Touring The Tuscan Hills
This was our one tour of the trip. We had very mixed feelings. We saw places we wouldn't have seen without the tour but we felt it was very rushed and there wasn't enough time in each city.
The bus traveled through beautiful rolling hills and mountains to Sienna, our first stop of the day. We met up with a local tour guide that took us around Sienna. She took us to the piazza where once a year there is a horse race. Sienna is divided into districts and each district has a horse donated by a farmer. The jockey and horse train for a year. The day of the race the large piazza is packed with thousands of people that show up early for the race that lasts 90 seconds! The top two winning districts display the winning banners for the year. It is the biggest event of Sienna. We then went to Basilica . We were fortunate to see the beautiful artwork on the floor as it is only uncovered the month of September. The sketch mark detail in the marble is called graffiti! In Italy any "scratching on a surface is graffiti; whether to define a design, beautiful artwork on a wall or less than desired markings on a structure. Once the guided tour was over we had an hour to explore on our own. It was very stuffy in the basilica so Jim went outside to sit. I spent the entire hour photographing inside the basilica so never really got to explore Sienna.
We were then off to an organic farm in Chianti. We continued through the gorgeous wine country traveling some incredibly narrow, winding roads. We had to walk uphill about 10 minutes to get to the winery; walking past the grape fields along the way. The grape bunches look just like the pictures we see. This was the first day of harvesting the green grapes. The red grapes are harvested in October. This is a family run winery. They have 928 acres of grapes. They also grow olives, which are hand picked, for delicious olive oil. They also raise beef and grow saffron. This is quite an operation. On top of the products, they also serve a 3 course meal and 3 kinds of wine to the tour groups and individuals that come for the tour. The first course was a piece of plain bruschetta. The second course was a delicious rigatoni ragu (bolognes or meat sauce) served with bread and parmesean cheese. The third course was an antipasta plate of salami, prociutto, 2 kinds of cheese & a lettuce salad. There were 2 kinds of wine available during the meal; a white, & a red Chianti. Jim liked the red but I didn't like either. We were served a dessert wine with biscottii. We were to dip the biscotti into the dessert wine for 5 seconds. IT WAS AWFUL! The view from the dining area was spectacular. It overlooked the hills of vineyards and villages.
On we went to San Giagnamo traveling even smaller roads. We were on a large charter bus. I have no idea how the driver did it! After a 20 minute walk uphill, we were greeted with another spectacular site. We got gelato at the recommended gelateria. Again, there really wasn't much time to wander.
Our last stop was Pisa. Our greatest entertainment was watching people pose with the tower. We found it quite amusing. I did buy a leather purse that I really liked. In our opinion we had WAY too much time in Pisa but we were there that long so anyone that wanted could climb the tower. We chose not to do the climb. Now for the 1 1/2 hour drive back to the bus station & our 15 minute walk home. It was a very long day. We left home at 7:45 and arrived back home at 9:15 p.m. Fortunately the bus ride home provided time for a rest. J