Saturday, September 24, 2011

When Awesomeness Becomes Normalness

I never intended to blog every day. I wanted to write like a ‘real’ travel writer, finding angles and stories and carving a niche for myself. Angles don’t come naturally to me though, and it wasn’t fun trying to find them just so I could document something we did. This is my blog and at the end of the day it’s my trip memories and so I wrote every day.

When I travelled America, I wrote a travel diary for 2 or 3 weeks of the month. The last leg of the trip though, I never put pen to paper. I guess I’ve dropped the ball here too, because we are sitting on a ferry to England, hours away from dropping the bike off, and you’re still bloggily stuck in Tuscany, two stops ago in travel land.

After our day in Pisa and Lucca, we spent a day at San Gimignano. Kim and Richard had told us they should have seen some of the other walled cities in the area before San Gimignano, because it was the best and so seeing lesser ones afterwards made them seem somewhat lackluster in comparison. We understood once we saw it, but for a different reason – Once you’ve seen Carcassonne, as we did early on in our trip, all walled cities are ruined for life because it’s just that good.

San Gimignano was lovely, the views over the rolling Tuscan landscape were incredible, and the world-champion gelato was quite literally second to none. As we walked through the gates and onto the main street, there were cute souvenir shops, Courtney-enticing sword and knife shops, salami shops, and way more Museums of Torture than one tiny city actually needs. None of the shops kept our attention for long though because, while they were very cool, we’d seen them before.

We sat in the piazza under the shadow of the medieval Town Hall, eating our eccentrically flavoured gelato and people watching (actually, dog watching, they’re far cuter and more interesting). We wandered the streets looking for something more but just ended up getting lost in a maze of quiet back streets, at one point finding ourselves on the outside of the city walls and having to find a new way back in. It was this new way back in that led us to a small trattoria for lunch, where we tried Italian Cola called Chino – it tasted like ear wax, no kidding. We explored the courtyards of the town hall with their flaking frescoes and rooftop views and then headed back to Figline Val D’Arno.

The following day, we left early(ish) to go to Siena. There was a market on Wednesday mornings that we had planned our week around attending and we weren’t disappointed. The market was huge and sold everything you could think of. There were clothes for 3 Euro right up to leather jackets for 100. There were beauty products, kitchen appliances, souvenirs, shoes and bric a brac. The highlight for me was 5 Euro knitted slippers. They’re like boots, with souls, almost like ugg boots, except knitted and amazing and cheap.

Courtney’s highlight was predictably food related – he relished all the attention he got from gaping strangers as he sat on a rock eating the huge roasted leg of some poor farm animal. He is telling me it was lamb but when I asked he couldn’t even remember Siena so don’t trust him. No lamb I’ve ever seen has had a leg that big, I think it was pork from memory. I had deep fried cheese and potato croquettes and followed them up with Lavender Honey from a little old man selling jars he had farmed himself.

When the stallholders began packing up, we headed over to the town of Siena. I found out quickly that I actually had no knowledge of Siena at all, despite all my planning. The GPS lead us on a wild goose chase that took us back to the place we had originally been parked for the market, and it was then we realized that Siena is basically just a huge walled city. There are very few cars and most traffic is on foot, so we wandered on in and immersed ourselves in the alleys and cobblestones we’ve become accustomed to.

We wandered the main streets, found the Piazza that hosts Il Palio, the annual horse race, and then wandered further in to find the Duomo. The Cathedral and duomo were amazing, even if they did look like a tacky and over the top wedding cake. The exterior was white and pink with other pastel accents and trims that could have been piped icing. The statues and frescoes were of course incredible, and we sat on a ledge at the edge of the piazza just staring for awhile. Well, I was staring, Courts may have been semi comatose from the heat.

We let ourselves get lost, played in a playground after taking pictures of the view, and, surprise surprise ended up with gelato. We ate it on the slope of the piazza that hosts Il Palio, dog, toddler and pigeon watching. Adult watching is so last year. I have to say as far as gelato goes, Siena is letting down the team. We perused 3 or 4 shops before we found one that looked good and wasn’t mass-produced, glorified ice cream.

So that was Siena, another lovely day, as every day is in Tuscany. How can it not be?