi they had this picture on the wall. Seemed funny to me to see the monk and nuns in the mix.
Would they kill me in my sleep? I had no idea. A few minutes later a kid came running up the steps making a lot of noise and I believe went in to the room with the kids that were originally making the noise. I didn't here a peep from them again. I think they were good kids and just needed a reminder that they need to show some courtesy to the others in the building. I was sure the rest of the people in the building appreciated me being a hard ass.

I slept pretty good that night. I did wake up during the night however thinking that I should take the battery out of the PDA and the sim card to see if it resets itself. I tried this and sure enough I had my PDA working again. It amazes me how just a few hours of sleep clears the mind. Sleeping and it's affects on the human body is interesting to me.

I got ready and had the breakfast consisting of a roll, tea and actually drank some warm milk. I don't get the opportunity to drink milk much and tend to get a
Mentally Handicap EmployeesMentally Handicap EmployeesMentally Handicap Employees

I thought it was great to see 3 mentally handicap people working here. Assisi is a very religious place so I guess I should have not been surprised by that. How about a "Shout Out" to the people that made this happen!
real craving for it. The milk was actually meant for the coffee, but I drank glass of it. At my table there were 3 women, all of which I estimate to be in their 50's. The one lady from Finland was traveling on her own and the other two women I am not sure what they were up to. They were a little rough in all honesty and appeared nervous. I am sure you know the type. At one point she asked me if I was going to Paris and I said I was and she started writing down the name of a place to stay there. I asked her how much and she said 50 euros. I told her hostels are a lot cheaper for someone traveling by their self. At one point I saw this same lady take a roll and fill it up with lemon slices and put it in her purse. It was totally disgusting. I don't know, but this lady was a little out there. Finally she and the other lady with her left and I was glad of that as I did not feel comfortable by them.

The one remaining lady is a very interesting and likeable lady. She is from Helsinki, Finland. She said now that her son is 21 she is traveling. It is something she has always wanted to do, but just couldn't while raising him. She has a friend from Brazil who is traveling with horses. Yes you read that correctly. He is riding these horses all over the world. It is some type of advertising he is doing and I believe she said he is trying to break some type of record with horses. Anyway she did that with him for a week and is now traveling for about a week by herself before having to go back home. We talked for quite a long time and she gave me contact information should I make it to Helsinki, which I definitely plan to do.

After breakfast I went back up to the room to get my bag and headed to the front desk to check out. I talked to the wife who I presume owns the place with her husband. I accidentally said Buenos Sarah instead on Buon Giorno and she corrected me on it. It was kind of funny that she corrected me like that and
British TeachersBritish TeachersBritish Teachers

These are the British teachers I hung out with in the Cortona Hostel. They teach at an International School in Rome. I love the concept of kids getting to know other kids from all over the world.
she explained in detail when you say what. I ask her if there is anything else to see in Assisi and explained to her what I have seen. She told me I have not seen anything yet and told me where to go. She said to leave my bag there and pick it up when I get back. She was a very nice lady and I went to put the backpack in the room in the back as she had suggested. As I walked towards the door I again intentionally through out the inappropriate Buenos Sarah just to mess with her and she said Buon Giorno in a type of voice that said, didn't you listen to anything I just said. She then looked at me and saw that I was smiling and she knew I was messing with her and she laughed from ear to ear. We had a moment. She really is a very nice woman andvery religious as well. As I walked out of the driveway a car was just leaving the hostel and they in broken English asked me if I wanted a lift? I said sure as it is a little bit of a walk from this country hostel to Assisi. I had recognized the family from the hostel and I ask them if they were sure they had room? They started rearranging things and the young lady in the front moved to the back with her mom and the stuff they had they crammed in the back. They were really going out of their way to get me in the car with them. I told them Malto Gentela as soon as I got in and as I have said before those are like magic words. I don't say them out of insincerity as I really do think the people are being kind, but the Italians will bend over backwards for you if you say that to them. I learned these people were from Sicily. The young lady spoke the best English and it was fun talking to her. I was thinking how did I not get to talk to these people in the Hostel and they had been sitting right next to me on several occasions. At one point in the short drive there was a directional decision needing made and the father who was driving got really loud almost yelling directional questions. I kind of smiled and thought to myself these are definitely fiery Sicilians. That is just the way they are. They mean nothing by it they just exude emotion. Kind of like all Italians for that matter. The lady in the Dolomites had told me Italians can never hide their feelings. I told her Americans are told never let them see you sweat. I don't know that either way is right or wrong in my opinion it is just a difference and differences are not a bad thing. They are a spice of life.

