Wednesday, July 10, 2013

tuscany -- food, wine, landscapes, and a buddy system for the bathroom

One of the great things about Florence -- and there are many -- is that it is in Tuscany, a region known for its spectacular wine, food, landscapes and shopping. The wine and the food, as you know, have received more than enough attention from us to date. Today, it was time to get on with the landscapes and shopping.

After breakfast, we made our way over to the garage where our car has been parked. Although only feet from our front door via foot, the various one-way streets make it close to one mile by car, or so it seems. Picking up the car is not a problem today, though, and we are out the door, navigation system running and making our way to San Gimignano a little after ten.

San Gimignano is a small town that sits on top of a hill and has some of the most amazing views of the Tuscan countryside, green and brown rolling hills, vineyards as far as the eye can see; you know, Tuscany. The town, which is less than forty miles south west of Florence, dates back to the third century. It looks today much as it did in the 14th century, with beautiful squares, cobblestone streets and towers lining the town inside its medieval walls. The town is not a well-kept secret. We were but one of a number of visiting tourists that ran roughshod over the village today. (Pictured here are Owen and Lauren in the piazza that marks the historic town center.)

After parking in one of the four pay-parking lots (they seem to have made the most of this tourist thing), we walked up into the town and, of course, hit the bathroom. It was one of those pay for pee places, and we all made use. I went in with Owen. I should note here that Owen's grandmother is most concerned that Lauren and Owen not be allowed to go to the bathroom in Italy by themselves. I think she saw a Dateline or read something on the interwebs regarding the rash of child abductions that take place in and around Italian toilets. As such, Keri was forced to take a blood oath that we would not allow either child to go to the bathroom by her/himself. Play with sharp knives? Sure. Juggle loaded handguns? Why not. Drive a scooter on the urban streets? Everyone does it. But no solo trips to the bathroom. My mother-in-law can rest easy that I stood in the bathroom the full duration of Owen's trip today. I did not go into the stall with him, so I can not guarantee that someone did not pop up -- Austin Powers Number 2 style -- but that stall door is a line I will no longer cross. (Note from Keri: I do not condone my husband picking on my mother. She worries because she loves. And, I know she would strongly advise against playing with sharp knives, juggling loaded handguns and driving a scooter on urban streets.)

Anyway, the town is worth a trip on its own; the views make it a must-see. Owen seemed less moved by the scenery than did the rest of us. I am certain I would have felt the same at his age. At my advanced age, though, I feel compelled to share this photo, which does not do justice to the amazing views.

After walking through the town, climbing various hills and structures, and taking in all that Sam Gimignano has to offer, we decided to get some lunch. We tried to mix things up somewhat, introducing the kids to the joy of the panini. The experiment did not go well. We ordered for both of them mozzarella sandwiches with a dash of olive oil. Lauren, who has been eating mozzarella for breakfast, made a face as though she had been asked to eat a pile of dirt -- or worse. She summoned the strength to put down one full bite of bread. Owen fared no better -- before making a trip of unknown duration to the bathroom. Keri and I thoroughly enjoyed our sandwiches, by the way.

We passed by a gelateria on the walk back to the car and, good parents that we are, tried to fill their stomachs with gelato. This turned out to be one of the few mediocre gelaterias we had come across. Our kids, who have become gourmands at this point, refused to eat more than a few bites. I can't say I blame them. Fortunately, we spotted a fruit store across the street, and Keri managed to get some apples, peaches, bananas, and Pringles (and here I thought potatoes were vegetables) to hold the kids over until dinner. (Seen here is Lauren, still suffering through her gelato, while Owen has long-since moved on to an apple.)

Back into the car, we were headed to the Prada outlet. A little background. For reasons I cannot fathom, the Prada people intentionally make the outlet difficult to find. They provide on their website a town name and a non-existent street address. The store itself is in an industrial mall in a low-scale section of a crappy town. And the only identification on the exterior of the store is the word "SPACE." No idea what that has to do with Prada. Keri and I had been to this store on our honeymoon (I have no idea how we found it then), and knew enough to do some research before we made this effort.

Keri, wise woman that she is, found a semi-viable street address on TripAdvisor or some other website. We put that into our car's navigation system and, much to our surprise, the car took us right to the front door. Amazing. Keri did a couple laps around the store with Lauren, ultimately settling on a pair of brown Miu Miu boots. Owen and I waited in the cafeteria and later our car where I spent some time figuring out the fancy electronic system.

On our drive back to Florence, the rain began. Gentle, at first, it was coming down hard as we got closer to the city center. Our navigation system tried to send me down a street that had been taken over by the many vendors hawking leather goods in this city. I made a couple wrong turns on my own but, having walked the streets a couple times now, I figured out my mistake and found our way back to the garage, safe and sound. Our children panicked over the one minute walk in a light mist back to the flat. (I remain befuddled by their aversion to the rain.)

We ate dinner at a nearby restaurant that was just ok, and made up for it by a return trip to Antica Gelateria Fiorentina. All of that gelato was consumed, I can assure you. Now, we can turn our attention back where it belongs, to the food and wine.


  1. Ah, Tuscany! Beautiful picture, Tim. And let me say thank-you to my Keri for defending me! Yes, out of love and concern that I do not want the children going to the bathroom (or anywhere) by themselves. Besides the movie Taken, I have read too many stories and have seen too many TV shows! So there, Mr. Tim!!But I will tell you that I laughed into hysteria while reading your piece. You are still the best blogger ever:-)

  2. Just to be clear, I don't believe her fears are limited to Italian toilets. She does not discriminate. No public toilet, Italian, Swiss, Arizonan?, should be visited alone. This is my understanding.

  3. That pretty much covers it , Kimmie:-)

  4. San Gimignano- one of my favorite places!