The tour started at a tiny, walled medieval town called Monteriggioni. This town was once a defensive fortification used by the city of Siena in the wars with their neighbor and rival, Florence. Now the tiny town, still incredibly preserved is home to no more than 45 residents. Walking through the streets and along the walls of the town was a magical experience, and though I am sure they see bus loads of tourists each day coming an going from their peaceful little town, the locals were very charming and sweet. We really only spent about 20 minutes there, and that was all you needed to walk around the narrow streets and single piazza.
From there, we boarded the bus and were on our way to Siena, but I am going to go into that experience in a separate post, because it was quite special to see the town celebrating its bi-annual Palio horse racing festival.
After Siena we moved on again to the town of San Gimignano. This is a slightly larger walled city that is easily walkable within an hour, but has a lot to offer. The two piazzas in this town were buzzing with local and tourist markets and the main avenue, like Cefalu, was filled with tourists and shops but just gave off such a pleasant, quaint vibe that I didn't mind in the least. As you enter the main piazza, to you left is a gelato shop where...wait for it...you can get the best gelato in the world! Seriously, this place has actually won several world-wide awards. And like I mentioned before, I have been eating at least 1 gelato a day since I arrived in Italy, and I can tell you that this place far surpasses any place I have ever tried, including the place in Pisa that I was so impressed with. But, you have to be careful because to the right is a 2nd gelato place that has a sign reading `worlds best gelato Do no be fooled because this is not it, tricky tricksters. The real award winner is to the left and has a sign saying `Gelato Wold Champion.` Another treat in San Gimignano is a white wine that is only, and can only be produced by maybe a dozen wineries in the vicinity of the town. Its called Vernaccia, and I had to pick up a bottle for only 5 euros. I popped the cork back at my hostel with a few friends and we all agreed that it was quite good. Since its production is limited it is probably pretty expensive outside of the region, but I ma start looking for it at home anyway. Before we left I took an opportunity to walk the walls of the city and look out onto the picturesque views of the Tuscany valley below. It was stunning.
Our final stop of the day was at a winery in the Chianti region, where we got to enjoy a tasting of about 6 wines and a tray of Italian meats, cheeses, and breads. It was the perfect way to end the day, and was nice to sit and chat with some new friends that I made on the tour, a couple from Australia and another newlywed couple from Philadelphia, who actually grew up in South Jersey :)
I guess if the day had ended there it would have been nice, however, I am an idiot and ended up leaving my phone on the bus, so I spent a frantic evening trying to track it down. Not only is it my lifeline to home and the outside world, but since my camera broke it also has a good deal of pictures on it, and several chapters of my book. Luckily I was able to track it down and was assured I could go pick it up the next morning. Maybe the relief of that whole situation made that bottle of Vernaccia taste that much better.
It was pretty delicious