I was sad for my short ride to end with these Sicilians as they were so nice and fun to talk to. I have met two groups of Sicilians now that were awesome. I am so tempted to go to Sicily, but it is a 10 hour train ride from Rome. That is just too far. Maybe I will find a cheap flight when my Railpass runs out at the end of July. I really think I am going to end up staying here longer than the end of July. I may stay about 2 weeks into August as well. There is just so much to
Tuscany SunsetTuscany SunsetTuscany Sunset

I like this place!
see here.

I walked up to the castle, which the hostel owner said I should do. It was ok and did offer a great view of the Umbria area bordering on Tuscany. I had seen most of it however the day before. I also went to the Basilica of Santa Clare, which reminded me of St. Francis. I suspect he may have influenced her as well. Against her parents wishes she went to the church and become a nun. Her sister followed suit as well against her parents wishes. It was pretty neat and again their is a clear casket of her in the church. I wondered if this was actually her or were these manikins. I always assumed all these clear casket like things are actually the people. I don't however see how they could have been preserved for this kind of time period. The way the guy at St. Peter's Basilica talked it sounded like that person was the actual person. I still find that hard to believe. It seems a little eerie to me, but it would be a great reminder of our mortality if you saw a dead person in the church each time you
My Convent HostelMy Convent HostelMy Convent Hostel

I stayed in this Hostel ran by nuns in San Gimignano. Probably the quietest hostel I ever stayed in. I also attended a singing service that the sisters put on. Evidently they sing and play music like that every night. They have a very simple life.
walked in.

After about an hour of walking around I decided it was time for me to head back to the Hostel and head out. On my way there I was looking at all the olive trees and thought I need to stage a photo with me extending an olive branch to someone. I grabbed a branch and soon arrived at the hostel. The person working there that had given me a hard time about my Italian usage was still there. I ask her if she would be in a photo with me extending an olive branch. I told her it was a customary thing to do as a sign of peace. She was not familiar with the custom, but said in Assisi instead of handing out palms the Sunday before Easter they hand out blessed olive branches and hang those up in the home. She showed me where they had several hanging up now. She said I should take this branch home and recommended I put it in a book. I told her I would do that. She said her husband would come out to take picture. He always seemed a little grumpy and I told her I would use the timer. She insisted on having him come out for the photo which was fine by me if he didn't mind. We took the picture and I went on my way.

I walked down to the bus stop and headed for the train station. My next destination was Cortona. which I read in the Rick Steve's book that it has a great hostel. This location is in Tuscany Country. The lady said it was just down the road but in reality that was about a 3/4 mile walk I reckon. Probably a little less, but it's more fun to embellish.

At the train station I saw the next train to Cortona was in 30 minutes and I had seen a McDonalds near by so I headed there. I know McDonalds in Italy. I know but American food for lunch and Italian for dinner isn't so bad. Remember I have around 30 days of this. You try to eat pasta for 30 days 2 meals a day and see how you fair.

At the McDonalds they had 3 mentally retarded kids working there. One was sitting in the booth at the time I was there not
Leaving this Beautiful PlaceLeaving this Beautiful PlaceLeaving this Beautiful Place

The thing I liked most about San Gimignanpo was the countryside around it.
really doing anything another was washing windows. I am not sure what the third one had been doing when she appeared. I thought this was great and wondered if this area was really religious and if so if St. Francis was a big reason for the strong religious beliefs. I also saw the wall pictures of the hamburgler with a monk and some sisters walking down the street with Ronald McDonald. This seemed a little goofy to me. There was also advertisement for a performance by my new favorite band St. Francis and the Monks. Ok your right, that's a fragmentation of the truth. This was the first time on this trip that I actually ordered a large sized meal and had not gotten a happy meal. I think I was a little tired from the walking in Rome and in Assisi for that matter and when I get this way I get in this wrong mindset that if I eat more, I will have more energy. It's not that way at all in reality it's just the need for more rest and less walking. But I was able to convince myself otherwise and was back on my way of consuming more than I use resulting in me gaining weight. I do believe however, that I have lossed some fat, but maybe gained a little muscle from all the walking with the backpack since arriving in Italy. My net loss of weight therefore may not be a lot, but the pants do fit more lose. It is nice to lose that weight as I do feel better and younger actually for that matter. I plan to develop new eating habits when I do get back to the states as I felt like I was starting to get too heavy and I know with the extra weight I will not fulfill and have as much fun doing what I want to do in the future.

