Thursday, 10 January 2013

San Gimignano, Siena & Roma

We awoke to fog and rain on our travel day towards Rome. Our private vans came early at 730am. There was a momentary period of panic when it appeared that our luggage may not fit into our vans. However, our drivers Michele and Andrea managed some nifty rearranging with space to spare. We left for San Gimignano 20 minutes ahead of time which was just as well! We ended up needing the extra time!

The rain stopped just at the right time on our arrival at San Giminagno, a town also known as the Manhattan of Tuscany. So called because it once had over 70 towers from competing families showing their "might". Now about 13 remain. It was such a pretty town the whole family loved it at first sight. We all ogled at the shops lining the main street entering the town, all eager for opening time!  The town also earnt the family's vote for having the best toilets they had ever been in. A lofty praise considering the luxurious establishments that the group had been to collectively. The toilets had stone walls with soft yellow lighting, jazz music playing in the background, a funky designer toilet bowl set an angle and everything automated. All for the discount price of...nothing as we entered before 10am! Bargain! After that, it would have been 2 euros each...

The toilets would have been more enjoyable if Jonah hadn't pulled the distress cord in the disabled booth whilst Malcolm, Ryuji and grandpa were all doing their "business" and not supervising him. The sound that blared out was fortunately quickly stopped by Ryuji. I was just glad that I was no where close at that point! I claim to be of no relation...

We whiled away the hours in the market which was hands down the best market we've been to so far. It was infinitely better than the ones we visited in France. Perhaps I am a little biased towards Italy, but the market had that lovely country town market feel that I never got in France. San Gimignano lacked the grunge factor and the graffiti that a lot if the towns had in Provence. We also had the best BBQ chicken, pork sandwiches and mandarins! The 2 kg of mandarins were so juicy and sweet that it didn't make it back to the van...

San Gimignano

Foggy but the rain had stopped

Pretty buildings lining the streets

Interesting items for sale!

A section of the market

The chicken wing man

Jonah alone ate about 10 mandarins in one sitting

View from the town

Fog look at the same building again!

Leaving San Gimignano. Convincing Oma, Opa and Oma Lulu to leave the shops was hard work!

Bar a few days of miserable rain, we have otherwise been blessed with decent weather so far on our trip and today was no exception. The fog lifted just enough such that we were actually able to witness the beautiful landscape of Tuscany. Seeing the green rolling hills and rustic farmyards was very soothing. We were taken to a family run vineyard called San Donato. What a gorgeous place it was! What I love about Italy is how most people embrace children and families. It was not different here. Although the adults were obviously here for wine tasting, the nona made sure that the children were catered for with juice and bruschetta. The farm produced other organic goods besides wine including olive oil, cereals and their own biscotti. We bought a bundle of goodies after having a fun time trying out different products.

The property

The little shopfront

Going up into the little room where we had some refreshments

Some of their products on display

Trying out wines

Happy Oma, Oma lulu and Nana

These two were content waiting outside playing with the dog

Part of the property

We had learnt quite a bit about Siena through our various museum visits whilst in Florence and I was looking forward to seeing it. It was so much better than I expected. Another pretty Tuscan town with an amazing Piazza unlike anything I had ever seen before. In the summer, they would hold a horse race at the Piazza. This would be phenomenal to witness. As we had limited time, the initial plan was to get something to takeaway for lunch. We ducked into a restaurant to take Jonah for a loo stop and the lady inside allowed us to order order our pizza so we could sightsee. We were told to return in half an hour. We returned, made ourselves comfortable and enjoyed the pizzas. What we didn't realise was that it was a misunderstanding! She had thought that we were taking the pizzas away. Understandably there was a different price for eating the pizzas in the restaurant. They served us happily and never charged us for the extra that we were supposed to pay. If we hadn't discovered it accidentally, we would never have known. The warm Italian hospitality really did help make our days that little bit better.

We bought ourselves a gelato and walked towards the duomo, which was yet another beautiful church. Photos were allowed this time!


Piazza del camp where the horse race is run

The she-wolf with Remus and Romulus


Beautiful floors

Details everywhere

Interesting things on the floor if you look carefully!

Interior of the duomo

Rather scary heads all lined up looking down at you!

A panel within the amazing library

Frustrates me that what I see isn't what I capture on camera!

The library

Big books of music

Elliot next to it for a sense of scale

We climbed into the van at 3pm as it was a 2.5 hour drive to Rome. Just as we did, it started to rain! I snoozed for most of the way. All I knew was that by the time we arrived in Rome it had stopped raining again. We checked into the simple IQ Hotel which was relatively new. It ran on the premise that you pay a lower price and buy anything that you needed on top as an extra....almost like the budget airlines! They had vending machines on most floors which had snacks and drinks at a reasonable price, self service laundry and more.

We dumped our bags and in tiredness settled for the closest food place we could see which happened to be the McDonald's 150m down the road. It was the worse McDonalds' meal I had ever had. Still not sure how this was possible...but in any case, it certainly cured any cravings for McDonalds for at least the next year...

Family room at the IQ Hotel Rome

Ordering on mass at McDonalds

1 comment:

  1. This is disappointing. I've never wanted to see a photo of a toilet more than now & there isn't one. :(