Our Sunday drive on Saturday took us to the medieval town of San Gimignano. Perched atop a hill in central Tuscany, the town's 13 towers dominate the skyline. Built in the 12th and 13th centuries, these towers once guided pilgrims as they made their way to Rome along the northern European route. Today, the towers still serve as landmarks, guiding visitors from around the world on a trek through the city gates.
Piazzas serve as a community gathering spot for both locals and tourists.
A keyhole archway provides a glimpse of the valley below.
With only a map to guide us, we set out this morning in search of the Tuscany we had heard so much about. We had all day, and it didn't really matter where we ended up…getting “lost” was half the fun. We turned left here and right there, stopping to gaze out over various patchworks of villages, vineyards and groves of olive trees. Armed with cameras, we hoped to capture some digital memories of this beautiful region.
After a few hours today of zig-zagging our way around central and southern Tuscany, we were walking along a wonderful narrow street in the amazing hilltop medieval town of San Gimignano. Shall we get something to take home for dinner? Yes! We bought some terrific pasta, Chianti wine, cheese, and flatbread. Now for the sauce. I chose some dried spices to mix with water and olive oil. The one with some chili sounded best. It was Sue's turn to cook.
A few seconds after my first bite, I refilled my water glass. By this time, we were both laughing and Sue, with spice-induced tears flowing, explained she had put three heaping tablespoons of the spices in the sauce because she wanted to make sure we used it all. The recipe called for a teaspoon per serving.
Neither birra nor water quelled the fire, but some Tuscany Chianti wine was the perfect cure.
We're pleased our little diesel Alpha Romeo gets 50+ MPG...since petrol is costing nearly $9.00 per gallon.
The car rental seemed like a splurge but as true Californians, we love our cars and have sometimes missed the freedom of having a personal set of wheels. Tuscany has been the perfect place to hone our Italian driving skills…and given the semi-remote location of our apartment, we justified it as a necessity.
This terrace would be perfect for a BBQ!
The quiet, almost rural atmosphere of San Baronto is a change from the excitement of Rome and Verona. Summers must find this place hopping, but November is definitely off season. We had hopes of enjoying our view from the terrace with a glass of local Chianti, but Mother Nature has had different plans. Evenings have been a bit chilly. No worries…we are still in Italy!
Our view comes into focus as the morning sun rises.
Four doors from the bedroom open onto the terrace.
Dining at home has been a nice change from 2 weeks of restaurant fare. The grocery store is a quick trip down the hill and has everything we need for simple meals of insulate mista (mixed salad), pasta and of course the wine…
Make sure you have comfy shoes for a visit to Cinque Terre… it's a workout!
A view of the train station in Riomagiore.
Perched on the side of the northwestern coast of Italy, the five villages that make up the Cinque Terre have survived since the late middle ages. This was our destination today; a long drive, but well worth it!
Homes and businesses nestle together on the cliffs of Riomaggiore.
We drove to La Spezia, where we purchased a train ticket that would take us to each of the villages. We had hoped to walk between several of the villages along the ancient footpath known as the Sentiero Azzurro, but it was closed for repairs.
We hopped off at the first stop; Riomaggiore and headed for the city center. Winding our way through some of the narrowest of walkways, we arrived at a bustling little harbor just in time for lunch!
We probably could have shared one order of Bruschetta.
What iconic work of art is housed in this nondescript building? Along with many others, we waited about an hour to get inside, and it was worth every second.
We left the first room, turned the corner, and there it was! Seventeen feet tall, placed beneath a huge glass dome.
Hint: We were in Florence.
We visited Riomaggiore today, part of Cinque Terre on the northwest coast of Italy bordering the Ligurian Sea.
Our current trip to Italy seemed like the perfect time to start blogging, and we nervously put our toes in the water. We thought it would allow us to catalog our retirement travels and allow interested family and friends to follow along. Word Press offers several options and we decided for a public blog and were a bit nervous about how our posts would be received.
After about a month, we enjoy blogging and it has enriched our trip in surprising ways. We have “met” people from the United States, Israel, the United Kingdom, Australia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Greece, Italy, the Czech Republic, Netherlands, and Canada who have visited our blog. Many of them sent comments or “likes.”
They may disagree, but, in a way, we feel like our friends back home in California and in our second home in Scotland are traveling with us.
Retirement is opening a new world to us, and so is blogging!
We hopped into our little Alpha Romeo rental car Wednesday morning and set off on our first road trip in Tuscany. We refused to let overcast skies dampen our spirits…it was not yet raining and maybe we could take in the sights of Siena before the promised rain began to fall. With some advice from our host, who pointed us in the right direction, we set off with a map, high hopes and a full tank of gas!
After a short walk, the buildings of the city come into view.
Two minor wrong turns and 90 minutes later we managed to find our way to the IL Campo parking lot; exactly where we wanted to be! We pulled in just as the skies opened up. With a stop along the way to purchase an 8 Euro umbrella, we quickly walked thru the 12th century Piazza del Campo. On a nicer day, we might have lingered, but today we find it filled with too many tourists and tour groups all looking for a warm dry spot to eat.
Even in the rain, the views are breathtaking.
After lunch at a quiet place in the much smaller and less touristy Piazza Indipendenza, we headed to Siena Duomo, described in our guide book as “one of the most spectacular in Italy.” After today, I think we would have to agree.
Not every place offers it, but Reg was able to order a decaf Americano at this Siena cafe.
We have grown to love the coffee bars in Italy. While many sit and enjoy conversation or a newspaper with their cappucchino, others stand at the bar only long enough to down a quick shot of espresso. If you blink, you'll miss them!