I left Ronald and the Hamburgler and went back to the train station and was steaming to Cortona wondering about the hostel and just hoping they were not full. At Cortona's train station there were a couple other people that were headed to Cortona as well. This is typically the case as there is always a few other people going to the same places as I am. I got to the hostel and fortunately they did have a room available. They had about 50 kids there as well. There is an international school in Rome and they take their kids to Cortona once every year for a weekend. The hostel is an old convent and exudes character. The main, meeting and dining room consisted of lots of rock. I liked the 3 rock arches forming the ceiling the best. I was in a small room with 3 other people, which was a little crowded.

I walked down to an internet site and checked emails and tried to send out a few couchsurfing emails. The couchsurfing site is often slow and it was on this day. I talked to the guy a little bit about the big football match this night between Milano and Liverpool. He was excited and was actually closing the internet shop an hour earlier this night because of the match. I told him I was going to try and come back later in the evening in hopes the couchsurfing site would be faster.

I walked around for awhile and took a few pictures as there were some nice views of the Tuscan scenery in the area. I went back to the hostel and talked to a couple from Canada that was in the room with me. We talked for about a 1/2 hour about our travels. I then decided to head back to the internet site. The guy reminded me I only had 15 minutes before he was closing up shop. I told him I knew that. I quickly sent out 3 emails to couchsurfing prospects figuring they would not work out as they have not been too promising lately and then had to hurriedly leave as it was time for football. “Are you ready for some football?” Or I guess to an American I should say, “are you ready for some soccer?” Doesn’t seem the same.

I went back to the hostel and the group there was taking a vote. How many of you want to watch football, and how many want to watch some other show which I didn't recognize. I suspect my vote did not count, but I raised my hand for the football too. It was unanimous football won out. I was excited. I have always been one to get really excited for big games like this and had been looking forward to this game since Milan beat Manchester United back around May 3. I had gotten a pizza on the way back as well as a bottle of wine. I sat down behind everybody, but couldn't see too well. I went ahead and moved up by the teachers so I could see better. I enjoyed talking to the teachers and offered them some wine motioning to the kids around them like the teachers might need some. The kids were excited for sure. They had there own wine. I bet the two teachers sitting near me 5 euros each on Milan. They were from England so they were rooting for Liverpool. The one guy said Milan was favored by a little. It sounded like it was close though.

It was about 50/50 on who the kids were rooting for. Some had shirts on of their favorite players. It appeared to me Liverpool was playing better on this night. Then Milan started playing better and getting a few scoring opportunities. The only guy teacher said it will go back and forth like that during the game. Then Milan scored and the kids went nuts. It was great to see the enthusiasm. Even the enthusiasm of the anguished Liverpool fans was cool to see. It was neat to see the emotion I guess most. That is what life is all about I think and make us unique creatures. The smiles, the frowns, the joy, the anguish, the happiness the sorrow. I once read that, sports is life with the volume turned up. Not sure that the volume is turned up that high as life can be pretty intense as well, but I thought it sounded pretty cool and liked the phrase.

The guy teacher and I debated the salaries of the players. This Champions League Football is like baseball in America with regards to salaries. I emphasized the suffering of competitiveness as a result of the high salaries. He admitted only a handful of teams can win it all. He emphasized though that is how real life works. I told him how American football works with the salary caps. He asked where does all the extra money go? I told him the owners get it. I told him I know they make a lot of money as football is the best thing going in America because any given Sunday any team can pretty much win. I would rather have it that way and have a more competitive game. They can always raise the salary caps to distribute the wealth a little better. He kept commenting, but that is how real life works, which to me was a bad mind set to have when you’re a teacher. I would rather see them being taught more ideological things especially at this age. The world will take care of the rest. I know you leave college thinking that you are going to change the world and then get often people bogged down chasing money. Everyone wants to have big cars, big houses, 4-wheelers, boats, vacation homes, etc. That’s the way the world turns these days at least in America. Not sure that is the best with regards to family life.

The game continued and the wine kept flowing. Then in the second 1/2 Milan scored again. A 2-0 lead is not insurmountable, but it was looking good for Milan. The lady teacher who had bet handed over her 5 euros. I also through my 10 euros into the pot as I had bet both teachers. With only a few minutes left Liverpool did score to make it interesting. The Liverpool faithful got to go nuts for a little while. Milan held off their last minute attempts to tie the game and won the match. It was cool to see the madness of the rampant Milan fans.

