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Posts Tagged ‘Tuscany’

All right, the last couple of days in a quick nutshell.

Sunday morning, I spent a while wandering Sorano looking for another Catholic church I swore must be there. Indeed, one church was right around the corner from our apartment, but as I interpreted it, the Mass times were 8 and 11:30 – the first being too early, the second being later that I wanted.

When I mapped it, I thought I had seen another Catholic church, but when I set out walking..it was nowhere to be found and my data didn’t work. So..I wandered. Which was fine.

Got the boys up, then we left at 11:29.30 for 11:30 Mass, which is nice. The congregation was composed of 18 people, including the three of us. More on that later when I can be more reflective. It was sad, with one tiny glimmer of hope who wished us pace with great sincerity.

We then headed to the path below the village that led to our own area’s via cave – of San Rocco. It was quite a hike up – and when we were back “home” looking up at the plateau upon which we’d stood, it was hard to believe we’d done it. But worth it. Several Etruscan burial sites, caves and niches, and a small (locked) Romanesque church.

And on the way back…it started raining. We were wet, certainly, but not soaked or hurt, so who cares. We hung up our cloths, dried off, ate, waited for the sun to come out, and made our next moves – a tour of the town’s castle (I didn’t take any photos because it was just the three of us, an elderly American couple and our sweet Italian tour guide with her charming, precise English, and it just didn’t seem like the right time. For most of its history, it belonged to the Orsinis. If there is one aspect of history I am emphasizing to the boys on this trip it is simply the patchwork history of Italy, and I think they are getting it. I know I am certainly coming to a more solid grasp of it myself.

The sun was out, so we decided to head over to Pitigliano – this amazing place – where we actually parked (free, because I had actually studied up on it and understood that if the lines were white, the space was free), wandered, checked out the duomo (Mass was happening), the Jewish quarter, and ate some dinner. There was a substantial Jewish population in Pitigliano until World War II, when most left, but the synagogue and other historic buildings are still maintained – not open on Sunday. What was terribly sad was that the complex was guarded by two military guys with machine guns. How tragic that that is necessary.

****

Back to the home base, where we did a bit more wandering, up to the rock that has been built up into a viewing wall. We spent a lot of time up there looking, studying the landscape, talking, and imagining the people – from the Etruscans to modern times – who have inhabited the place.

***

Then it was time to go. The apartment is located in a pedestrian-only zone (as is most of the town), so you can’t park there. The instructions I got for where to park were basically this: “Don’t go in the main gate of the village. Keep going and you will come to some nut trees near a power station with a yellow sign. Park there, walk down the stone steps and you will find the road to the apartment.”

O-kay. 

It took me a couple of tries – I drove past once, couldn’t imagine that that was actually where I was supposed to leave my rental car, but the road led me up, up, up a mountain across a gorge from the village. What was funny was that when I finally found a place to turn around, not one, but TWO cars pulled into the same place behind me, both drivers studying maps when they pulled in. Solace in a confused community.

Well, it was a safe place, the car was fine, and the walk wasn’t bad, except a bit of a chore up the stairs with suitcases. But I didn’t do that, so not my problem, eh guys?

***

The drive to Siena took a bit longer than I thought because I turned off on one wrong road, and instead of backtracking, I decided to just keep going an alternative way. It’s fine. It’s all gorgeous scenery.

***

When people drive to Siena, one of the great concerns is parking.  Most Italian cities have what they call ZTL zones – historic zones in which driving is limited to those who have special permits. If you venture into a ZTL, you apparently get zapped with a massive fine, and everyone is super scared. I didn’t have a problem – I just followed the “P” signs which indicated a lot with available spaces – Il Campo – and parked there. Easy.

***

We only did the basics, unfortunately, but they were quite enough for one afternoon – the Campo, the Duomo, inside and from up top, and the Catherine of Siena sites, include the relic of her head, which was not at all gruesome.

I’ll write more on that later.

It was a rainy day, but not too bad. We found shelter in churches and gelateria. Which is a metaphor for something.

Then a rather tortuous drive to the outskirts of Florence – probably more tortuous than it should have been – found the new place. We went to the biggest supermarket we’ve been to on this trip – an Esselunga – and stocked up, and then drove back up the hill to eat things like salami and prosciutto sandwiches, pepperocini stuffed with tuna. a cold pesto pasta dish, cheese, bread, olives and Italian chicken nuggets – “just to see”.

