Thursday, July 24, 2008

Road trip in Tuscany (Italy: part 3)

This is Tuscany! Isn't it ridiculously perfect?

Yet another thing I wanted to do when I returned to Italy. It was definitely good to have Mom around for this because I would never get to drive a car around solo in Italy. So, after repeating over and over again that I just physically can not drive a stick, we got an automatic car. However, it was still a little different. Sitting in the parking lot, I was wondering how this was going to work. I couldn't figure out why the car had no "park" gear, and couldn't figure out how to even get the engine started. I had a bunch of mapquest maps that I had stayed up until 2 am the night before printing, but now realizing that they were just useless pieces of papers with directions to roads that don't really have names. Luckily we had one huge map, although it was torn in many different places.

But, I like adventure and road trips and Italy, so here we go!Our Italian ride!
We ended up not getting terribly lost even though even major highways seemed to not even be marked. Thank goodness for the signs in the roundabouts pointing to which direction to go. Fortunately for the most part we went to major landmarks. Though sometimes the signs were hard to see and far and few between making us doubt our questionable direction.

Town #1: San Gimignano.

The mist rolling over the main church of San Gimignano

After a few hours of driving, and a few false sightings, we arrived at this little enclosed midival town has 14 preserved towers from when Lords reigned over it and were fending off from outside attacks. Now it sits nestled in the mountains welcoming visitors. The first thing we did was sit in the northern square by the church eating our packed lunch of bread, prosciutto and mozerella from the mama Ipata.

The clouds rolling over the town.
It started pouring rain while we were here and it actually made the town really beautiful and misty. We meandered here for a few hours and doing a little shopping.
Town #2: Sienna
The rain made the driving to our next destination, Sienna, a little more difficult. At some point I was almost ready to give up on finding Sienna as we seemed to be circling around and around, getting lost in the streets of the dorm universities and looking for the stadium (aka soccer ball picture) sign for parking. After about 30 min of circles we found the parking at last and were ready for a 15 minute descent into the town.Me in Sienna's main sqaure with the town hall in the backdrop. This square was striking as the entire ground sloped towards the main building in a semi-circular layout.

Sienna has piqued my curiosity for awhile because this was the town I would've studied in had I chosen to go abroad to Italy instead of Denmark. I loved Copenhagen with all my heart, though I must admit since 16 I had planned on studying abroad in Italy. It turns out that I needed to know Italian and didn't have time to learn it with all my science classes, so I chose Denmark. The first time I stepped foot on Italy a part of me was thinking, why didn't I come here? So warm and beautiful and good food. So, Sienna... what could've been.

The duomo here was beautiful, unlike any other church I had seen before (and by this time I had seen quite a few!). It was striking with it's horizontal dark green striped columns and beautiful tiled mosaics on the floor.

We only spent a few hours here and got the famous ricciarelli (intensely rich almond marzipan cookies) which Anna has bought back to the states for us before. We enjoyed dwelling on the balcony eating gelato yet again overlooking the sloping square.

Moving along to Arezzo. The only reason for going here was to stay in the bed and breakfast that Anna had been raving about for a year.

So, this place was a little local off the beaten track family runned property. Even Anna said it was hard to get to. So we arrive in Arezzo just fine, except for the B&B is outside of Arezzo, outside another little town of about 300. We circled in and out and around Arezzo for almost an hour... luckily I had at least a sense of North and we knew it was NE of town. Finally on one of the many roundabouts we saw a little sign and arrow to the town near the town near the B&B. Whew! We arrived much later, but it was worth it!
La Biblidole - our B&B

We had almost the whole place to ourselves. Traveling with Mom I got to stay in nice places. They had a pool, and a wondreful breakfast and patio to just lounge in.

Day #2: Round 2 of town hopping.

We started off the morning with a phone call to our B&B from Joy saying that they were arriving in Arezzo early. It's so wonderful to be able to meet up with Joy and Otto in so many different places. We grabbed them from the train station and headed out to Montepulcianno. Once we got on the right track it was smooth riding. Now these set of towns were really nestled in the rolling hills - classical Tuscany.

Town #3: Montepulcianno

Joy and I in awe that we are here!!! It is picture perfect!

Mom and me in a side alley exploring Montepulcianno.

Town #4: Pienza
The tiny streets of the second town for the day: Pienza. I had been reading about pint-sized Pienza for awhile in my Lonely Planet and it was not to be missed!

We left Joy and Otto in Pienza, and I planned to meet up with them in few days for the ferry to Croatia. Mom and I drove back to our B&B for a swim and a home made dinner and relaxing evening. The next morning we took it easy and drove the easy 2.5 hours back to the Pisa. A great road trip with no disasters and many wonderful views, towns, food and company. 10 hours of driving in 3 days across amazing scenery. Not too shabby.

We spent one more night in Pisa with the Ipatas, enjoying one last home cooked meal and the welcoming arms if our host family. I was sad to leave them. I would've loved to stay and just chill a few more days and I would stayed, perhaps the rest of the summer until the 'stans if it weren't for my plans to meet up with Joy and Otto to explore Croatia.

The next morning we dropped Mom off at the airport and I went to the train station, traveling solo for just a bit, but feeling a little empty after being surrounded by so many people for the past few weeks. After about 5 hours and 3 trains I arrived in Ancona train station and after waiting for a few anxious hours and a $30 one minute phone call, I found Joy and Otto for a 3rd time in yet a different part of Italy to head for Croatia.

A memorable Mom and Daughter trip!

We had a wonderful trip. We both survived. Good times, memories, food and adventure. It was the first time mom and I traveled alone together and the first time mom traveled without dad. And we spent time with wonderful friends along the way; the Ipatas and Joy and Otto. All in all, a great tour of Italy. Of course, I feel like I must return. I always have a place in Pisa. Hmm, when's the next trip? Hopefully sooner than 8 years!

And now off to Croatia with Joy and Otto!

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