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Published: September 21st 2010
Date Monday 13th September 2010
City Pisa, Italy
Climate low 15c - high 17c - raining then fine
Up bright and early this morning to ensure we got to the airport in plenty of time to check-in with Ryanair. We had heard plenty of horror stories and every time we mentioned that we were travelling on Ryanair we were greeted with raised eyebrows and an “Oh, good luck” comment! So we were determined to ensure we were not going to be one of those horror stories. We had to purchase another bag allowance as Ryanair only allow a 15kg limit per bag and we had ‘a little bit more’ than that, with our 2 bags sitting at around 45kgs. We were carrying an extra bag just for this purpose so had rearranged the luggage the night before. Luckily our accommodation was only a few miles from the airport and also had petrol stations nearby, so we were fine for filling up the car prior to drop off.
Once at the airport we were keen to find out if our bags were packed to the correct weight level. Luckily all three bags were on almost exactly 15kg. One was slightly more,
but due to someone else’s bag before us being under (13kg) we escaped any additional charges. On Ryanair there are no allocated seats - so unless you pay for priority boarding you just board the plane and grab any seat that takes your fancy!
We were away about half an hour late due to congestion in London apparently. This only delayed our arrival by a few minutes which was good as we were due to meet Justine at Pisa airport. We hadn’t arranged a car rental and we were fortunate to be able to use our Ryanair flyer discount with Hertz meaning a reduction of about 25 -30%.
On the road by about 4pm - all three of us were bound for San Gimignano. Approaching San Gimignano the skies darkened and the heavens opened up as it started raining, which we didn’t expect. We had stopped earlier at a supermarket to buy some provisions for the night and just out of San Gimignano we came across a hotel on the main road. Hotel le Colline was able to offer us two rooms and breakfast at a reasonable rate and we were quick to sign up and get our keys to
our rooms. A gorgeous place with lovely comfortable bedrooms, a swimming pool, restaurant and amazing Tuscany views - we were very happy. We ate our antipasti meal of cheeses, salami, prosciutto, tomatoes and bread before retiring, feeling very happy with this “last-minute” hotel find.
Date Tuesday 14th September 2010
City San Gimignano, Italy
Currency $NZ 0.55 = 1EUR
Climate low 15c - high 26c - sunny and fine
After the rain and thunderstorms we had in the night - it dawned a glorious cloudless day! We enjoyed a relaxing breakfast of cereal, croissants and caffe on the hotel terrace before driving the short distance to find a park by this 13th century walled town - also known as the "medieval Manhattan" due to its many towers. Beware, car parks are not easy to come by! But we struck it extremely lucky and scored a car park about 50 metres from the entrance. This is truly a gorgeous Tuscan experience that should not be missed. The architecture, small winding alleyways and endless views of vineyards and olive groves scattered like a patch work across the rolling hills simply take your breath away. We wandered around absorbing the atmosphere
of a bygone age before climbing the 240-ish steps of the ‘Torre Grossa’ (great tower) to enjoy the awesome panorama over the city’s haphazard roofline, adorned in burnt orange clay tiles. The view from the top offered unobstructed views stretching from the mountains around Pistosia to the Chianti hills. Justine really enjoyed making it to the top to soak up the view. While on the top an Italian fighter jet buzzed the town before disappearing towards the mountains, the 2nd time we have seen fighter jets at close range.
We also checked out the museum of archaeology and contemporary art to get our fill of culture before exploring the streets again. Other friends of ours from the Kapiti Coast were on their way to San Gimignano to join us for lunch so we were filling in time until they got here. We had been for a walk around the fortified walls and were standing by a small entrance into the town when the “Coasters” just happened to walk through the same entrance - coincidence or what! This is no small village we’re talking of here! We found a lovely family restaurant with seating outside amongst shady trees with views over
the Tuscan countryside. We all commented how magical the setting was.
It was time to make tracks for Chianti or Siena. We had no accommodation booked but felt certain we would find that perfect Tuscan villa to stay at - complete with olives, vines, a restaurant, winery and a gorgeous pool to lie by. We knew this was a tall order - but Chianti region did not let us down. We pulled into a driveway that wound its way through trees and vines until we came upon the most gorgeous Tuscan villa Relais hotel. It is called CasaFraisse and is totally amazing. We couldn’t believe our find. After Shaun negotiated a great deal for three rooms for two nights we checked in - just lovely. We then all met in our room for a few drinks and our homemade antipasti platter. The provisions were obtained from a small superette in a town a few miles north of the Villa. We had lots of laughs playing the “Famous People” game. A perfect day!
Date Wednesday 15th September 2010
City Chianti, Italy
Currency $NZ 0.55 = 1EUR
Climate low 16c - high 29c - fine and sunny
Today was spent
at the villa, although we ventured out to visit the nearby town of Siena for a few hours. After a lazy start and wonderful breakfast we hit the road about 10am. It was a quick drive to Siena but we wished the parking would have been as easy. It appeared that we had chosen the “market” day and everyone was there fighting over parking spaces! In the end we found a park about a 20 minute walk from the main part of the city. Siena is known for its large sunken Piazza del Campo where people crowd once a year to watch the celebrated Palio horse race around the perimeter of the piazza. Today the perimeter of the piazza was lined with cafe tables outside quaint Italian restaurants. After a quick wander through the town and some pottery purchases, we found a table at the piazza and enjoyed a great lunch under an umbrella away from the heat. On our return to the villa we lay by the pool trying to catch up on some reading. The sunset was glorious as another wonderful day in Tuscany drew to a close.
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