When thinking about where to take Isabel and Charlie, we decided to focus on the smaller places. They had already spent some time in Florence before arriving at our place and we felt that most people equated Tuscany with rural scenes and small hilltop villages. And we know hilltop villages.
Day two would include two of the best examples of Tuscan villages – San Gimignano and Volterra. Situated northwest of Siena these two are an easy day drive through some lovely countryside.
As always San Gimignano impressed everyone. Now that the tourist season is ending the numbers thronging the streets have reduced and you can wander through the town without tripping over our travelling friends from America or Germany.
The day was superb – warm in the sun and cool in the shade. We didn’t have the heat of mid summer which saps both strength and patience.
A coffee in the piazza was just what everyone needed before heading to Volterra, just 30kms away.
We have had mixed luck at Volterra. The first time we visited was in June and the day was cool. Walking the narrow lanes that translated to cold.
The second time we went, in July, it rained and rained and rained. With the full New Zealand visitor crew along it became an exercise in survival. And the beautful views across the valleys to the sea were completely obscured by mist.
This time the weather was better but, being later in the season, the town was without the bustle of tourists and because we arrived during siesta the town felt empty and a little unwelcoming. Having said that we had a fine lunch there and captured some great shots from the walls but I’m sure the lasting impression of our guests will be the time spent in San Gimignano.
Dinner was planned for Ristorante Mario in Buonconvento. Our Italian language courses must be working as we booked the table over the phone – in Italian. “Riservato per cena e sette mezzo per favoure” seemed to do the trick. Sadly the outdoor courtyard at Mario’s was closed but we got to savour the inside fun and games. The food was, as always, delicious and authentic. Between the four of us we managed to eat pheasant, pigeon, pork shank and chicken (with a 4 cheeses sauce). For dessert it was Creme Brulee (flaming to the table) and Tiramasu. All served by helpful staff – including Mario and his Mama.
Day two – hilltop villages and real Tuscan food. Can it get any better?