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Published: June 13th 2017
Geo: 43.4703, 11.0438DAY NINE (8/10) — San Gimignano, Tuscany
Although our day was devoted to visiting the charming hill town of San Gimignano, I couldn't resist the headline which refers to our two minutes on the outskirts of Pisa. Our itinerary didn't call for a visit to Pisa but when the crowd found out we would be passing through the town, Len agreed to have Marco, our bus driver, slow down so we could take a photo of the Leaning Tower. Wham, Bam, thank you, m'am. If you didn't get what you needed in a few brief seconds, the Leaning Tower was lost to you until some future visit.
We drove through the northernmost areas of Umbria and passed into Tuscany about mid-morning. The hillsides changed from farm lands to hill country – both beautiful, but each distinctive.
San Gimignano is a lovely, walled, hilltop village that is overrun with tourists. Although it boasts 14 towers (formerly 72), symbols of power/defenses in medieval times, the town's real asset is the lush countryside which makes views from this village enchanting.
Len took us to the main piazza, made a few suggestions and sent us on our way. Patrick and I shopped along the main
drag. I was in search of some life-size ceramic lemons to put in my new server, acquired in Orvieto, and use it as a centerpiece in our St. Louis breakfast room; Patty Halvorsen helped me locate them in a store just at the end.
We lunched at La Griglia, at Len's suggestion. We sat out on the balcony overlooking window boxes filled with geraniums and the gorgeous Tuscan countryside. I dined on shrimp risotto which was delightful.
We had gelato from Gelateria di Piazza that was world champion in 2008-2009. Impressive.
We had a long bus ride to Viareggio, a beach resort at the southern end of the Italian Riviera. We did our drive-by "shooting" in Pisa along the way.
Our beach hotel, the Grand Principe di Piemonte, is beautiful, elegant and seems like it just stepped out of a 1940's film. I envision Marcello Mastroianni lounging by the rooftop pool. Speaking of pools, this one is special -- take a look at the photos below. The hotel has it s own beach club, which is the only thing that stands between the hotel and the Mediterranean. Except for the 5000 people on the beach. And the 1000 umbrellas.
The town is full of Europeans
on August holiday. Quite the scene. There is a promenade full of 1000s of tourists, 100s of bicycles, fancy clothing stores (selling winter clothes to folks in bikinis), gelaterias and restaurants. Lots of little rides for little people here with their extended families.
We went outside before dinner to catch a photo of the hotel with the sun on its face. I backed up a step and into a bicycle path and had an encounter with two cyclists who I am sure muttered something very rude in Italian.
Dinner was on the hotel's glassed-in porch overlooking the sea and the sunset. There was a buffet of appetizers and first courses and we ordered from a menu of main courses. The fruit and vegetables and lots of salad ingredients were quite fresh and tasty. The entrees were mediocre. The ambience was lovely so we forgave them the also-mediocre service. We dined with Ken and Jeanne Kephart (she was the birthday girl), Bill and Nancy Meyer, Matt Dawson and Violet Bedelis.
After dinner, we strolled along the promenade a mile or so and took in all the Roman holiday activities. It was noteworthy.
Note about Grand Principe di Piemonte:
- 100+ rooms, some of which overlook either
the Appian Mountains or the Tyrrhenian Sea
· Large room with king bed, desk, lounging chair, dresser. Others, however, have quite small rooms. Luck of the draw.
· Very good air conditioning.
· Refrigerator/mini bar in room.
· Safe in room
· Teeny elevator
· Below average food
· Tricky: the electronic key not only gains you entrance to your room but it powers the room; you must leave your key in the designated place inside the room. When we left for dinner, we took the key with us, only to return to the room to find the air conditioning hadn't been running, nor the electricity in general so I had a very dead computer.
· Tricky little devils, these Italians.
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