I woke up fat(ter) and happy the following morning after my scrumptious dinner with Marco, Rosanna, and their family. But this was a new day, and an early one to boot, because I had a twelve-hour day tour planned through Tuscany!
Marco knew I had to be at the train station early, so he set out a lovely breakfast for me. Can I tell you that it was everything I could do not to lick the homemade apricot jam container clean?!? It was the best apricot preserves I’ve ever tasted, bar none. I so need to learn to make my own preserves. Someday.
With explicit instructions from Marco on how to buy a bus ticket at the corner newsstand and where to board the C2 bus that would take me to the train station, I easily boarded the bus, sitting alone waiting for the bus driver to leave. When I jumped on the bus, I made sure to validate my bus ticket, and I held onto it securely just in case. Each time we stopped at the numerous bus stops, it was clear that I was only one of two people to validate their bus ticket; the majority of the riders obviously wanted a free ride. However, one stop before my exit at the train station, two uniformed bus officials boarded the bus and demanded to see everyone’s bus tickets. They checked mine. I had paid for and validated my ticket. WHEW!!! Out of probably nine bus passengers, there were only two of us who had purchased tickets. All of a sudden, the passengers started yelling at the top of their lungs, each trying to argue their way out of the fines they had to pay on the spot. YIKES!!! The woman who had a validated ticket and I exchanged glances, each of us shaking our heads and breathing a sigh of relief that we had paid. When I was getting off at the train station, one of the passengers was opening his wallet to pay his fine. WHAT A WAY TO START THE DAY!!!
My tour bus was already at the train station and a large group of us quickly took off for what I hoped would be a fun day. Sadly, it was very cloudy with a high percentage of rain forecasted, but I was eager to see as much as I could regardless of the weather. First stop: Siena!
A view as we were walking from our bus to the central piazza.
Finally! The piazza.
I was thrilled to see that we still had clear blue skies…YAY!
Throughout my travels through Europe, whether I was traveling alone or with the tour, it quickly became apparent to me that I don’t do well with organized lectured tours, especially when the tour leaders yammer on and on! I think that’s why I enjoyed the tour company I had joined in Paris. Our tour guide gave us information about each city we visited and we could discover more on our own if we wanted to do so. I had to quickly forgive myself for my wandering mind. I watch tourists being enthralled as they hang on to every word but, honestly, I would rather read about it on my own than to stand there trying to listen to the guide. Instead, I’m typically anxious to photograph the beauty that’s all around me. The challenge for me, however, is that I tend to lose track of the group, and you can expect to find me racing after the tour group trying to catch up with them.
We finally made our way to the Duomo di Siena, a medieval church in town.
As always, please know that I have a ton of interior shots of the church, but I will spare you by not posting them. You’re welcome!
The tour through Tuscany was going to be a very long trip. Let me just tell you that we next visited a working farm and winery and had a scrumptious lunch consisting of meats, cheeses, bread, and four different wines, each for a different course.
Next stop…San Gimignano! I was super excited about seeing this beautiful town, mainly because I had seen photos of it. I was ready to explore! Or so I thought. Here was my challenge of the day. I was sitting next to a super sweet woman named Terri who was traveling through Italy with her husband, Todd. She and I were jibber-jabbering when we were supposed to be listening to what time we were to be back at the bus. As usual, to get tour members to stay on track, tour leaders always feel it’s necessary to threaten to drive off and leave any lagging tour members behind where they would need to find their way home. We all got off the bus, with Terri and Todd going off in one direction. Terri had left it to Todd to pay attention to what time and where we were supposed to be back at the bus. I went in another direction, only to discover 45 minutes later that, not only did I not have a clue what the exact time was for us to return to the bus, but I didn’t know where the bus driver had parked the bus! I went into an instant panic, complicated even further with the sickening knowledge that I no longer had a credit card on me!!!
I immediately reverted to becoming five years old again and, trust me; it wasn’t pretty. By this time, it was raining hard, so I was both soaking wet and lost. I started asking anybody and everybody if they were on the tour I was on, and they all thought I was an idiot…which I clearly was. My mind immediately went into overload, instantly trying to formulate Plan B, considering what taxi I was going to take to get back to Florence and how much of my cash I was going to be left with after I had to pay my way back. NOTHING looked familiar to me, all thanks to my talking like a blabbermouth to Terri when I should have been listening to the tour guide as to when and where we should meet the bus. I finally found a parking lot and told the employee at the lot my plight. She said that all buses were required to pass through that lot before leaving. WHEW! THIRTY minutes later and I saw the tour guide walking towards me. I’m surprised I didn’t fall into his arms! Talk about a drama queen….uh; that was me. His first words to me were, “I knew you weren’t listening to me when I was giving all of you instructions.” Thankfully, he had a wonderful sense of humor and said it with a smile, so I didn’t feel as much of an idiot as I felt when I was a lost lunatic.
Needless to say, I’m the only one who didn’t take any pictures of San Gimignano! Of course, Terri had to rub in how beautiful the town was when she was showing me everything I had missed seeing. Dumb, dumb, DUMB move on my part.
When I had read up about this tour, I saw that we were going to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I had read reviews of it, and a lot of reviewers said that it was pretty cheesy. It obviously clouded my opinion because I didn’t care to see it, ESPECIALLY after my fiasco in San Gimignano. We arrived late in the afternoon at approximately 6:00 p.m. I was happy to see that the rain had stopped, and it was beautiful outside. Trust me when I tell you that I knew when and where we had to return to the bus…7:00 p.m. SHARP!
Let me just tell you that the Leaning Tower is BEAUTIFUL. I wasn’t expecting to be bowled over by it, but I clearly was. Maybe it was because of the way the warm colors of the setting sun made it glow…I don’t know….all I know is that I thought it was magnificent.
Did you know the land it was built on is called Campo Dei Miracoli (“Field of Miracles”)? I did not know that!
Here is the Baptistery and the Cathedral adjoining the Leaning Tower.
I have to admit that I was so nervous about missing the bus that I didn’t go inside to tour, which is very unusual for me, considering that cathedrals have been my photo ops of choice. However, after we were given a quick tour of the city of Pisa, it was clear that this small town deserved more time than the one hour we were allotted that day. For those of you who are considering a visit, please arrive prepared to be impressed!
By the time we returned to the train station, it was almost 9:00 p.m. I had a VERY early train to catch back to Rome and I hurried home in a taxi to pack for the final time. I couldn’t believe that it was almost time to return home to California.