Thursday, 19 June 2008

Tales of Tuscany

It's not surprising everyone falls in love with Tuscany. With its rolling landscapes and bewitching mediaeval hilltop towns and villages (not to mention the Chianti...) it's hard not to fall under its picturesque spell.
We were lucky enough to be invited to join my godparents, Ray and Jan, plus their daughter Emma, a very old friend of mine, her husband Jon and their three children, four year-old Daniel, almost three year-old Katie and one year-old Ben at a villa they'd taken for a week. It had lots of bedrooms and bathrooms, wonderful views and a swimming pool.

Theo's willingness to spend time with the children quickly granted him acceptance to the fold (I figured it was nice for him to have people nearer his own age to play with) and our days were spent either on trips to various nearby places, or lounging around the pool. The evenings (after the children had gone to bed) involved food, wine and heated debates on topics including corporate greed, the developing world, education and health.

The excursions had mixed success. Our first attempt to get to San Gimignano to see its famed towers was prematurely abandoned after a reasonably spectacular backseat vomiting incident, courtesy of young Daniel. Theo was sitting beside him and for a non-parent, did a pretty decent job of releasing the child from his car seat and doing the preliminary moppage (blueberries make bright pink coloured puke, we discovered) when I took over and washed both Daniel and his clothes in the Ladies loo of a nearby hotel restaurant.

When we made it to SG on the second attempt, we had a pleasant enough time wandering though the streets, but it felt rather too manicured to really have any soul and as tends to be the case in such places, the cafes and restaurants seemed to sell largely overpriced, often cooked from frozen dishes to most efficiently feed the tourists rather than satisfy the desire for any kind of culinary authenticity.
Siena was much more popular, having the feeling of a living, breathing city as well as being an excellent place for sightseers. We loved sitting around in the Piazza del Campo (where they hold the famous Palio horserace) and its Duomo is a real show-stopper, with its inlaid scenes in the marbles floors, its terrific frescoes and gorgeous array of illuminated texts in the Biblioteca.

That and an evening visit to a small bar in the local village, Montecatini Val de Cecina gave us more of a taste of real Tuscany, somehow.

As for our visit to the seaside at Cecina - I'll let Theo take up the story there.

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