26.09.2016 - 01.10.2016 26 °C
In 2000 the plan had been a walk followed by lunch at Il Pozzo restaurant in Monteriggioni (a walled hilltop Tuscan town) – but the walk took longer than anticipated and we never made it to the lunch. Pay-back time for Sarah! Monteriggioni is a small town that has records back to the 13th century. It has been beautifully restored/maintained, and we all enjoyed the visit. Unfortunately the restaurant had changed hands several times and while the situation was fabulous (outdoors under vines), the food, while good, was expensive.
Next day Team Thomson with the Milnes in tow, headed into Firenze to do a tour of the shops and boutiques. Visited a wee place where a man was making these amazing leather coin purses – with no seams or stitching! Saw some lovely shoes and handbags, but neither Sarah or I made any purchases.
Thursday was Sarah and Oli’s last full day with us, so the plan was an outlet shopping trip. We got a bit side tracked as we noticed a sign as we turned off the autostada, to “motodrome”. Oh, yes says Oli, Mugella race track is near here – well near is relative, only 16kms away! But it was worth the effort to see the track (it was a test day for a motorcycle event so lots of action) and we had a lovely lunch there too before heading back to the outlet “mall”.
This was amazing – set outside along a stream with shops opening out onto the footpath. Fabulous afternoon wandering around, Oli was the winner of the shopping – jeans, jersey and a belt.
So, Friday saw us farewell Sarah & Oli at Firenze airport (lots of hugs) before heading down to San Gimignano to connect with the rest of the expedition. This is another walled town – but with the addition of a feud that resulted in towers being built by families – the taller the tower the more prestige. The towers were as impressive as we remembered, and the views out over the countryside stunning. JT and I also found a regional photo exhibition in the cloisters of the main church. Some stunning landscapes and street scenes.
From here we headed across towards Castellina in Chianti for a little wine tasting. But as it was getting late in the day we headed further north to a wee place called Panzano in Chianti. The boys set about wine tasting while the girls went in search of coffee – and ended up having a “Fawlty Towers” experience in the old town area! Complete with a Basil look alike! Great fun.
This was our last night with Rob and Jill – so a dinner out at Trattoria La Baracchin was planned. Our Kiwiguest host Jen’s husband Francesca works there so it came recommended! And we weren’t disappointed – really good food and lovely local wines.
So Saturday saw the Catell’s leave and Jon’s mum – Beverly arrive. We went for an 8.5km walk with Cathy and Phil, from the villa to a near-by town La Certosa – a small section of the walk that runs around Firenze. While some sections where on main roads (albeit narrow, no footpaths), most of it ran in small lanes amongst olive groves and vineyards, passing small hamlets and isolated churches. It was good to get out around Impruneta. We even saw a couple of deer in one olive grove. Oli had spotted some earlier on on one of his early morning rambles, but this was nearer noon, so lucky to spot them. JT had also surprised a snake on one of their joint rambles, according to Oli, JT moved very quickly in the opposite direction!
Jen picked up a group of us for an evening of Italian arias performed by young NZ opera singers. This was a pretty special event – run by Patricia Hurley and held at Villa Petrolo (about an hour away by autostrada from Impruneta). The evening was the culmination of a week-long intensive course for the 4 young singers from NZ – two sopranos - Eliza Boom and Katherine McIndoe, tenor Oliver Sewell, and baritone Kieran Rayner, which included daily Italian lessons as well as singing instruction! The conductor and pianist was Wyn Davies. We all enjoyed the performances which were fully dramatized – and which culminated in a haunting rendition of Pokarekare Ana which brought tears to our eyes. The evening finished with a buffet and a chance to chat to the performers.