September 24, 2012

On the Road Again - Under the Tuscan Sun

On Friday morning, we said our goodbyes to Florence. I didn't see/do nearly enough while I was here, but I guess that's what happens sometimes when you travel. That just means I must return again to continue my exploration. The Hertz rental car office was a fairly short walk from our apartment, so April and I head out to pick up our car. The office was packed and after waiting for almost an hour, it's our turn to do the paperwork. We finally have keys in hand (and were upgraded to a nicer car), but the "Zone Limited Traffic" means that we can't exactly pull up in front of our apartment to load the luggage (you have to have a special permit to drive in these zones). We could eventually get to a parking lot near our apartment, but that wasn't ideal. So we leave the car where it was in the Hertz garage and walk back to the apartment. We were going to put Dad and Joan in a taxi with our luggage back to the Hertz parking garage.

When we arrived back at the apartment, the owner was there tending to the issue of the stuck laundry machine door. She offered to drive Dad and Joan with our luggage over to Hertz, which was very kind of her. April and I walked over to Hertz and we all arrived at just about the same time. Finally, we were on our way with our luggage all fitting into our Fiat Chroma Wagon. Now finding reverse was a bit tricky. The car is a 6-speed manual transmission (it's great to be driving a stick shift again as my new car is an automatic) and "reverse" is clearly marked and in the location you suspect it would be, but I couldn't seem to "jam" it into gear. April even suggested that she get out and push us out of our space, but we really need a reverse gear, so we had to figure it out. Finally, Dad got in the driver's seat and figured out that there was a kind of ring around the gear shaft that you had to pull up on to get it to go into reverse. Problem solved!

I brought along our Garmin GPS which I loaded with a map of Italy (purchased from the Garmin website) and this will prove to be pretty handy to have. We plug in our destination of "San Gimignano" and we're off. This doesn't mean that the GPS didn't steer us wrong a couple of times, and this doesn't mean that I didn't make any wrong turns. It did and I did. But we eventually found our rhythm together. Once we got on our way (on the RIGHT road) it was only about an hour and fifteen minutes to this beautiful towered hill town in Tuscany.
San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany. Known as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture, unique in the preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses, which, with its hilltop setting and encircling walls form "an unforgettable skyline". The town also is known for the white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, produced from the ancient variety of Vernaccia grape which is grown on the sandstone hillsides of the area. We had some of this wine with our lunch and I really liked it. Refreshing and not too sweet.
Like many other walled hill towns (as we find out later), you can't just drive into them and park. As the designated driver of our vehicle, my passengers get red-carpet service to the entry of these historic places and I have to go find parking. There are several parking lots surrounding San Gimignano, however, they are all full of other tourists wanting to take pictures and eat gelato. I finally find a space in the last parking lot near the village. I'm pretty sure I parked in Germany and I had to walk over the Swiss Alps to finally meet up with the rest of my entourage. I seriously earned my gelato that day!

I find April, Dad and Joan in the center square (with the added help of a phone call) and we wander around a bit before sitting at a cafe for a mediocre lunch (the wine was good!).


During our lunch, we spot this gelato place that had a steady stream of people lined up outside. Surely their credentials speak for themselves.

I had the blackberry lavender gelato and we're all in agreement that this so far was the BEST gelato we've had in Italy. Oh so creamy. It was amazing!

We did a little more sightseeing and it was time to head back to the car. Thankfully, we had discovered that they have a shuttle bus that takes you to all the various parking lots around the village, so we didn't have to walk back to Germany.

We're back in the car again. Next stop, Siena. I'll write about our adventures there in another blog post.

You can view my San Gimignano pictures on Shutterfly.



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