I asked the teacher if they wanted more wine and they said after they get the kids to bed, they usually come down and drink some at that time. They all went upstairs and I ask the owner if I could get more wine. He said no it was time for bed. He seemed to be acting a little inhospitable to me so I told him I was going to walk down the street and buy a bottle and bring it back as I had told the teachers I was going to get a bottle for them. He then said wait I get you wine. I think he was making a lot of money off this group so he went and got probably a 1.5 liter vase of wine. It is neat to see the wine in a big glass vase like that and not in a bottle. I really wished the next day I had stopped drinking before then, but I had another glass with the teachers. I had left a 10 there for the wine, but the owner had not taken it. Wine is so cheap here it is amazing. The teachers eventually came back down and we drank the wine and talked for probably an hour. I was enjoying the evening and the conversations. A little after 12 we called it a night. When you look at your watch and it says 0:12 it seems a lot later than if you see 12:12 at least to me.

I went to bed and slept great. I had drank too much wine I knew that and wondered how I would feel in the morning. It was a very fun night.

I woke up the next morning thinking why did I drink that much wine last night. I was moving very slowly. I got all my gear packed around 8:00 and headed down stairs. I dropped my bag off there and started walking. My pace had slowed greatly today from yesterday. I was wanting to walk up to a couple things that the Canadian couple had said was really good. There was a church and castle up above the City that I wanted to walk to. It was not a 1/2 mile walk, but all uphill, and on this day the walking was laborious. I got to the church and walked in to look around. The ceiling of this church had a background color of blue, which I tend to like best. I am sure the point is to represent the sky and taking that a step farther to the heavens. I have seen the ceiling painted blue on a few locations including the Sistene Chapel. I like that the best. I walked up to the castle and decided to take in the Tuscan scenery. There was a beautiful view from this location. I was near the entrance to the castle and I saw where there was an admission fee. I suspected there would be and would have probably went in on most days, but not this day. This day instead of walking around the castle I decided my time was better spent laying on the concrete bench under a shade tree near the entrance and listening to the Tuscan scenery.

After about 30 minutes I walked back down to the church and had some Gelato and a twinkie like thing along with a Gatorade. This was the first time I had ate all day and it was just shy of 11:00 am. The food tasted good and I felt a little revived. I talked to a lady for awhile, who was traveling by herself. I am not sure, but there seems to be loads more women traveling here than men. I guess guys just are not as interested in Italy or Europe for that matter. Not sure.

I then walked to the Hostel and grabbed my bag. The school group was already gone I had hoped to say bye one last time, but they were gone. I helped the owner carry in some groceries and he seemed a lot nicer this morning than he was when I wanted the wine last night. Maybe he knew what was best for me? No he was just being difficult. Quite a few hostel owners are difficult actually. And they too are primarily in it for money. I had given the US hostel's a little bit of a hard time about the cost, but I think really these people are in it for money as well. If they could sell the hostel for a million I think they would do it in a heart beat. It's not about helping young people see the world, it's about making money. I am learning a lot about Europe and the differences between it and the US. I was wrong about the hostel owners in Europe. I am not sure what I expected exactly but hostels are built and opened to make money. The European ones are a lot busier than the ones in the US that's why you see more of them.

