Wednesday Sept 24, 2014

Today was a biggie – with a 7:15am start – and there were some groggy-looking Kiwis when we found our seats on the coach. But the effort was worth it. Some of our Mad Midlifers have read books about Tuscany, watched movies about Tuscany, seen photos of Tuscany. But today we got to sample it for ourselves.

Leaving Livorno (one of Italy’s largest ports, not far from the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa), we motored south through the hilltop vineyards and olive groves of Tuscany to Siena, the region’s best-preserved medieval town. Here we explored its ancient walls, steep steps and winding alleyways … admired the Duomo (Siena’s imposing cathedral) … and took in some atmosphere at the Piazza del Campo (site of a fantastic horse-race that’s taken place each year for the past 300 years).

Then we continued our leisurely drive through lovely Tuscan landscapes to the 700-year-old tower-filled skyline of San Gimignano (pronounced ‘San-jim-in-YAH-no’). Known as the Tuscan Manhattan, it owes its trademark silhouette to rival medieval families who tried to outdo each other by building taller and taller towers. And, this afternoon, stepping back in time down those cobblestone streets helped create yet another unforgettable highlight for all of us.

Oh, by the way: en route to San Gimignano, we stopped at a farmhouse right in the middle of those grapevines and olive trees for a yummy, healthy Tuscan-style lunch of organic delights and wine-a-la-go-go!

As you can probably tell, we’re having an AWFUL time – and we’re not even halfway yet! Dunno how we’re gonna cope with another two-and-a-bit weeks like this …

TOMORROW: We’re in Rome, the most fascinating city in Italy … in fact, one of the most fascinating cities in the world! So don’t change channels …

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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