Day 75 - Tuscany
25 February 2022
As we went to bed last night we discovered Rome has ZTL regions. Areas of the city that cars are not allowed to drive for pollution reasons. Where we are staying is in the heart of all three zones. We have had to rethink picking up our hire car and driving here to load.
Wake up. Breakfast. Pack. Our gracious hosts are not only caring for the bikes but have also agreed to look after our paniers. We pack light and Uber to the station where we are picking up the car.
We booked through a third party to get the most inexpensive rate. There is a complication with insurance and the rate has increased further. One final layer of complexity, we don’t have a credit card. The hire car company wants a 600 euros bond on a card. We finally sort out a card only to be told the card is in Shell’s name and the booking is in my name. In the end, we cancel the entire booking and go with another company.
We are given a Lancia Ypsilon. I am no car enthusiast. I have never heard of Lancia. It is a meek hybrid. Hard-pressed it will do 110 km/h. With a tailwind and downhill, we almost get 120 km/h. Still just shy of the 130 km/h speed limit. What it lacks in power it makes up for with understated blandness. I love it.
“I feel the need. The need for speed” - Lieutenant Pete Mitchell
We leave the city, roll through Umbri, and hit Tuscany. There is a sign to Montepulciano. Wine country. It is fairy tale scenery. There is not a hill without a castle or a great church. Vineyards and orchards. I spend the entire wine budget on tolls.
Lunch is at Ristotante Paoletto. Home cooking. White wine comes in a jug and our cameriera offers us pasta, we accept. Moments later the other patrons start receiving huge steaks. Envy. I go to the bathroom and there is a man working a charcoal grill. Tuscan steaks. My pasta is delicious. I want steak.
I am still hungry. Ask for something sweet. Tiramisu is all they have. I am not a fan. I have never had one that was not over-caffeinated, over boozed, crunchy, and wet. I get one. Seriously good. I would put it in my top five desserts of all time. The cream was incredible. Mascarpone? The sponge was moist, just a hint of coffee. I ate most of Shell’s after mine.
We arrive at Siena around 4.00 pm. The center of this historic city is closed to random vehicles like ours. We park out of town with instructions to catch the N54 bus to Piazza di Sant'Agostino. We grab our tickets and wait. And wait. The young man waiting with us explains there is a bus strike. Buses are not reliable today. His name is Frederico. He is studying medicine at the University here. We agree to share a taxi into town.
The taxi arrives. So does the bus. Within seconds of each other. Never mind. We get to Piazza di Sant'Agostino and farewell Dr.-to-be Frederico. He has three more years of study to go.
Siena is stunning. I will let the pictures try and do it justice. They won’t. A truly medieval city. As I walk through the streets I am wondering if I will be dragged off as a heretic and tortured. My blog is incriminating. Does Umberto Ecco live here? I hope William of Baskerville is around to defend me.
“Fear prophets, Adso, and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them.” ― Umberto Eco
The streets are narrow, the walls high. Ancient. We arrive at our accommodation. Mossimo is our enthusiastic host. A retired Professor who taught Biology at the University here. He has something special to show us. Upstairs in this building. Two years ago while renovating he unearthed a fresco painting. Seven months of painstaking care and the rooms upstairs have artwork on the walls dating back to 1250. I am amazed at the work. The colours look vibrant. Sharp. So detailed it could have been painted two years ago. Unearthed fresco work from medieval times is not my specialty. I say nothing.
“Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it 'creative observation.' Creative viewing.” ― William S. Burroughs
We shower and inject. Think about dinner. We have recommendations from Fredrico and Mossimo. Osteria La Sosta di Violante is booked out tonight and tomorrow night. We walk to Osteria Cice in the drizzling rain. This place is stunning at night.
We get a table at Osteria Cice but we need to be on our way by 9.00 pm. Not a problem. The steak from lunch is on our minds. Fiorentina steak on the menu. 5 euros per 100 grams. We decide on 500 grams.
Cameriera informs us the smallest steak they have is 1.8 kg. We order a different steak. A slow-cooked beef and some potatoes on the side. A bottle of Chianti Classico and we settle into an ancient room that is starting to fill with diners. The dishes are delicious and filling.
“My favorite animal is steak.” ― Fran Lebowitz
Head home via the grocery store for some oats. Breakfast tomorrow. Pass a series of stunning piazzas. I can’t wait to see this place tomorrow. I hated the rain on the bike. Rain adds to Siena. Gives it a brooding feel.
Siena. A special place.