I went down to the bus stop and looked around for a ticket. I couldn't find one and couldn't readily read the schedule so I decided to just stay at the bus stop and wait for the bus as I did not want to miss it. A lady nearby knew I was wondering about a bus ticket and told me where to get a ticket. I walked to the ticket location got it and came back and talked to the lady for awhile. I learned that she is from Canada, a nurse and seemed to be really with it. She had great views (agreed with mine ) on how the world is becoming one and how the various countries are going to need to learn to cooperate. We were pretty much on the same page with most issues. She spoke Italian very well. She said her Grandma was Italian and as a kid she said she spoke with her quite of bit and from her learned a few words. She was extremely modest as well. I went and got some lunch and for whatever reason went for the sardines again. I have been doing that a lot lately. I knew eating those in front of a nurse would not gross her out so I went ahead and got them, as well as some crackers and some milk. My stomach was not feeling all that great and I thought this concoction is just what the doctor ordered. After a few minutes the train came and I was on my way. She was headed in a different direction and still had to wait a little longer. I was trying to get to San Giminano. A friend from work, when I had a job that is, highly recommended this place as did Mr. Steves. There was not a direct route to San Giminano so I chose a train to Florence, and from there, a train to Impoli and from there to Pogibonnsi where I would bus. I learned later that a better route would have been to go to Siena and from Siena take a train to Pogibonnsi, but when it was all said and done I really don't think the time would have been a lot different. Everything went pretty smoothly and I was in Pogibonnsi around 4:00. I talked to the tourist information folks and they told me to take the bus to San Gimignano and had called the hostel for me. The hostel is actually a monastery ran by nuns. The cost was 23 € which was plenty steep I thought, but I had not seen the hostel so I was judging kind of quickly. The tourist information place tried to call the hostel at my request as I am using an Irish phone and it would be a local call for them. They were very nice at the tourist information center, which is kind of hit and miss. Some people from England that were in the tourist information office at the same time as I was, saw me sitting near the local bus stop and told me that the bus I needed was in front of the train station. My plan was to walk around as the departure time neared and ask the bus drivers, so it was great to know exactly. When I got to the bus station I talked to them more and as I did on the bus. They were really nice people and we talked a lot. They gave me contact information for their residence, which is about an hour from the Lake District in England, which is a place I would like to go to hike someday. They had been to San Giminano before, which was a statement in itself to know that they were returning. They told me on the bus ride there we would have some good views of the City from the road and just like they said, we had just that. The claim to fame for this City is that they still have 14 of their towers of the original 72 as most City's had almost all of them destroyed because they were used for war purposes and the rulers always destroyed these towers so the resident could not defend theirself as well. The towers were not as big as I had expected, but were interesting nonetheless.

When I got off the bus Tim and Carol walked me to the Tourist information location as I wanted to go there to get a map and find out where this hostel was at. They were extremely nice people and I thanked them for their hospitality. The tourist information office folks gave me a map and told me how to get there. It was a short walk. I did not know what to expect. When I arrived a couple of older folks probably in their 70's had just walked out of the monastery. I told them I was looking for lodging and she said I may have to wait for about a 1/2 because they have a musical prayer time now and showed me where it was at. They said I could watch if I wanted to, as they were going there and said the music and singing is very beautiful. I had my backpack on so I thought it would be nice to go into the cool building and put the backpack down and listen to these Italian nuns sing and make music. I really did want to watch this as it interest me. I was happy to see the lady had a guitar as that is one of my favorite things to do is to watch and listen to someone playing a guitar and the accompanying singing. The service was pretty regimented and there were four nuns participating. The one played the organ and the guitar, while the others just sang. There were a few prayers read, but mostly sang. The guitarist had one solo with the guitar. I really loved hearing this hymn. At one point however she did something to one string (she was playing that hard) and decided to just move her strumming hand farther up the neck of the guitar and continued playing. She really kept her composure and sounded very good. After the mass the one lady called me over and ask if I was looking for a room and I confirmed that I was. She said they had room. That is always a relief knowing that you have a place to stay for the night. I told them “musico balecemo” and they seemed to appreciate that so I guess I said that right. She told me to go to the door and motioned outside so I walked to one of the doors not knowing, which one she meant I should go to. She came out another doorway on the end of the building and I hurried there, as if I didn't get there soon enough they were going to change their mind about me staying there. No, I hurried just to be courteous. She ask me lots of questions and I tried to ask her where she was from in Italy now that I have been to a significant part of Italy. She said she is from Padova. I knew roughly where that was as I had stopped there on the train a couple times while in Venice. Her English was like my Italian, pretty much nonexistent. Some reason she was asking a lot of questions. When asked I told her I was traveling in Europe for 4 months and she wanted to know if what was in my bag was all I had. I told her it was. She wanted to know if I was in the military as I had a green shirt that looked like maybe I was. It was quite the interrogation. We left and she tool me to my room. She gave me the keys and I ask her when I needed to be back in the building. She surprisingly said there is no curfew. The building was big with horrible acoustics. Every big wooden door could be heard closing and opening throughout the building. The room itself was awesome. Nice shower and more importantly I was the only one it. This is such a luxury after all those sleepless hostel nights with snorers and occasional drunk obnoxious people. Generally however, I have not had much of a problem with party animals. All they do in Hostels are get drunk and have sex like the religious guy told me. Protect me from the good people. Maybe before making statements like that he needs to stay in some Hostels and he would learn they are a little different than that. The same thing is true for people that rip on other countries. Maybe they should go there first. Most people that rip on other countries have never been there. There are nice people all over this world. She then made my bed with the provided sheets. Normally in Hostels you make your own bed. This was a little different from most hostels. I assume she does this for all patrons. She did a fantastic job making the bed. She was a very nice lady and this was going to be a great place to stay although a little more than what I normally pay to stay at a hostel.

