May 18 – San Gimignano and a winery

Today we headed out, all of us, for the fortress of San Gimignano. This, another medieval hilltown, had 72 towers at one time, and still has 14 of the original standing tall above the hill outside Poggibonsi (we’ve all agreed this is our favorite weird word for the season . . . poggibonsi, which is apparently named after a famous Italian poet). We thought we had chosen a good day, because one of our guide books said that Thursday is market day in San Gimignano. That was a bad idea. The main piazza, Piazza del Cisterna, and the one next to it, Piazza del Duomo, are usually stony calm places to meet up with one’s group, but today, the market was actually dozens of tented tables, full of schlock, not artisan items, and we couldn’t find the Cisterna, thus it was difficult to find one another. But we all managed finally, with the aid of cell phones and occasional shouts across the fray, to locate one another, find an escape route on streets past the Duomo, and locate corners of the old town that were away from all the market hawkers.

Debra and I wandered up a hillside behind the Duomo, after a stop at the Leo Balducci pottery studio and shop (a favorite of mine here) and discovered a musician playing a harpsicord in the middle of a grassy patch of ground. We sat and lsitened, purchased three CDs, and wove our way back down through the main square, now devoid of the market mess, to find our car. The rest of the group was still in San G, but we, Debra and I, were on a different mission. We had contacted a woman named Franca Gatteschi, the owner of a small winery near Gaiole in Chianti, just outside Montegrossi (through the village, look for the madonna shrine on the right, turn right down the dirt road until it ends and there you are!). She had invited us to come to her house and vineyard, winery and tasting room, to have a look around. After many wrong turns here and there, we finally arrived at the Madonna statue and were stumped as to which dirt road to follow. But cell phones, even in these little bitty places, DO work well enough to get us where we want to go, and we met Sra. Gatteschi, a delightful woman of perhaps late 60’s or 70 years of age, who gave us two hours of her time and information, tastings of four of her family wines, and an exchange of e’mail information. She comes to Colorado twice a year and we are going to arrange for her to come to my house to do some cooking classes! Anyone interested?

After our Gatteschi adventure, we joined the rest of the group at the Trattoria at Colona Di Grillo for a sumptuous meal (I think I have not seen so many dishes on the table during this whole trip) and a fairly minimal bill at the end of the night.

Tomorrow we will stay close to the villa and try to pack our things efficiently, because on Saturday we will take the cars back to Firenze and get our mini-bus up to Cinque Terre, a completely different experience.




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