Sunday, July 02, 2006

SUNDAY, JULY 02: - Day 17 - San Gimignano to Monteriggioni. 18.5km

Sylvia: "Another shit day in Tuscany". Blue skies, birds singing, butterflies escorting us along quiet gravel roads through shady forests or between lush green vineyards bordered by verges covered in wild flowers. Ancient knarled vines pregnant with bunches of emerald green grapes, olive groves with tiny hard olives just appearing - acres of 6 foot tall sunflowers, all standing in rows - to attention like school children in assembly, facing the rising sun. An imposing castle on a hilltop, gracious villas partially hidden at the end of sweeping driveways lined with conifers so perfect and symetrical you would think they had been pruned to that shape. Time for a stop for the coffee queens to down their morning fix at a road side trattatoria and Monteriggione visible for miles berfore we get there. The ever gracious Italian men (even the toothless older locals) keen to show us the way and direct us onto the right path.
"Toscana is the heartbeat of Italy". Our taxi driver told us this morning as he dropped us off plus minus 16km down the road towards Monteriggione - they are all very proud of their country side and beam with pleasure when you tell them that "Toscana e bella - molto bella". When you climb the hill (always a climb to a fortified place) to Monteriggione you see old stone walls, crumbling in places, grass growing out of the niches in the 14 towers and you feel a little anxious about what the accommodation will be like. People clap when we all make it to the top of the steep winding road to the first gate. Some take our photographs. Do we really look so strange? The inside is so medieval, so authentic looking that it made my heart skip a beat. A romanesque church dominates the main plaza, two wells (now covered) still have water at their deepest level. Cobbled squares, stone buildings, chicken wire surrounding a few veg patches lends to the medieval scene. All they need are a few chickens, a goat and cow, and knight on horse back and a director shouting "ACTION"! for it to be straight out of a movie - but without the touristy glitz of San Gim. I couldn’t resist buying a small tray with a hand painted picture of Monteriggione on it. We take a walk around the walls and survey the surrounding countryside. We visit the museum and watch an interactive, computerised video of the history of the Via Francigena and Monetriggioni. Our rooms are once again spacious and comfortable with modern, clean ablutions. We are all enjoying siesta now! We will go down for a drink later on, perhaps supper in the little garden behind the Il Fuenda bar. (There is only one main street in this village barely 500m long.). We might watch the sun go down over the surrounding hills. It is still warm at 8pm. Oh yes. Another Shit day in Tuscany.

Marion: We are so very fortunate that we have sunshine every day and that we are walking in such magnificant country side. It is such a lot to take in as every place seems mnore beautiful than the one we have just come from. Besides seeing vineyards and Cypress trees today we saw many fields of beautiful smiling sunflowers. We had another steep climb up to Monteriggione - it was worth the huffing and puffing!!! such a beautiful medieval town.

Kathy: Some of us are falling apart at the seams. This morning just after leaving San Gim, I needed to dislodge a passenger (yes, it happens in boots too) and suddenly saw that my boots have both worn through at the inside heel. So - a hasty patch job was done with elastoplast strapping, but I'm going to have to find some proper tape soon. the heels on my botts as well as Marions are also seriously wearing ont he outside corners too. While we have seen outdoor shops and boots for sale, I'm not particularly wanting to buy and wear in a new pair here. My lovely bamboo walking stick is also wearing away. I think I may have a cm on it already, but will know with great accuracy when I get home as it was 130cm long on leaving. I know this because the "weapons box" was made especially 130cm long to accommodate my stick.

Rayna: As Marion says the sunflowers are lovely. Such a happy colour, so we all had our photo taken in the middle of a sunflower field - shades of Anne Geddes. Monterig. is lovely, but a real tourist trap. we went to the museum and watched a video - progressed to the next room and did the same thing. All explaining in english a bit of the history of this walled village - not much to see. Oh! we have just seen the arrival of a bride and groom at the church opposite Kathy and my bedroom. So here we are gawping at the couple. Church beautifully decorted with sunflowers, lemons, wheat and greenery. The bridal couple are dressed in ivory, both carrying sunflower bouquets. Lovely!

Val: The backpack is a little heavier this morning due to a pair of curtain! and a lovely Italian handbag. In addition I have a plastic bag attached with my parcel to post - hopefully tomorrow..... when I started my journey I decided it was vital to make peace with my backpack - so - I named it after my gorgeous pooch, Charli (Charlotte) - now it when it gets too much I say, "she aint heavy, she's my dog"

The boots - I love my boots also, cause I named them after my other gorgeous pooch Makhulu - he's a Great Dane, so his "boots" were certainly made for walking. We also have a waist bag, for sun glasses, camera, pepper spray, Italian phrase book, and our valuables, passports credit cards, cash etc This I have named after my gorgeous husband, Martin, because he keeps me safe. On the food front - not much to tell I'm sorry to say.... missed breakfast and set off early - which was really disappointing "panino on the run". Just going out for supper so will add to this before bed......................

Having had a good food day we opted for salads - a huge mixed salad including tuna was 6 Euros, the dessertes were fit for a king - only S was tempted and had a pastry lined tart, crema pasticciera topped with figs and nuts - gorgeous. I am getting withdrawel symptomes from the lack of a sparkling glass so I had a couple of glasses - equivalent to a pongras-Graham Beck E3.50 a glass, the real thing E6.50 per glass - my drinks bill was more than the cost of my food tonight! We find, as one might expect, a completely different attitude - a detached level of service and hospitality in the restaurants in the towns and cities, and especially the tourist spots. To truly experience the italians and there food, you have to meet the odd Mama Norina or the host of La Sosta on the way. Couldn't buy breakfast for tomoorw so some hungry pilgrims will be marching at 6.30am!

Typed by Kathy, read by Rayna. E&OE!!!!


Dave and Antoinette said...

My boss is going to shoot all of you. I have just spent the last hour and a bit catching up on the facinating escapades of the last few days. You do seem to be having a great time - hopefully in 2 years time you will allocate a space to the other gender. Carry on having a good time.

Mark said...

Makes for amazing reading once again.

Mom, just one thing, how can you use the "Another shit day ..." line on anythin but SA! :P