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Note: The photos in the posts below are mine. Every day when I get back from touring, I'm choosing the best ones to share. Having my laptop on this trip is a wonderful thing!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Under the Tuscan Sun

Seriously hot. But other than that, fantastico! So today was spent exploring two small towns – Volterra and San Gimignano. And taking in the beautiful Tuscan countryside along the way. Both of these towns are in the general vicinity of Sienna – or central Tuscany. And they are exactly what you think of when you imagine Tuscany (…or see it in the movies, like in the namesake of this post – Under the Tuscan Sun).

Volterra is probably my favorite medieval Tuscan city. Mainly because it isn’t as frequented by tourists as much as San Gimignano (or Florence for that matter). As soon as I got off the bus I took off my ‘sticker’ (i.e. Hi, I’m a tourist badge) and ditched the guided tour. I’ve been to Volterra before and didn’t need the tour – plus, rather than listen to a tour guide go on-and-on in very difficult to understand broken English about obscure historical facts (and that's coming from a History major!), I prefer to wander the small cobblestone streets and ‘experience’ the town on my own.

While taking photos of some ancient ruins of a Roman Theater dating back to the 1st century BC, I stumbled across a local flea market. I saw no other tourists there, which made it really interesting. I walked from stall to stall, mingling with the local people who actually live in Volterra. I picked up a really nice sweater and a sleep shirt – in my opinion, much better momentos from my visit than some cheesy souvenir. The sleep shirt says something in Italian that I need to look up a translation for – hopefully, it doesn’t say anything embarrassing!

Before heading to San Gimignano, we stopped for lunch at a Tuscan farmhouse. The grounds were beautiful and the food – pasta, salami, prochiutto, olive oil, goat cheese, fresh bread – was scrumptious. My mission when I got to San Gimignano was to find the spices I bought here a few years ago (for dipping bread in with olive oil). And I found them! I had kept the wrapper all this time and brought it with me, and by the 4th or 5th store, I hit the jackpot!

There are a lot of tourists in San Gimignano, but it is still an amazing medieval town to explore that is know for it’s many towers (as well as being home to what is supposedly the ‘world’s best’ gelato store – since I don’t like Ice Cream, I couldn’t verify this fact, but given the countless number of people walking around eating the stuff, it seems like an accurate assessment!).

After 9.5 hours in 90 degree heat and sun, it was a long day. But a small price to pay for an amazing day spent in the Tuscan countryside.