NOTE:  When Sharon adds comments, they will be in {curly brackets}.  Comments added AFTER real time are in [square brackets].


Trip Log 14.  Day 14. Incredible San Gimignano.

Tuesday October 26, 2010. Last Day in Tuscany

[NOTE: I inadvertently deleted all the digital audio recordings I made for this day, so this will be mostly the photo story of our day]

Since we have no particular time requirements, we decide to eat a casual breakfast at home, then drive to San Gimignano, a town which used to have 70 towers, and even now still has 14 {I thought he would tell you}. It is supposed to be very picturesque, so we have our batteries charged, memory sticks cleared, and I can't wait.

(L) Aigs, no coffee. (R) Sharon enjoys her morning coffee, but neither Bob nor Shirley has ever had the coffee ritual habit. Here, you see Shirley, not enjoying her morning coffee. If you can imagine for a moment, a restaurant that has run out of coffee. I say, "No coffee, thank you." Then the waiter or waitress says, "I'm sorry, we're out of coffee, you'll have to not have any hot chocolate." {And here is the great reward of renting apartments instead of staying at hotels. We get to have our breakfast when we want and how much or little that we want. I find that I eat so much more when someone else is cooking. And this morning as it happens, our cook is Jerry and he poaches a mean egg. Thanks, Jerry.}

Shirley put one euro in a slot to use this automatic rest room, and as she stepped out, Jerry stepped in, to attempt a twofer (.. the price of one). The wonderful story he told, I have requested him to tell in his own words, and here it is:

Sharon paid to use the toilet. As she came out, I slipped in, planning a two-fer. As I proceeded to do a standing pressure release [take a whiz], I heard a noise, and soapy water started pouring from the wall behind me and across the floor. Having just finished, I jumped up onto the Stainless Steel toilet bowl as the soapy water continued and then a high pressure fan blew the floor clean of suds. I stepped down to the ground and seconds later the bowl I had been standing on rotated into the wall and was replaced by another, I suppose, clean bowl from the same wall on the opposite side. Made me think there might be four of them attached to spokes from a central hub, revolving 1/4 turn each time. I quickly stepped to the door and forced it open and slipped out before anything else happened, thinking to myself,"next time I'll pay!"


(L) The view of San Gi (I'm going to call it) from our parking lot. {It is a walled city so only people who live inside can drive in.}(R) Three of the remaining towers are a reminder of the power this little town used to have.

A corner of the old walled city. Massive and beautiful.

(L) Structures lined the top of the wall. (R) A closer view of one of the more beautiful ones.

(L) I asked this colorful man, enjoying the sun, if I could take his photo, and he nodded his approval. (R) I asked this woman if I could get a picture of the baby, and she said, "Si."

(L) Looking up the main shopping street of San Gi. Note the first door on the right (in left photo). It's a Torture Museum, which Sharon and Shirley toured, but which Jerry and I skipped, to Sharon's amazement. {I thought the guys would be interested in an unconventional museum but they were squeamish. It was an amazing collection of ancient torture instruments and descriptions of the things men can do to each other in the name of (usually) religion and prejudice. Pretty gruesome. The commentary was pretty biased and leaned toward how women were abused and devalued in the medieval times with women punishcd for "talking too much in church" or "disagreeing with their husbands" You could be considered a witch for the weirdest reasons, like having a mole on your body or having a birthmark. Anyway, it was fascinating and ugly at the same time.}(R) Shirley's in heaven and a toy store.

(L) A rusty dragon guards the street. (R) A spectacular knife shop.

(L and R) Jerry was fascinated with the different door arches. It seemed there were almost as many different types, as there were doors. {When the Florentines overthrew this city, they made the citizens tear down most of the towers, so some of these "short" houses you see here were actually towers before.}

(L) The way the window shutters opened was fascinating. We didn't learn the reason. (R) I loved the narrow alleys with the connecting arches. They made great color, light and shadow compositions.

