I picked up a rental car at Pisa airport yesterday morning, Sunday, and headed south. The purpose of yesterday and today is to make a wider tour of the area to the south of Florence. After that I’ll spend a couple of days visiting towns on the train lines in and out of Florence.
I headed east and then south through Certaldo on the way to Sienna. Beautiful Tuscan hills, brown and recently tilled, but with few vineyards. Upon arriving in Sienna, it became obvious why some towns are more well known than others, and Sienna deserves all the praise it gets.
I took the obligatory walk up to the Duomo, and then looked for lunch. I went into three or four places right next to the Duomo, but they had no room for a single. What was most interesting though was that every place I went in to was full of locals, not tourists. Large family groups enjoying big communal plates of pastas and salads. To have restaurants so close to the major tourist attractions full of locals is, I think, a very positive indicator for the kind of place that we might want to live. I found a small place away from the Duomo area and enjoyed another very nice plate of pasta with fungi, a salad, wine and a coffee.
From Sienna I drove south to Lago di Bolsena, then east to Orvieto, followed by Todi and Spoleto. I didn’t stop in any of these towns, but drove through the city centers to get a feel for the places. By the time I hit Spoleto it was getting dark, so I skirted the edge of the city, and headed north to Perugia.
When I arrived at Perugia it took four trips around the city before I realized that I still had no clue how the city was laid out. I looked at the map in hand, and the streets and nothing matched. Part of the problem was that upon arriving there were literally thousands of people streaming out of the city center and down the streets. There were policemen everywhere directing traffic and it took half an hour of driving before I could even find a way into the central area. I stopped at one of the train stations, and had to ask where I was on the map. Oops, nowhere near where I was going to stay. So back in the car, and after three more trips around the upper streets, saw a one way street with what looked like a space. I quickly backed the car down the street, and squeezed the car into a half space.
Having no clue where I was, I walked upwards. I finally came upon the central plaza and saw why all those people had been coming down the hill – they had been attending the final day of the eight day Festival of Chocolate. In the main street they’d been having a chocolate carving contest, and there were eight tents each with a slab of chocolate three feet on a side, that had been carved into various shapes.
It took a while, but I finally found my hotel, Hotel Anna, and then headed out for another plate of spaghetti (as they say, when in Rome…). This time I had the house specialty, spaghetti di tartufo (truffles), and it was as good as the waiter promised.
After dinner I went looking for the car, and after only three wrong turns found it. Across the street another car was leaving, so I moved the car to a full sized space, and then looked carefully at the signs to see when I might get towed. What I found was that one needs to pay only between 1:30pm and 8:00pm. How civilized.
It was raining this morning, and the temperature has dropped. There are several Universities here, and the streets are full of students. I’ve found an internet cafe, where I am right now, but it’s after 11am now, and so it’s time to get back on the road.
Ciao until tomorrow.
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