I obviously hope to get into Florence today…we’ll see…

Random photos I don’t have time to label. Seriously – follow me on Instagram or on Snapchat (amywelborn2) to get more during the day. I have videos on both – and remember Snapchat stuff is only up for 24 hours. You have to download the Snapchat app and register, but it’s painless – and you can make your kids cringe with embarrassment that you’re on Snapchat, and possibly drive them off of it as a result, so that’s a win.]

(Photo related – the blog header is from the Siena duomo – heads of popes lining the walls. I am convinced that whoever designed Disney’s Haunted Mansion had visited this place. It’s all I could think of as I looked at them looking down at me with their various expressions….)

 

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Speaking of Siena..

(Which we were, on Friday. Right?)

Siena is in an area of Italy called Tuscany. Tuscany is north of Rome and includes, not only Siena, but Florence, Pisa, Lucca and dozens of charming towns, many of them atop hills.

Tuscany looks beautiful and interesting. Tuscany is very popular. A spate of books on the expats’ experience in Tuscany both reflects and exacerbates the popularity, which then leads to a certain packaging of the Tuscany experience.

 

Thanks to reader John for the reminder….

But Tuscany is also a large area (not as big as North Dakota, George. Sorry.) with a lot to see, and the challenge is that while it is about three hours from Rome up to Florence – and that doesn’t seem far – the geography of the area makes finding a central base for exploration challenging, and you for sure need a car.

So, after weeks of reading and thinking, I had to force myself to return to one of my basic philosophies I claim I hold and ask myself if I really indeed believed it and was willing to live by it:

You can’t do everything. Just do what you can, and do it well.

So no, we were not going to be able to see everything that we might find interesting. Choices would have to be made.

And I still haven’t made them.

Yup. Some people plan their vacations a year out. Me, I’m a few weeks away from a week in Tuscany, and I haven’t yet booked a single accommodation.

Right now, this is what I’m thinking – feel free to chime in.

We are done in Rome on a Friday. At that point, I’ll rent a car, and we’ll head out. I was thinking that for two or three days, we’d do the southern part of Tuscany, or Maremma. Orvieto (which is really Umbria), Pitigiliano, Sorano, Sovano, Saturnia – focusing on Etruscan stuff as well as the usual Catholic fun.

via-cave-tuscany

Etruscan Stuff and Catholic fun all in one – part of the Etruscan Via Cave with a later Christian addition – appropriate for today (May 1) – St. Joseph protecting those who venture onward. More here. 

Alternative: take the train to Orvieto, center there for a couple of days, rent car and use a car for the rest of the week.

Maybe.

Then there’s Siena.

And Florence.

And little towns around.

I would love to base in Siena, but, a couple of things…Siena accommodations are pretty expensive, it seems. Secondly, it’s a hike from Siena to Florence – over an hour, maybe more, I think. I’m leaning towards basing somewhere between Siena and Florence for the bulk of that week, but I just don’t know.

We end up in Pisa. We fly out of there on a Friday afternoon, so I figure we will take Thursday afternoon and evening to do Pisa and stay there Thursday night – I already have those hotel reservations.

Bottom line: I have no idea. No. That’s not true. I have ideas, but I’m torn and am having to resist, with all my strength, the temptation to dash around and See All The Tuscan Things. I know from experience that is miserable, and I know the way to actually benefit deeply from travel is to calm down, stay still, look and listen.

I think: I’ll be back. I can see more on some other trip.

But will I? I might drop dead, some other drama, tragedy or priority might make future travel of this sort impossible or ill-advised. There are many other places in the world I have my eye on. So no. Maybe I won’t be back.

And what does it matter anyway? There is no urgency or necessity about this, at all. If I don’t see some little Tuscan hill town that caught my eye…so what? If we don’t experience this ruin or Etruscan site that I think the boys will enjoy and appreciate…so what?

Whatever we are doing while not doing what we’re missing…will be worth doing.  

It’s all fascinating, all opportunities to learn, to see, to listen – all – beginning with my own neighborhood, my own town, first of all. Beginning today, here and now.

The only way to “miss” something important is to close myself off to the present – where ever it is I happen to be.

 

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