I took a short rest and then went to walk the town before it became too dark for photography. I noticed in one location the door had a Rick Steve's cover saying this place was recommended by him. This seemed a little weird, but it was ok I guess. Just advertisement I guess. The Tuscany area is beautiful. Rolling hills with various different crops planted. I had read there was a castle, but had not come across it. I was wondering how big a castle can it be, if I can't even find it in this small community. I was really wanting a good view of the towers to take a picture, but wasn't finding it. There was a crane in the skyline that I really didn’t want there. Why can't they temporarily take that down so I can get a good picture? The nerve of these people! I began to walk a little faster as I was running out of light. The sun was already low in the sky. I got to a bus stop and marveled at the sun low in the sky. This is a beautiful place to watch the sunset. There was an older Italian guy there that I estimate to be in his late 70's. I wondered how many sunsets that guy had seen right here. I tried to take a couple pictures, but again could not get a good one. I have come to the conclusion that there is something on the lens that results in a pink ring on the sunset photos. I wonder if this is the same problem I had in Bath as the sunset photos there also had a small pink ring in the pictures. I could see a little blemish in the lens or was it just a dirty spot. I couldn't get it off with my lens cloth. My day time photos seem to be fine and the night time it is just in the sunset photos. The night photos seem fine as well.

As I walked around I stumbled across a rock wall that I thought must be the castle that I had read about. I walked up the path thinking maybe I will finally get that stunning skyline photos of San Gimignano. No I still did not get it. The bext photo of the skyline would have been from the bus on the way here. Unfortunately, I did not know that at the time even though I guess the English couple told me that. I was very tired, the light was essentially gone, so I decided to head for some food. For some reason I was feeling poor maybe because of the costly lodging of 23 € a night. Hey everything is relative. I saw a restaurant away from the center of town a little although this town is so small everything is close to the center. I ordered my food and was a little confused by the Italian menu and she asked me a question and I just drew a blank. One lady nearby looked over at me and I thought lady what are you looking at. For some reason for about the first time on this trip I felt a little embarrassed and self conscious. I really have turned over a new leaf and not worried too much what people think anymore. I will just do my thing and if people like it then good and if they don't then they need to change . People are such complex creatures. Everyone has different influences, biochemistries, parents, wealth levels, educational backgrounds etc. etc. I would not expect people to like the same things nor for people to act similarly for that matter.

I gobbled up my food and drank the water and was ready to pay and head back to the monastery. I was dead tired. I got into the convent around 9 and everything was dark inside. I found a light switch and got a little light. I got to my room and opened the door pretty much in the dark. Every noise in this place seems to be amplified. I thought I might have angry nuns after me in a second or two. I sat down and typed for awhile and then called it a night. The nun had told me they pray 5 times a day one of which is the muscial session that I had attended. The first prayer is right after they get up at 5:00 AM in the morning but they go to bed at 9:00 PM. She said they do this everyday. It seems a little obsessive, but I guess there is lots to pray for. I don't know. I guess I like action better than prayers. I would rather see people doing things to help people more so than praying. Maybe working at a soup kitchen or helping to teach or train people, whatever is needed. To me that seems more productive. Although I believe prayer is helpful on several different levels. I felt pretty decent considering I hadn't felt that great when I woke up. It is nice to still get things done even if you are not 100%.

Good night from a convent in San Gimignano.


22nd October 2007

The Lost Entry?
Am I correct in thinking that this entry should have been back amidst some other entries. Did it get lost in the shuffle? We were up Grafton way this past Saturday with Rob's family for a day of adventure. We rode the Brussels Ferry, even though our youngest insisted that cars couldn't ride on a boat.
22nd October 2007

Poor Rob!
Man you are observant. I feel sorry for Rob, he can't get away with anything. You should have contacted me and you could have came up for lunch. Yes I lost a few pictures, but had them backed up on a Couchsurfing host's computer in Switzerland and he burnt them on a disk and mailed them to me. I still have Portugal, France, Spain, Switzerland and some of Germany to add to the blog. I still am hoping to get these updates done, before I leave on this last journey. Thanks for following!

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