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Day 3 in Florence is bound to be special as we decide to go on a paid tour of Pisa, Sam Gimigniano where we will have lunch and sample some beautiful wines from the Chianti region of Italy followed by a visit to the medieval town of San Gimigniano and finally a stop over in the medieval city of Sienna. Doing a paid tour is not something we intended on doing but because there is so much to see here and only one day left, we need to cram in as much as possible.
We are met by our tour guide Giulia and bus driver Georgio. Giulia lives close to Pisa so she knows the region well. Apart from Italian, Giulia also speaks English and Spanish. Georgio only speaks Italian however he drives our double decker bus like it is a Ferrari, much to Johanna's displeasure who unfortunately did not cope well with some of the hair pin turns up in the mountains. I sat directly opposite Johanna for most of the trip and, of course, had my hands cupped in readiness for any projectile matter that might ensue!
The Piazza di Miracolo where the leaning tower is located is mostly manicured lawn. The buildings include the leaning tower as well as the Cattedrale di Pisa. It is a beautiful sunny day. Not a cloud in the sky. There is only a whisper of wind barely enough to keep you cool as the temperature begins its journey to around 35 degrees. At 9am the Piazza is already packed with people. Mostly German and American. Everyone wants a shot of themselves holding up the leaning tower and I have to admit that after seeing a few people do it it becomes a bit corny. That was until Dahlsen Building Supplies came onto the scene! Now, apparently the tower was fixed about 10 years ago but in the photo you will notice that Dahlsens were there attempting to take up where there others left off! The cathedral here is undergoing restoration with artists from all over the world enlisted to do the work. Truly a mammoth feat!
Feeling hungry we are pleased to hear that lunch is next. Our destination is the Super Tuscan winery located high up in the Tuscan hills. This is not a trip for the faint hearted with hairpin turns, steep inclines and roads barely big enough to carry cars let alone a DD bus! But our lethal weapon here is Georgio who only sees challenges not obstacles! The Super Tuscan winery makes authentic chianti wines as well as other well known varieties such as Brunello. Lunch was a traditional antipasto with local pecorino cheese, chindiale (wild boar) salami as well as bruschetta smothered in the local truffle infused olive oil. Second course was penne in a creamy tomato sauce. The wines, of course, were all beautiful but expensive. I left the expertise in wine tasting to Dahlsen who has had significant experience. Unfortunately for all of us Dahlsen decided that it was appropriate to tell the winemaker that his vintage of Brunello could do with a few more years in the bottle. That may be a reasonable view however it's best to keep this one to yourself judging by the way the winemaker has reacted! It's times like these I wish the earth would open up and swallow me!
Anyway, bellies full of good food and great wine we make our way to the ancient and medieval town of San Gimigniano. This town is so special that apart from being world heritage listed, it also has the best gelato shop in the world. You can choose your reason to go there but no prizes for guessing Lucy's reason! San Gimigniano has many tower houses built by wealthy residents back in the 13th century. Most are located in and around the main square Piazza de Erbe. To the side is the local church with a large step frontage. Many people sitting on the steps are enjoying the shade on this hot 35 degree day. You will have all heard of the children's books "where's Wally?". You will notice a photo of the church steps and you may recognise some of the people on the step. Look and the photo to see if you can find Dahlsen!
Siena is our next destination, this town is also ancient and medieval. The Piazza del Campo in Siena is host to the most dangerous horse race in the world; the Palio di Siena. As well, Siena is famous because in the 13th century three quarters of its population was wiped out by the Black Plague! It's now five o'clock in the afternoon. We are standing in Piazza del Campo. The breeze has just picked up cooling our hot and weary bodies. Behind us a couple have just gotten married and are having their wedding reception. I can count about 30 restaurants around the piazza. All are full. The main tower in the piazza, the Torre del Mangia casts a shadow over us. It's take away night tonight so we buy some focaccia, formaggio, procuitto e birra and make our way back to the bus.
Our drive back to the apartment is memorable. As we meander our way back to Florence we are treated to the majesty of a Tuscan sunset. There are no words to describe how beautiful this is.