Tastings and Traveling in Terrific Tuscany!

Trip Start Jan 01, 2009
Trip End Dec 31, 2009

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m/s Noordam Cruise Ship

Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sorry, couldn't resist the alliteration… Today Jacqui and I had decided to actually book an excursion through Holland America. Livorno, where the cruise ships dock, is so far away from Florence that the expense for the excursion is not much more than just a taxi ride to and from Florence.  So we booked a tour that would take us into the Tuscan countryside to visit some of the towns and a wine-tasting lunch in a local vineyard. 

Let me say, the Tuscan countryside is just as beautiful as everyone says it is.  Siena was our first stop.  This little town is divided up into lots of divisions called Contrade.  Each Contrade gets their own symbol or mascot, for example, our tour guide was from the Caterpillars (not joking).  It’s a very very old city, and they’ve been running a horse race in the town square almost since the beginning.  It’s a contest between all the Contrades and they only run the race 2 times a year.  While hanging out there, saw the funniest bird hanging from a statue upside down to try to get a drink of water, check out the picture of it!  Siena also has a beautiful cathedral or duomo.  Apparently the Sienese people were trying to impress the other towns with how rich they were, so the cathedral here is the most ornate church I think I’ve ever seen.  Every single part of the front fašade was covered in statues and carvings.  And they used white and black marble for the walls to give it a striped effect.  And in the floor inside, they’ve got stone murals inset into the floor of bible scenes and zodiac symbols and other pagan symbols.  Appaerently when this was built, they still weren’t too sure what god was controlling the world so they wanted to make sure that all their bases were covered.

Then we went to a local vineyard for lunch.  What a spread!  It was a 4-course lunch with 7 types of wine and 2 kinds of olive oils.  The best thing there though was this Italian-style lasagna with truffle oil over the top!  It was so good that we actually bought some of the truffle oil to bring home with us!

Then we went to beautiful San Gimignano.  We spent a little bit of time walking around, went into their museum and up to the top of the bell tower.  Beautiful views from there.  We had tried to find saffron to buy there but were thwarted.  Apparently this area is really good for saffron.  We did pick up a little bit more wine there though.
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