Mellowing in Italy - Florence, Thursday 2007 May 24

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May 24th 2007
Published: September 24th 2018
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San Gimignano tower housesSan Gimignano tower housesSan Gimignano tower houses

Pride converted to stone
This morning we gathered early (8:35) to walk to a bus stop near the Arno where we waited for our tour bus, which wasn’t really supposed to use the transit stop. We were very early (to avoid being even a little late), so we had ample opportunity to watch the rush hour – many, many urban motorcycles, i.e., upright seating usually with a place by the feet for a briefcase or backpack – well divided between the sexes.

On the bus Chris announced our surprise destination – San Gimignano and Certaldo, a town never visited by Rick Steves but “discovered” two weeks ago by Chris and another guide. Our driving through the countryside again renewed my pleasure at the gorgeous views, even though they were noticeably riper, drier and smoggier than a week ago. The heat with no rain has been hard on Tuscany.

Going to San Gimignano again was not a disappointment, because I had been quite tired during the visit on our Siena tour. This time the weekly market had taken over the town square – clothes and utensils, limited fruit, vegetables, and meats, plus more tourist stuff. Very quickly I spotted crushable straw hats (I had admired
Judith in San Gimignano Judith in San Gimignano Judith in San Gimignano

Beautiful setting and new hat
Angie’s), and I bargained the price from 8 Euros to 7. Immediately, it made me feel cooler. Sue, my roommate, liked the look of it, as did the other Sue so they bought two. The vendor wouldn’t budge from 7 Euros each, so they paid.

Farther on, a fabric stall (only one I saw) put me in mind of a new bedroom curtain; then we saw small square tablecloths with embroidery and crochet (machined) for 6 Euros each. I picked out two for a lacy curtain, and eventually Sue picked out three. I tried to bargain but the vendor was angrily disgusted and more or less (in Italian) told us to take it or leave it. We took them.

Sue discovered a reference in the guide book to a very high point with excellent views. Exploring a bit, we straggled down a street and then steeply up to a park. The views were wide, on both sides of a (minimal) wine museum. As has often been the case, art students were sketching. Nearby we bought the best porchetta sandwiches in Italy – moist and herby.

Moving down again into town through the heat, I led the way
Palazzo PretoriaPalazzo PretoriaPalazzo Pretoria

Medieval grandeur
to the café I had previously patronized - the market was right on it’s door step. To “pay” for use of the toilet, I had an espresso (standing at the bar 85 centissimi) while the others had other refreshments. By then it was time to make our way slowly to the bus, window shopping along the crooked, high walled stone street that led out to the town gates, lined with gift shops selling pottery, linens, wines, deli, Pinocchios and every other sort of souvenir. Just outside the gates, we posed for a group photo, taken by a random tourist charmed by Chris.

After half an hour traveling, the bus pulled along the central square of Certaldo, a relatively modern small town. a statue of Boccaccio, a native son, stood proudly in the square. Our ascent to the old town above the new one was by funicular, bringing us up a steep hill with wide views. At the top, we passed through the town wall and strode up through a main street to an ancient manor house.

Minimally restored, the house is mostly important for centuries–old coats of arms embedded in and mounted on its walls. In medieval times and since, all the local families of influence affixed their symbols to the inner and outer walls of the great hall, thus creating a unique historical record. Also fascinating, in the basement was the cell where criminals and enemies were held before execution. The graffiti they scratched and stained into the walls is still readable. When they ran out of space on the walls, they used the ceiling, standing on top of each other’s shoulders, according to the text.

We drifted back into the baking heat, looking at the view and taking pictures of each other, finally meeting the group again to walk down a narrow, high-walled street to a local restaurant. On their terrace were set out dozens of glasses for our wine-tasting. Trying to find patches of shade, we took seats at tables, glad to first be given bottles of cold water.

Soon the proprietors (a couple) began bringing plates of appetizers to the tasting table. Over the course of the afternoon, we tasted four wines, a white, a deep rosé, a chianti classico and a brunello, each accompanied by appropriately flavoured appetizers. The tempo was slow - a mellow, friendly afternoon.

By the time
Our view at lunch in CertaldoOur view at lunch in CertaldoOur view at lunch in Certaldo

Scenery encourages relaxed eating and drinking
we returned to Florence, I merely bought some strawberries and a Franciscan currant/nut bun, and called that supper.

View map to date.

Additional photos below
Photos: 9, Displayed: 9


Boccaccio in Curtaldo SquareBoccaccio in Curtaldo Square
Boccaccio in Curtaldo Square

Renaissance humanist
Palazzo PretoriaPalazzo Pretoria
Palazzo Pretoria

Decorated with crests of guests and local dignitaries
Etched portrait of horse and riderEtched portrait of horse and rider
Etched portrait of horse and rider

Keeping up one's spirits on death row!
Graceful walk in San GimignanoGraceful walk in San Gimignano
Graceful walk in San Gimignano

Warm shade on a hot day

24th September 2018

I can almost feel the heat of your day! What a lovely way to spend the day, especially the afternoon. I think tours sometimes get so focused on showing the sights that they forget the experience aspect of being in a new place. Sounds like your guides had it about right.
28th September 2018

I can still feel the heat and almost taste the wine.

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