Monday, July 7, 2008

Tuscan touring

Wednesday was much quieter with another big sleep in, followed by a short drive to markets at Certaldo. I finally found some jandals for a steal (€4) & my feet could breath again. For a change, we didn't get lost on the scenic route home. Dinner at the trattoria across the road & no great gelatos this day.

Thursday was a bit more adventurous - a drive out west to the Mediterranean & then south with the idea of getting a ferry to Elba (where Napoleon was exiled for a while before he returned for the so-called one hundred days). Unfortunately an unplanned detour, the ferry schedule & the hour long trip meant we flagged the idea of crossing to the island & just poked around various towns. Mum was pleased to find Etruscan ruins & artefacts - the little castle (compared to some - I still wouldn't have been able to conquer it with my Swiss Army card). Cocktail party back at the estate - this was to be the welcome party earlier in the week, but the wedding was then.

Siena was the plan for Friday - lunching with my Uncle & Aunty. I must have eaten some thing not too agreeable the night before as stomach cramps lessened my enjoyment of the day all round. Still, Siena was beautiful & the cathedral quite spectacular. Spent quite a while trying to find where we were to meet for lunch (this seems to be a common theme) & eventually settled on the edge of the Piazza del Campo. We were glad to have missed the crowds of people two days previous - it was one of the twice-annual runnings of Il Palio. Il Palio is a centuries old horse race around the piazza (square) between representatives of the different neighbourhoods & it is very popular. Considering it was well over 30 °C much of the week & the crowd of 50,000+ is locked in the middle of the piazza for the four hours before the race - I didn't really miss the three lap, one minute race.

Farewells for all over Friday night & Saturday morning. We drove north about half an hour to Empoli - a much less touristy town that is on the railway route between Pisa & Florence. After we eventually found the hotel, it was off in to Florence to have a look around. After the previous weeks in the heart of Tuscany, I wasn't particularly impressed by Florence (Philistines - I know) & its crowds of people & lots of artwork (although I did keep saying ''stat you bro?'' every so often). Our general apathy for Florence & Mum's tiredness led to a day off around Empoli on Sunday - Dad & I did manage to venture to Vinci (not to difficult to guess who the most famous son of the town is - there were an awful lot of models of various mechanical devices).

Today en route to dropping Mum & Dad at Pisa airport & dropping the rental off, we made a rather circuitous route to seeing the tower - which is a rather remarkable stuff up. People/tourist watching there was quite fun - I think I have more photos of people standing waving their arms around in the air for others' cameras than I do of the tower. The excitement (although I quickly grew bored of it) of today is trying to get back to Empoli tonight - for some unexplained reason, all the workers on the regional trains & buses have been on strike since last night & that is due to finish at 2100 tonight - it could be a late trip back. Tomorrow (regional transport dependent) I'm back to Heathrow to pick up another rental & then drive north to meet Mum & Dad again for our tour of bits of Britain visiting various friends & family.

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