Wednesday morning was bright and sunny, I reluctantly left the Pensione Bencista, and Fiesole behind. I had some loosely detailed backroads routed between Fiesole and my next night’s stay in Siena that was guaranteed to get me lost at least once. I had San Gimignano and Volterra both programmed in as towns I would stop at and walk through; maybe get lunch in one of them.
I nervously drove through the hectic traffic in the outskirts of Firenze for about 20 kilometers before getting to an area where I was able to relax behind the wheel, and start to get comfortable. I drove through the famous Chianti region south of Firenze, prior to tacking west.
I stopped in San Gimignano, and walked through the famously well preserved medieval, historical section of the town. I had a nice slice of mushroom pizza, as I wandered. The scenery was surreal – (the mushrooms?) I expected at any moment a knight to ride down the street with a jousting lance.
I got there at a very good time, because as I was finishing my walk through the main street, and began the return to the car, a couple of busloads of kids, and a few busses of pensioner tourists must have showed up, because the crowds on the streets began to swell. I got back to the car, and left that visit in wonderland behind.
The trip to Volterra was a little more direct, and it was refreshingly quiet, and nearly tourist free. There was me, of course. I am a tourist too, which becomes painfully apparent every time I drag out my stuttering Italian, and I get a ‘just use English’ look. Volterra is renowned for its alabaster carving crafts.
Here again, the old medieval part of town survives, with its labyrinthian walkways, stairs, and streets. I had a small cup of gelato, and enjoyed looking at all the carvings in the shops. In true Italian style, the streets were nearly deserted in the mid-afternoon sun, and most of the businesses were closed until 4 pm.