Wednesday, August 13, 2008


For our last dinner we went to Pane Vino where Leigh and I had had lunch on the day of our arrival. Ham is certainly a specialty of this place as we all had a dish which involved large lashings of ham along with mushrooms, goat and other cheese all washed down with two fine bottles of Italian Pinot Grigio.

I got up at 7.30 the next morning and checked my cashpassport account at a local internet cafe and then couldn't get any money out! I'll try again somewhere else later.

I then joined the others for breakfast before Terry and I successfully managed the bus trip to Via Della Pianta to pick up the rental car. We marched down this road looking for the Hertz sign which should have been at number 8 and decided to turn around at number 250 when we couldn't find it, only to return to the beginning of the street to discover the office (with very little signage!) at the very beginning where we started walking. Terry forgot to take his International Licence so I'm driving for the next 8 days.

I was pleased with how we managed the drive back to our hotel navigating very narrow and one-way streets. Leigh and Dallas were there with the bags and we headed off hoping to reach Pisa for some brief sightseeing.

After a bit of zigging and zagging we found the right motorway and headed off in our automatic diesel chevrolet and managed to stumble across a free car park (after two attempts) where we boarded a bus for a 5 minute trip to the area the tower is.

This area was more spectacular than I expected, as hot as I expected and much more crowded than I expected, and was our first real encounter with marauding hawkers attempting to sell bags, straps, sunglasses and cell phones.

We started off with a grat lunch (Terry and I had great pizzas, Dallas had a huge spaghetti bolognese and Leigh had a caneloni). I decided I would go to the top of the tower while the others went through the cathedral. It was now 2.30 pm and I discovered the next tour which had spaces left on it was at 5.00pm so I missed out. I joined them in the cathedral, which was quite impressive, before we fought our way through the stalls, hawkers and crowds to the bus and then our car park.

There was brief tension as we discussed the various options of getting out of Pisa and on to a correct motorway. We eventually found one going to Lucca and despite it being a little out of our way we took it. Following the instructions that we had been provided with and Dallas' great impersonation of a TomTom we found our way after a couple of hours to our wonderful Tuscany villa just outside the village of Radicondoli.

The view is outstanding, the villa cool and comfortable and it has a wonderful pool. We were met by the custodian, Graziano, unpacked and headed to the village. Like all villages it is perched on top of a hill and surrounded by a stone wall. The church is the biggest and tallest building and the streets are narrow and steep. Everything is made of stone and the buildings have wonderful doors.

We bought some supplies from a small and very busy shop for our tea and breakfast and did a little exploring. There are only about 200m in total of streets and there were several models of animals lurking in interesting places.

On our return we cooled off in the pool, knocked back a bottle of the villa's own wine, Colombaiolo EpiBios (Sangiovese, Cabernet, Merlot, Leccio, Leccio del Corno, Moraiolo and Pendolino e Frantoio) before a feed of bread, ham, salami, cheese, olives and tomatoes and another bottle of red (Morellino di Scansano). We then crashed after a very busy (again) day.

This morning Terry and I got up at 7.00, had a coffee and walked up to the village to buy a range of pastries for breakfast which we shared with our wahine on return.

Dallas has organised a neat itinerary for the next few days as she has read all the pamphlets. So we headed off and stopped at a nearby village about the same size , if not smaller, as Radicondolli, Mensano. We explored briefly before continuing on, guided by Terry's expert navigating, and arrived at Casole d'Elsa which is a little bigger. A feature of this was interesting statues that you came across including a man climbing out of a well, a couple embracing on a wall, and a man pissing against the wall. Here we enjoyed a nice coffee and purchased a bottle of Rosso Sangiovese. We then wandered down to a small shop and enjoyed some wine tasting and purchased a bottle of Camporignano Sangiovese/Merlot 2005. Terry bought a Pinot Grigio at the first shop and a Camporignano Cabernet/Merlot 2005 at the tasting shop.

We then headed off to the much larger city of San Gimignano which was very busy with hordes of people. It features a large number of towers built by the families to outdo each other. As with all of the villages we visited the churches which are all 11th or 12th Century buildings. Before exploring this place we had a feed with Terry dipping out with a panini which was a dry sandwich with salami. Leigh's panini was better because it had tuna and tomatoes on it. Dallas had a natural omelette and I had a cheese one, both of which were very nice. We washed it all down with a different glass each of local wine. The neat thing about eating here is that you don't know what you will get because everything is in Italian!

We then had an icecream from the world champion gelatto shop before visiting yet another bloody old church. I am starting to believe that Terranzo is trying to quietly convert me to his strange belief syastem.

We then decided not to visit Poggibonsi and headed home to our village of Radicondoli, expertly navigated by Terrenzo. We had another dip in the pool, a soak in the sun, a couple of beers and right now we are enjoying a local rose before going out to dinner in the local village.

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