(L) These boys seemed to be playing tag around their parents, as they walked up the street. (R) This trattoria (type of restaurant, usually a step down in class, but more importantly, in price from a "Restorante") made an admirable attempt to say that they were open 24 hours a day, with, "OPEN, NO STOP." Nice.

(L) This wonderful doorway was offset to the right in a triple door arch setup. Great rich color on the doors. (R) My fellow travelers posed for this picture down a side street, boasting a WC (stands for "Water Closet", and means rest room).

(L) Typical and wonderful arches over a street that itself arched. (R) Vines added a nice red wine color to the front of this stone building.

Sharon had read about this ancient cistern, and here we find the women, taking it in.

(L) The ridges and valleys in the stone were created from women dropping buckets on ropes down into the water, then pulling them back up. The friction and frequency of use did the work. (R) Today, you may throw coins into the cistern, where they are collected. Sort of like a parking meter, only entirely voluntary. What a concept.

(L) I love to put natural frames around objects, and here is an example. (R) You can see this shot Jerry took, as I get the angle through the cistern overstructure, and up at a tower.

(L) Towers surrounded the cistern, in the town's major piazza. (R) We break for lunch in a restaurant with view.

(L) They call this a strawberry tree, which the birds love. (R) Speaking of bird love.

(L) A church on the piazza. (R) Picturesque flower boxes on the balcony of a building in the afternoon sun.

(L) I don't know if this mail box was operational or merely decoration. If I'd have thought about it, we could have mailed ourselves a post card to see if it worked. (R) A great 3D sign, with the sun coming from the side proclaims a ceramic artist studio, which we visited.

(L) As we made our way to a particular tower, we passed this fine fellow, delivering an impassioned operatic thing that was halfway between a speech and a song. We couldn't understand him two different ways. (R) The surrounding countryside is easy on the eyes.

(L) The town is not so old that modern art has made its mark in this small piazza. (R) Focus on the object.

(L) Focus on the girls, or "ladies" as people keep trying to get me to say. (R) This tree has a crutch, fashioned by a caring person, to save both the trail and the tree.

As we rounded a corner, right near our tower, we heard something that sounded exactly to us like a didgeridoo, from Australia. We stopped and talked with this fellow, a German who spoke excellent English, and he explained that no, no, it is nothing like a boring didgeridoo at all. It has two different lengths of pipe, both made of plastic, and connected in a clever way to produce the sound we are hearing, as he played along with a CD. It was absolutely wonderful, and so we bought one of his CDs. I'm trying to insert a short movie with sound here, and by the time you read this, you'll know if I was successful or not. The status right now is that the movie is a Quicktime movie, but my web page builder doesn't seem to be able to play it. Hmmmm. Time will tell if I get this figured out.

(L) Sharon climbing the tower. We chose this one because Rick Steves says that this particular tower is already on a hill overlooking the town, and the short tower, easy to climb, gives you an excellent view of the town and countryside. (R) As you can see here.

(L) Shirley and Jer pose in the corner. (R) Us, and what we look like after walking from one end of what I call Gift Shop Street to the other

A young couple from New England took this photo of the four of us, with six towers visible behind us.

(L) Uh oh, says Sharon. We better get down fast. (R) Too late, as a class of French students overwhelm us and take control of our tower. {Oh, no, we've been overrun, just like in medieval times! And as is true of all teenagers, they sound thoroghly bored with having to look at scenery.}

(L) Jer catches me just starting down the short but steep set of stairs. (R) It sort of tickles my brain to remember this scene. A fellow playing a harp in the background, while an artist paints or draws a scene, and the German not-a-didgeridoo fellow is just out of the picture to the right.

(L) A spider selects a likely place for an insect trap, as the wind blows through the hole. (R) We can see people on this tower, looking under an arch.

