Sunday, July 6, 2008

Tuscan sun...

I arrived in Florence a week ago to a somewhat sweltering 38 degrees Celsius (a slight change from London) - to find that Mum & Dad were not there to meet me. The highlight of the transfer at Frankfurt was the long bus ride from the terminal to our plane - beside a taxiing A340, which we almost stacked in to which the bus driver somehow didn't quite see (!) when it turned right in front of us. My baggage receipt performance improved to being the first bag out on the carousel (that's two seconds & a first from my last three flights). Eventually they turned up & we much more successfully navigated our way to Il Castagno (not that I had anything to do with that). My cousin (who I have not seen in over ten years) came out to meet us & we ensconced ourselves in our apartment (Il Forno - named after the rather large clay oven in the corner of the apartment). After sorting ourselves out (Mum & Dad had come from an equally hot Beijing) it was off to catch up with Dad's brother & his family and meet the fifty odd wedding party & guests that had come from all over the world for the week of sun, celebrations, sightseeing, eating & drinking. The views from the estate were quite what I expected of Tuscany (hills, olives, grapevines, big old houses), except there was a lot of forest/bush & a strange haze off in the distance that we never really identified.Monday dawned another scorching day & we had plenty of time to sleep in, learn to drive on the right, drive in to Montignoso, find supplies before siesta time & have a nice relaxed lunch before the wedding. Mercifully the weather cooled enough for the 5 pm service that a suit was bearable (just). The service on the lawn next to the main house was very nice indeed & the nine course meal stretched well in to the night - but of course not as far as the celebrations (being the party animal that I am, I was tucked up by the relatively modest hour of 2 am - although tucked up is a pretty poor description given the heat).

After a big sleep in (although not compared to some), it was off to explore San Gimignano & some of its towers. Parking outside the ancient walls gave ample opportunity for exploring the tight, narrow & steep streets as we meandered our way towards the centre of town. The seventeen or so remaining towers from centuries ago provide much of the tourist attraction to the town - the view from the tallest one showed much more of the countryside & an interesting take on the narrow streets. After wandering round some more it was time for our first Italian gelato. These were from what has been judged the world's best gelateria for most of the last ten years & they were divine - I managed to stuff up ordering three seperate gelatos so mine came out with three different flavours; the only problem with such gelatos first up, was that ever since then each gelato has been somewhat disappointing.For dinner that night, we managed to escape the trattoria across the rode from the estate & hightailed it (a rather enthusiatic embellishment of my at-this-stage-tentative driving on the narrow, winding & steep Tuscan roads) to Volterra. In the calm & coolness of the early evening, it was great to wander the much less crowded (than San Gimignano) & have a very relaxed meal on the edge of the main Piazza & check out the castle & watch people go by. Also caught a look at a ruined Roman ampitheatre before the drive home.


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