Tuscany is a delightful place. Driving in Tuscany is not delightful. I find myself at extremes constantly, screaming with fear or giggling with nervousness. Matt does not favor either reactions. The thing is, the italians are absolutely the most ridiculous drivers – they ride your butt as a rule and there is no such thing as a lane. They ONLY pass you on a blind curve, I promise. That said, when we are not automotively fighting for our lives, the countryside provides the most beautiful landscapes.
We left orvieto and traveled north to Montalcino, an old hill town halfway to San Gimignano. We loved it. It is peaceful, a wine lovers paradise, and clearly THE place to come if you are a wealthy yuppy who can rent a fancy old car topless (the car of course). Montalcino is famous for their Brunello di Montalcino, a rich reddish brown wine ( Brunello means “brunette”). We had a fab lunch of pasta, bruschetta and the brunette and then strolled around, heading on to San gimignano after.
We stayed at an agriturismo just outside of San Gim (il castagnolino). We must pause here to say that if you come to Italy, you must stay in these as much as possible. They are a great value, have a peaceful natural setting, and,…they feed you. We half loved the meal we had, but figure that if we had eaten another night, it would have been better. All the food you eat comes from their farm. I love this slow food approach. We realized that there is a reason that we never see big trucks here – they don’t need to haul massive amounts of food around because they eat locally. We’ve vowed to find a produce co-op when we get home.
We hit Volterra, Rick steves’ favorite town in Tuscany and we have to admit – we felt “eh” about it. Perhaps it’s because we hit it around siesta time. Oops. Interestingly, we learned that it has recently earned international attention for it’s connection to the Twilight series (being the home of the ancient italian vampire family, the Volturri). They had funny exhibits at the TI center and even had a New Moon tour. Calling all Twihards! :)
San Gimignano is sweet albeit empty of any attractions aside from shopping, views and food. Most of our memories of the town will be of my haggling (both with Matt AND the vendor) for a gorgeous handmade leather traveling bag. Double stitching, cognac leather, old fashioned buckles. “I’ll have it forever!” I exclaimed. Meanwhile, I won’t be getting any Christmas presents this year. ;)
We had a D-lish cliffside dinner overlooking the whole Tuscan valley where we devoured the most amazing truffle gnocchi, wild boar (regional specialty) and white wine. This is an appropriate time to mention that one of the highlights of our trip has been our mass consumption of all things truffle ( it’s in season here). We have developed a love affair with that scrumptious fungi. The other highlight is listening to Matt try to pronounce the Italian word for truffle – tartufo. Tarfuti, tufarto, tarfito, tufarti, tarfarti. Anything but the actual word. We die laughing every time.
Here, we get mistaken for the Germans by the French. It is an interesting phenomenon. And in turn, we’ve found that we love the Germans we meet. Perhaps a trip is looming in our future?
Next was Florence. There are two things that can be said – there is something magical about Florence and our hotel room was a dump.
More pics to come!