02.09.2008 - 03.09.2008 38 °C
So we've got off our lazy arses and moved on down to Tuscany!
The drive was fairly uneventful, apart from TomTom sat nav, who once again, displayed a total lack of knowledge of Italy. Tried to get us to join a motorway, through a bush.... Seriously, the stupid thing doesn't know certain parts of motorways exist. It's not as if they are newly built either. I reckon the mafia were involved in the mapping...
Kisrtin booked us into a Hostel for the 1st time (shudder). As it turned out - it's a belter! We have our own room - to be fair, by hotel standards, we have a suite. Lounge/kitchen, main bedroom, bathroom - with A BATH!!! - spare room (shoe box) - and a private roof terrace. All for 70 Euros a night! - and the setting is stunning. The place is called the Heart of Tuscany, and for good reason. Oh, and a pool the size of a football picth....
(No pics yet, but you have to wear hair caps in Italy by law, in public pools. Madness! - I mean, what is a cloth cap going to stop?. As I said to K, for God's sake, I'm putting my groin in there too - what the heck is my head hair going to do that could be worse!?!? - besides which, no girls' hair fits in the caps - who on earth thinks these things up?)
(Our lovely terrace)
Suitably amazed at the quality of the joint we popped down to the local shop and grabbed lots of booze and grub and filled the fridge. When I say "popped" - going anywhere takes an age and is a heap of fun. The roads here are all z-bend mountain roads and the Mazda MX5 is the perfect tool for the job. Shame we have to show some restraint so we don't kill the million homocyclists we see (near-miss) all the time.
Today we drove to San Gimignano - a medieval town famed for it's towers. If I read the history right, the town was split into two (feuding families - tsk!) and they built ever higher towers to express their authority (Freud would have had a field day). They did a good job - the towers are breathtakingly tall. I saw something about them on the Discovery channel some time ago - they are supposed to be a feat of engineering, bearing in mind most tall towers relied on a wide base to support the height / mass but these ones are uniform from top to bottom (cheating monkeys made the walls thicker at the bottom :-) ).
A very pretty town it is!
See that tower above? We went up it (well, it may have been that one, or it may have been another, either way it was very tall). We begrudgingly paid our 10 Euros and started on the stairs with a promise of a "good vista" a the top. Bloody ought to be for 5 Euros each, and no lift.
Once we got started on the stairs it took very little time to realise what an undertaking it was. As we got higher and higher Kirstin got the collywobbles. She was gently freaking out, and my legs were going all funny. The stairs are "pinned" to the walls, with gaps all around, and the steps themselves are steel mesh with nothing in between. The walkways at each level don't even join the walls.
I'm not afraid of heights but my brain was clearly chatting to my legs and making them go all weak. Meanwhile I'm coaching Kirstin to just keep looking up ahead, and NOT down.
(It may not look like much, but you are not looking at the floor below, that's a mid-way point - it was stomach churning just to lean over and take that picture)
Mind you, nice views on the way...
When we reached the final level, both quietly terrified at the prospect of having to go back down, we climbed one more ladder to the roof.
To be greeted by a....
Oh yes, and some views... my word, what views!
(Yep, we are higher than a bell tower. Well, another bell tower)
Breathtaking. Simply amazing. And the walk down wasn't half as bad as we thought it would be. Mind you, as we got to the bottom, we saw a woman clinging onto her husband's shoulder, and they were on the 1st flight of stairs. I can't imagine they made it all the way up. The vertigo didn't hit us until the 3rd or 4th level.
Ate lots of icecream, saw some Frescos in the church that I was not allowed to take photos of....
... then moved on.
We headed back to base, and stopped at Vinci (home of Leonardo De ..... ) which is right by our hostel, and checked out the Leonardo museum. Good fun, lots of models of machines that he invented. Kind of mad though. I mean, you have all these intricately made models (in wood) of his inventions - mainly cranes and pulleys etc, that actually work, and you are fascinated by HOW they work, and IF they work, but every model has "DO NOT TOUCH" signs everywhere.
To madden you even more, EVERY model has a large handle that operates it. They even stick "DO NOT TOUCH" labels on the handles. Of course, people touch.
(You can't read it, but the small sign says, specifically, "Do Not Touch, AND, Do Not Photograph :-) )
(Reminds me of Panorama)
Oh, one more thing. Every shot you see of Tuscany in the glossies / books - it's true. This place is blinkin' stunning!