Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pretty, non-knitting things in Tuscany

I did a little knitting on the bus yesterday and my hands were actually wobbly.  I don't know whether that was from two weeks off, or from the agonizing arm workout Carol had just put me through at the gym, but when I did another little about two hours later, it wasn't so bad.  With luck I can actually make sock progress tomorrow, because I appreciate handknit socks more than ever since I did all that crazy walking.

(proof of crazy levels of walking: in spite of increased consumption of gelato and pasta, I lost weight on this trip.)

I just thought I'd throw that chandelier out there.  This is where our tour group had supper our first night in Italy, in Florence's Palazzo Borghese.  A bit of a wow, huh?  You can tell how tall the ceilings were by how much I had to lean back to get a picture of them.

The colour combinations were what made me feel at home.  At my real home, there isn't even a dining room, let alone dining rooms, let alone sculpture.  But throw me some gold and brown and white and turquoise? I'm automatically thinking Fair Isle.

An Aside

Amazing though this place was, it also introduced the lingering theme to the entire tour, one that contrasted the sublime with the ridiculous on a daily basis:


I hope you will forgive me for referring back to this matter from time to time, but it really did loom large over our daily survival of a grueling, if gorgeous, schedule.  The deal is that Italian public toilets, at least where we went, are not only inadequate in number (think two for 30+ women from each of several buses) but missing one or more critical items (toilet seat, toilet paper, free access, etc.).  You can imagine how the resulting lineups cut into our time at given destination. I learned quickly to rehydrate like mad at night, because I didn't dare drink much water during the day, which served me well the day of the Papal Audience when we were expected to last eight hours without a pit stop.

Missing from the toilets at the Palazzo Borghese: heat.  And apparently ventilation because the window was open.  Brrrrrr.

Story Resumes

The next morning, we went somewhere much simpler than the Palazzo Borghese:

Siena, maybe an hour's drive from Florence, maybe more?  It's got a big thick brick wall around it, angled outward at the bottom to fend off attacks, and I just loved how the bricks look after all these centuries - battered but determined (and totally irregular.  I wonder whether I could reproduce this with a battered moss stitch).

Inside, the buildings are also of brick.

Unless they have marble too.  Siena is a gorgeous place in which I took not very many pictures, apparently.  I hadn't yet perfected the art of snapping pictures while walking briskly behind one's tour guide, so as not to get lost.

On the upside, that proximity is how I learned that Siena is not only the reason all those gorgeous browns and oranges in your art kit have 'Siena' in front of their names, but was a big roadside stop on the pilgrimage trail.  There were a lot of buildings dedicated just to the care and feeding of those pilgrims, and after I saw this interesting little plaque over a door...

... I learned that is was the marker for the world's first milk bank.  I'm guessing that's a baby on a cot, there, though you'll probably have to click on the image to tell for sure.  Go moms!

Owing in part to the bathroom time-suck (six stalls, 50 cent entry fee which none of us had coins for yet, and no toilet seats), our time in Siena was cut a little short and we were soon on our way to an organic vineyard outside San Gimignano for a late lunch.

You can just make out the surviving towers of the town in the distance, over top of the right-hand tree.  And can you believe those clouds?  So pretty.

Since I know you're wondering, the vineyard had two stalls (with toilet seats!) for its female luncheon guests.  As a result, lunch was delayed, as was our departure to San Gimignano, wherein we had a very small amount of time indeed.  It was worth what we had, though:

I really love the look of old stonework.  And the sky cleared out, too - can you believe that blue?

I learned many things on this beautiful day in Tuscany, not least because our tour guide for Florence and Tuscany was completely awesome - a former teacher who knew tons about art history, religious history, geography, philosophy, languages, music, and pretty much anything else of interest.  And one of the things was that I had somehow magically appeared in a completely different part of the world than is usual for me.  So bizarre; I'd forgotten how getting on a plane accomplishes that.

I'm dying to show you my pictures of Pisa, whose bathrooms were similar to Siena's except that this time I had change for the entry fee, but I will save them for a few days because I think you would rather hear about knitting.  In good news, I promise not to talk about bathrooms in the Pisa post, since I just did that here.

Aren't I thoughtful?

See you tomorrow!

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