(L and R). This is to show that Sharon doesn't ALWAYS take every rock. Here she finds a loose one, but repositions it for strength. And also because she's on camera. Heh heh. Actually she would never take anything that big. Just little stuff, already fallen out of a wall. {A couple comes along as we are shooting this humorous shot of me actually replacing a rock tht had fallen out a wall instead of tryng to take a rock out and the woman says "You're not tearing that wall down are you?" Who, Moi?}

(L) Italians loved to dress up, and in fact, what I call "dress up", they probably just call putting on their clothes. Fashion is king and queen in Italy, and Milan is the center. You can also tell, perhaps, that a cool wind is blowing through the town. (R) A typically wonderful view of a narrow street through an arch.

(L) A bell tower, which we heard ring a time or two. (R) The black birds in the air around this tower are Jackdaws, behaving a bit like crows.

This photo of my three partners in Italy, show us freezing, but on our way to the gelato store nevertheless. That stuff is WONDERFUL.

(L) A San Casciano in Val di Pesa sign. (R) Me, going after a few grapes left after the harvest.

(L) Me, tasting some of the little fellows. (R) Shirley holding a couple of bunches.

One of my favorite pictures of Castello di Bibbione, with the castle itself at the top, and our building at lower right. The two upper story windows at the far right, in the sunshine, are in our bedroom.

(L) A sign points to an Etruscan tomb, two kilometers away. Sharon wants to go there. (R) The house where you leave the road, and walk the unmarked path to the tomb.

Sharon took all the next photos. (L) Rows sparkle in the setting sun. (R) A narrow space between two houses is the official path, though it doesn't say that anywhere. Sharon just sniffs it out. {Shirley and I are up for this adventure, while the guys go back to the castle to settle up so we can leave early the next morning. We just follow our noses as we are sure the tomb must be just behind the farm buildings, right?}

(L) A worker uses a comb-like implement to comb through a branch that was time to be trimmed. She combs the olives out of the tree or limbs. (R) Olives on the ground. {We hear these people working in the grove and ask them the way to the tomb. The man points out into the grove and gives us directions in Italian words and hand signals we interpret. Then I ask if I can take pictures of them harvesting the olives. They say "Yes" but first, this woman in the picture does something cute. She takes off a knit cap she was wearing and fluffs up her hair and then lets us take the pictures. They spread out nets of what looks like burlap under the trees, and then "comb" the olives off the branches onto the netting. (see the red comb in her hand). Then they pour the olives out of the netting into boxes. There is a mixture of ripe and green olives We don't know if these are olives for pickling or for pressing into oil. Anyway, we leave them and continue walking through the grove.}

(L) Grape vines are spectacular yellow in the setting sun. (R) Olives have been put into these red boxes for transporting.

(L) The Etruscan tomb. (R) Sharon ain't afraida no ghost. {This is probably the oldest site we will see in Italy as the Etruscans were here before the Romans who wiped them and their history out. Not much is known, as a result, of the Etruscan way of life, but they believe that their burial rite is to build a house for the departed with all the things he would need in the afterlife. This is such a burial house. There was a small model of what it probably looked like in the 7th century BC. Amazingly, there is just a small gate here, not locked and we can go in and walk around the site. It had already been "looted" sometime in the distant past, but they still had found some gold trinkets that are in some museum, we read.}

(L) Shirley neither. (R) Great sunset appeared, just as Jerry and I caught up with the girls, after leaving the to go back to the castle office, and settle up our bill.

I cranked up the light after I took this photo of a lighted swimming pool belonging to the house, I imagine, of the owner of these olive and grape yards.

We head back to the house, have dinner but skip the cards because, you know what? It's packing night, and besides we're pretty tired from the day.

I think I can speak for all of us when I say, we are REALLY going to miss Tuscany, San Casciano, the hill country and our castle. But it's on to Rome tomorrow, via Hadrian's Villa ruins. Tomorrow we will get ourselves to a nunnery, which I've arranged. It will certainly be spartan, relative to the castle and the Venetian apartment.

Buona Notte.


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