Around Northern Italy in a Fiat Panda

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The Contessa and the Commendatore Visit the Home Country

Monday Oct. 15: Firenze ⇒ San Gimignano

food & lodging

Food & lodging notes

A Another pleasant breakfast: fruit, cereal, much bun, caffe latte. On to San Gimigniano which we got to rather smoothly, using our collection of maps. Got gasoline on the way. Gas stations seem generally to be woman’ed by nice little ladies. We took main roads. San Gimignano was splendid, a beautiful small town, high in the hills surrounded by vineyards.

We got to the Piazza del Duomo inside the duomo, san giminiano just as a funeral was leaving the church; the bells were tolling. After a decent interval we entered the church, which could be lit by putting a 200-lira coin in a “Compu-Light.” The frescoes were astounding — trecento — from the creation to the resurrection in 4 stories.

K I took a single picture in the church, which turns out to be vietato, forbidden. (They sell postcards of the frescos, so perhaps they’re proprietary about them.) One fresco, the rather obscene depiction of the drunk Noah, is the label of a local wine, a Vernaccia.

Light lunch in an enoteca within the walls, “de Castelle,” which was pure delight.

An enoteca is a wine library, a place whose main purpose is educating the public about wine. Italians drink more wine per capita than anyone else on earth, but they are not as knowledgable about fine wines even as Americans. Many restaurants list only red and white on the menu; if you want one of the vintage wines, you point. Every enoteca we saw seemed to be a place of quiet and refuge. Most were built over wine cellars, and several had a section of the floor removed and covered in heavy glass: vertiginous. Most had many rooms and areas on different levels, made for leisurely wandering in.

K San Gimignano is a vacuum cleaner for film.

We also picked up and brought home five seeds from a most riomarriore rocks peculiar shrub / bush that was growing on the patio. While we sat there in the hot sun, accompanied by a table of quiet Germans and a local cat, seed pods exploded. One by one they popped loudly and flung seeds for several yards. I picked one of the unexploded seed clusters and worried at it, and it went off in my hand. (Little damage; the cat had done more.) We’ll try to get these seeds to grow here, but I’m not too hopeful. Maybe on a few days in July we have climate like this plant wants. Will send two to Raven near Santa Cruz. Anthony said he’d research to try to identify the plant.

K We left San Gimignano by a randomly selected road, intending to do a shunpike back to Firenze. This we did. Most satisfactory. Vista after vista; the road hugs the peaks and spines of hills; villas, castelle, towns huddle on peaks (they do not sprawl).
A We are now in Harry’s Bar, Firenze, awaiting our dinner reservation. Got back to Firenze with no trouble, though it turns out we had wandered from the main roads… we just followed the signs… Took a side trip through Certola Alto — vertiginous and twisty road — a fine stone city.
K Certola Alto was the test of how narrow a road can be and still allow cars. Alice became increasingly nervous as we ascended on a narrowing road that, after a blind hairpin turn, became something resembling a brick footpath. We were practically running over people’s milk bottles and front stoops. The Panda came through, narrower by a layer of paint…