OK, fast-forward a month. We are back from Italy now, and the remainder of the trip was a pleasant blur filled with new taste and sight sensations. After our last post, we never regained access to Internet access long enough to post or upload many photos, so we gave up the blogging experiment and focused on enjoying our trip.
I’ll post more on the trip over the coming months. I would like to review the places we stayed and pass along some tips on places to go and things to see that fall outside most guidebooks. So, stay tuned. And, to continue where my previous post left off…
“Florence is hot.” That’s all we could really get out of Isolina, the lovely woman that was taking care us while we were staying at Casale a Poggiano, near Montepulciano. This came out at another of the wonderful breakfasts Isolina prepared for us before we wandered off in our Fiat Panda to explore another fragrant vineyard or hill-top town. That day, we were pretty adamant about heading for Florence, which was about two hours away by autostrada (fast toll road), and spending the day looking around. In addition, some friends from Memphis, who had been in Florence a few weeks before, had cached a surprise for us in the old part of town and sent some cryptic instructions about how to find it, so we were eager to locate it and find out what it was.
After we got to Florence, we really found out what Isolina was talking about. Florence was hot. Very hot this time of year. We had arrived in the middle of a little heat wave, and temps in Florence were above 41 Celsius, with Rome hitting 44. The stillness of the countryside, which I had really enjoyed, translated into a lack of a breeze in Florence, which made walking around an exercise of staying in the shade as much as possible.
The heat notwithstanding, Florence is, of course, lovely. We parked at one of the monster underground car parks located in the ring around the old city and hoofed it toward the Uffizi (probably the top gallery) and the Ponte Vecchio, near to where our surprise was cached. The line at the Uffizi was way too long to handle, so we moved on over the bridge to find the cached surprise. Unfortunately, someone had found it before we got there (it was a little bottle of grappa tied up with wire behind a street sign that backed up to a wall), but we consoled ourselves (and cooled off) at a wine tasting place nearby. There, we discovered the pleasures of Brunello de Montalcino, plus gourmet vinegar and all of the different things you can mix with it. The whole place was a yummy meat, cheese, wine, and vinegar treat, and we brought a few things from that store home with us.
We spent the rest of the day roaming around Florence, eating, checking out the sites, trying to stay cool, eating sorbetto, and trying to figure out where we parked the car. Dinner that night was in Montepulciano, and we should have gone to Pienza again, but seeing Montepulciano after the tourists are (mostly) gone was worth it.
The next day was spent traveling the back roads up past San Gimignano, skirting Florence and Siena, and heading toward our next stop in northern Tuscany, deep in the Garfagnana region, inside a tiny village named Petrognano, beside a rushing mountain river, and beyond that, a trip to see friends half-way across the country.