The many rolling hills of Tuscany and the adventures in between

I haven’t added to my blog for about the last 4 months as l have been settled down in Tuscany for the time as l picked up some work managing a hostel and figured it would be better to try and summarise my time here in 1 entry rather than weekly or monthly updates.

The town l have been located in is Certaldo. It is 1 hour (approximately) by train from Florence and Pisa and 40 minutes from Siena. Its described as being in the belly button of Tuscany were you are surrounded by vineyard after vineyard. I took over as manager of this beautiful hostel (guesthouse) called Fattoria Bassetto and instantly fell in love with our ancient and calm the place made me. It was mostly built in the 13th Century and was once a monastery (as if l haven’t visited enough in my first 9 months since l left Australia) and then it was a vineyard were later it became a tobacco farm as producing wine wasn’t as profitable and then eventually a guesthouse.

I didn’t know much about Certaldo and l was severely low on my knowledge of the Italian language but l had to be in Europe for the summer as the main reason to be here was to be able to jump over to London for a week and witness my beautiful sister marry the love of her life which will always be a memory to treasure however l knew that l wanted to be in a new country and experience everything l could. Certaldo is also a curvy but short 20 minute drive to San Gimginano(SG will be used for future reference) which l was actually able to experience on my second day of being here. SG is an old medieval town which has amazing views of the vineyards surrounding and has to gelato shops that are to die for (one did win awards a few years ago for the best gelato in the world, however l preferred the one that hasn’t won the awards, but this is a personal choice).

A month later l was lucky enough to visit Siena during the festival day of Il Palio. It is a traditional horse race that run in the main square of Siena. It is conducted twice a year so don’t be too worried if you miss the first date. I highly recommend being in Siena for this event and to describe it in 3 words would be to say ‘it’s utter madness’. There are 12 districts that are able to compete and l chose the goose house (working off the fact that l am probably a little bit of a goose) and walked around the city before to see sights and the festival parades all leading up to the race in the evening. I headed into the square to get a decent view point about 3 hours before the race in the hot sun until the race started, however at least l got to watch all the districts entering the square in the formal parade for that time. The horses then came out and lucky l found a local guy near me who could speak English and explain to me what was happening where the biggest point l took out of it was in this race if you’re not first, you’re last but a horse may still finish and place in the race even without its rider. The race was run and the winner was the she-wolf house where for all those hours standing in the sun was worth it as the celebrations were held right in front of me, however l had to made a quick walk to get to the last train leaving Siena for the night and also to get back to Certaldo as l had a table booked at the pub to watch Italy continue their run in the European championships. If you’re wondering, the goose house came second.

Life in Tuscany continued with many more visits to SG and Casa Alle Vacche and Poggio Alloro, these are 2 wineries I highly recommend when you are in the area. A month later l was graced with a visit from my parents and my aunty for a week and in this week, l finally got to visit Volterra and attend the Mercantia festival which brings local acrobats, performers, bands and other performers to Certaldo Alto. Volterra is another medieval city about an hour drive from Certaldo and much larger than SG where it also contains ancient ruins of a roman amphitheatre. The day l left for London, the family and l decided we had to see the Leaning tower of Pisa and get that tourist photo and while l don’t have a copy of the photo, you can have a look at the family selfie. img_0289

I headed off to London at the end of the week and caught up with the many family and friends for the sister’s wedding. I don’t need to blog about this because it was a special time with family and friends however the journey home was where the biggest adventure started. I left for Heathrow well over 1.5 hours before l had to be there and my train got stuck at a station for 20 minutes and by the time we got to Heathrow, even though l had checked in, the bag drop was closed. I was told to try and get a 15kg bag on cabin luggage but continued to argue the stupid point the bag drop lady was trying to make as l knew l wouldn’t get it on. They finally accepted and off to Pisa l went once l used the express lane through security because the lady just didn’t care about who was going through. I arrived at Pisa (l should mention my phone provider TIM in Italy are terrible and my sim card had stopped working) and with no phone, l had to get a new sim card and get it registered however being a Sunday the only place was at the airport. While l waited for it to register, l found out there was a train strike and this was after l had bought the train ticket! I tried many options for returning to Certaldo but in the end the only option was to return to the airport, get a bus to Florence and then a second bus to Poggibonsi (it’s the next town about 15 minutes from Certaldo) where l had to be picked up. In the end, a journey that was meant to take 1.5 hours from Pisa took me a nice little 6 hours to complete.

Life went on in Tuscany and l had my friend Laura from Myanmar come help me around the guesthouse plus l also made a few more amazing friends however l was graced with the beautiful face of my friend Phil on his way through to Thailand as a few months before we had decided to go to La Tomatina festival in Spain (La Tomatina is in a separate blog). In the week leading up, we headed out to Volterra for a medieval festival and saw some knights fight for a championship.

In the weeks from La Tomatina to the point the blog now finishes where l am up to now, I was able to get up to Empoli for a Serie A game and out to Livorno but l am still in Tuscany for the next 2 weeks before l move on Naples for a few days and slowly back up to Rome via a town called Gaeta to visit some family friends and then out of Rome, l am getting on a cruise with some good friends from back home to the Greece and its islands.


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