Saturday, April 23, 2005

4/23/05 Tuscany: Day 2

(views from the apartment in Tuscany)

Today, woke up WAY late. Had a lot of weird dreams last night. So it was after noon when we finally left. Ooops. The host was downstairs doing something with fire in the small building about 30 feet from the house, so we stopped in to ask. He was baking bread, in a wood-fired stove. Wow. He told us "the modern life not good for me," that the way modern bread is made didn’t mesh with his way. He uses stone-ground wheat, bakes it like this… this place is so cool. Except, I was awoken by some very loquacious roosters. That hardly ever happens to me in San Francisco.

Destination for the day was San Gimignano. My pronunciation is bad, but my mother has take to saying to San Chimichanga. We learned a very little Italian, but it seems absolutely useless. People just stare wide-eyed at the simplest utterance. So we’ve abandoned that.

I must say, San Gimignano is one of the most breathtaking places I ever been. The city itself, when you try to ignore all the tourists, is very intimate and charming, Lots of little spaces and small walks, creating a break from the crowds. Sometimes a completely dark passage will dump you out a stone’s throw from the piazza, twisted little roads lead you to medieval structures and little gardens.

We meandered around the city all day. First the Museum of Mediaeval Torture, which was odd. Many of the artifacts were from a private collection, and the writing which accompanied them was a little creepy. Then lunch in the piazza at a place with a beautiful dessert menu. Gelato made to look like sculpture, but we didn’t have any. Then wrote postcards o the steps of the Duomo (really the Collegietta now) and wandered some more. My mother got to experience the joys of a water closet (no toilet, just a ceramic flushable hole in the ground) and then we went to the Civic Museum. Frescoes and the beautiful woodwork in the town hall, then I decided to take a hike up the tower. I didn’t know it, but apparently I’m afraid of heights, and got what I assume was vertigo, just about 1 flight of stairs up. Pressed on, slowly, and finally climbed the ladder to the top. Up here, you can look down on the city and see some of the hidden parts, like the modern sports park and school. Also, the bell, and the birds. Built in 1311, 54 meters in height, the stairs are worth it, but still a little scary. Going down was worse since there wasn’t a rail on that side.

Time for a "world famous" gelato, then more wandering, and came upon the Church of San Augustino. Which was stunning. Beautiful frescoes behind the altar. (you have to put euros into a slot to turn the lights on) and some wonderful tile work in the back of the church. I have a suspicion that the entire church used to be frescoed, because there are some disembodied hands and halves of saints in some of the framed frescoes on the lengthwise walls. But who knows. The adjacent cloister garden was very tranquil. More wandering out through medieval walkways, and we found the Spezzioria and Museo Arceologico which were probably closed, but definitely up too many stairs for my mother, and then pressed on to find the Medieval Fountain, which was off the beaten path and not very dramatic. The lower structure had a modern mosaic on the back wall. The upper structure had one end with water cycling out to a little "waterfall" (pretty pathetic and smelly waterfall) below, and there were tons of little fish living in it, about 3" long. Next to that pool, in the other room, the water was standing, and nothing lived but a smell.

More wandering, and the city was emptying. I decided we ought to sit and eat at the Piazza del Duomo while it got dark, and that was lovely. The changing light and the dwindling crowds transformed the city. But it was cold, and we slowly made our way to the Exit.

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