Sunday, December 1, 2013

Under the Tuscan Clouds

We’ve been in Tuscany/ Umbria for around 2 weeks now and have been extremely unimpressed with our weather. I remember being here in November 2008 and the weather was perfect! What happened??

We stayed overnight in Assisi and managed to do all interesting stuff without getting wet, which was clearly the result of masterful planning. It’s a wonderful hill town and don’t let anyone tell you it’s been ruined by tourism, just very slightly tainted.

Next stop Siena. We found a really good campsite 30 minutes walk from the Centro Storico (or any easy bus ride) and ‘did’ Siena. I love Siena, it has a bit of everything and so easy to wander around. The Duomo is one of my favourites – a bit over-the-top but beautiful anyway to my eye. I also adore the ‘extension’ which has been standing there for about 500 years waiting for someone to work out how to finish it.

Siena Duomo
Our Sunday lunch in Siena was a laugh. We walked into an almost empty “Ma and Pa’ style place, only to be invaded by half the population of Guadaloupe! About 40 of them filled the small restaurant and their laughter and chatter entertained us for the whole lunch.

Bella Tuscany
Wine wise we’ve enjoyed all the local stuff, Brunello of course, but mainly Chianti, Rosso de Montlacino, Rosso de Montefalco, and interesting whites from Verdicchio, Vermentino and Grechetto. Italian white wine has come a long way in the last 15 years.

We hired a cheapo car to see the rest of Tuscany as the weather was terrible and I was afflicted with a nasty cold, so not up for much. We toured Chianti, wandered around Montepulciano and Pienza, did San Gimignano, Monteriggioni, ie: ‘the full Toscana experience’.

The day we went to Montalcino was probably the worst. 6 degrees, windy and raining. This is my favourite wine town and I was so keen to show it to Lawrence but it was not weather for strolling.

We lunched in Montalcino with Sarah (a Canadian living in Johannesburg) and Willie (from Cape Town) who we met in Siena. We organised to meet them in Montalcino for pranzo at Grappolo Blu after a tour of major wine producer Castello Banfi. Great fun, but not the weather for the expected activity of sitting in the square sipping Prosecco watching the passegiata. It was very cold.

A highlight of our sojourn in Siena was having fabulous neighbours. First Sheena and Brian from UK, who had spent a lot of time over the years in Southern Italy and Sicily and had lots of good advice for us. Replacing them were a couple from Byron Bay (north coast of NSW, Australia). Sally and Doug had also spent time in Sicily and talked us through pros and cons of the various towns and campsites over many bottles of wine and lots of laughs.

After obsessively checking weather sites for days on end, we decided to go back to Assisi. Our new friends had told us about a campsite just outside with easy access to the town, and walking in the adjacent National Park. Seemed like a good plan.

It was snowing as we arrived and then snowed for 2 more days. What is it with us and snow?? We never planned for snow, it just wasn’t in the budget. Anyway Assisi in the snow is very pretty and we have photos to prove it. I’ve come to the conclusion that Assisi is gorgeous in any weather, and is most likely my absolute favourite Italian town (well, this week anyway).

San Francesco, Assisi
Assisi Campsite

So, we hired another cheapo car (around 80 euros for 5 days) and have been touring southern Umbrian hill towns - Spoleto, Spello. Montefalco, Todi, Orvieto, Bevagna. After the snow we had 3 days of sunny but very cold weather. Any sun is welcome so we weren’t complaining that the mercury didn’t reach double figures. We’ve both been living in our down jackets. It’s hard to believe how cold it has been and today is the first day of winter – are you kidding me???

Assisi disappeared under fog
Hopefully as we head south, thing will hopefully improve.

From here will head to Norcia in the southern Apennines and then head towards Rome. 

Also - I've just realised this is my 100th post!! Thanks for reading.

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