Monday, November 26, 2012

Day 6: Zipping Around Tuscany in Our Trusty Fiat

We said a goodbye to Lucca and headed toward our next rental in Montepulciano, which is a smallish Tuscan hilltop town in Southeast Tuscany. Highway driving in Italy is much like highway driving in the US. Not particularly scenic. However, you do get the opportunity to see medieval hilltop towns occasionally.

We stopped to buy some lunch at a grocery store on our way into San Gimignano, where we decided to make a quick sight-seeing stop. We bought two kinds of cheese, salami, tomatoes, warm foccacia, and Lion Bars. It started to rain just as we left the grocery store, so we decided we'd have ourselves a little picnic in the car in the parking lot before heading in through the city walls.

It really had not let up when we finished, so we just determined to tough it out and head in anyway. San Gimignano is known as a city of towers. There are a great many that still exist there, and they make for an interesting skyline. We walked up through the narrow streets, looking for both a free bathroom and the highest point (the first a given when you're traveling with me now and the second a given with Nathan).

Nathan had already scoped out the park that was at the top with a nice view of the towers and the surrounding countryside. We climbed some steep streets and then some stairs up through a pretty secluded and very green park. Views, check. No free bathrooms in San Gimignano, check. Privacy found behind a secluded olive tree, double check. Desperate times. (I didn't have a euro to pay for the bathroom.)

I talked Nathan into letting me buy a very cute Italian baby outfit, and then we headed out onto the road again.
That looks like a good party.

Roads are marked in Italy, but sometimes it's a bit of a situation where the sign actually comes after the turn. It can be frustrating. Especially when my GPS did not work for most of the countryside. Also, signs are not uniformly sized, so some are teeny tiny and others are clearly visible. Additionally, in a roundabout you sometimes have to contend with a signpost that has 20 signs on one post. Needless to say, Nathan's blood pressure might have already been elevated when we finally got to Montepulciano, though we found the town itself rather easily.

But the problem came when it came time to find our agriturismo (that's where we were's like a cross between a B&B and a farmhouse). It was now getting dark, dumping rain on us, and we were in one of the highest hilltop towns in Tuscany so basically we were driving through a cloud. Our only directions had been that it was on SP17 between mile marker 2 II and 2III. We eventually found SP17, but could not figure out how to go lower than the 6 mile marker that led us into the center of town. Nathan got out to go look at the street signs in person and eventually found a tourist information office, while I realized I had the phone number and could call Giacomo for more distinct directions.

Our agriturismo, La Caggiole, on a later, sunnier day
Neither of us was particularly successful, though they did point us in the right direction finally. We headed back down the hill, passed the previously mentioned mile markers without so much as a glimpse of their "well-marked sign," passed it again going the other way (but then I saw it as we crept past), and then, third time was the charm, crawled up to it on the way back down again and managed to turn in next to the tiny red sign in the middle of a cypress tree.

By this point, Nathan was so aggravated he could barely speak. I told him I'd go get us checked in and he could sit in the car and de-stress. I met Giacomo, host of our agriturismo, and he got all our paperwork situated and showed me to our cozy apartment. Nathan wandered in, and we unwound a little by having some tea and checking out our new digs for the next five days. We had tile floors, a little one room kitchen/living room area, a bedroom with a real live FULL bed, and a bathroom with a glorious shower (that almost always had warm water for our WHOLE showers).

After awhile, we decided to venture back out into the weather to go up to the town and get some dinner. We went to a small place Giacomo suggested, where I had another favorite pasta of my trip, pasta with lemon cream sauce and pine nuts. Delicious.

We headed back and slept incredibly well because no one ended up wedged in a crack halfway through the night for the first time of our trip!

No comments:

Post a Comment