Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Under the Tuscan Sun"

I swear that if I hear another person say something about “being under the Tuscan sun” in Tuscany, I will throw a salt shaker at him/her (probably her, because guys tend not to get chick-flick/chick-lit references, but I’m an equal opportunity cynicist).

Yes, we were in Tuscany. Yes, it was sunny. This does not mean that you are allowed to make references to a Diane Lane movie (or, if we’re being correct, a travel memoir by Frances Mays) every five seconds. I mean, seriously. If it weren’t for my mastery of self-discipline, I would have totally thrown a salt shaker at someone.

We left for our Tuscan trip at 7 AM, which meant half the people on the bus were hungover. I may or may not be included in this half—I’ll leave you guessing on that one. Over the course of a 2-hour bus drive, we drove down stretches of bland, straight highway until we hit the Tuscan Hills. We stopped briefly at a small medieval town named Monteriggioni. We walked around the top of the wall, and then all went to get coffee and pastries at one of the town’s two cafes. Then it was back on the bus.

Our next stop was Siena, a beautiful town that is about 30 minutes from Florence. I’ve been before, but it was nice to go back. The town is beautiful. We were given two hours to go get lunch (highly mediocre but reasonably priced lasagna) before taking an hour-long guided walking tour of the city. We saw the main piazza, learned a little Sienese history, and toured the cathedral. The cathedral. The church exterior looks like the hybrid of a wedding cake, a bad bridesmaid’s dress, and a palace. The interior looks like a zebra, jewelry store, and a church had a very unsuccessful (but beautiful) threesome. Excuse my slightly inappropriate comments. If you saw this church in person, you would totally agree with me

Exterior of the Cathedral
Once we’d seen Siena, we took an hour bus ride to an ex-convent in the hills of Tuscany: AKA our night’s accommodations. This place was amazing. For one, it was in the middle of nowhere. No-where. Second of all, it was like spending the night in a medieval castle—complete with lack of proper electricity and rock-solid beds. Jokes aside, it was beautiful—quaint, for sure, but really nice.

View from the side of Sant'Anna
Courtyard of Sant'Anna, the ex-convent
Jess and me in front of the countryside
The nicest part was dinner, which was amazing. They squeezed all 40-some of us in a room with two long tables and served us food until we felt like we would burst. There was also wine, which Director Ricci has been rationing to us ever since the disastrously drunken events at the BCSP Christmas party of 2011 (BCSP and its students must maintain a professional image… blah blah blah). Thankfully, a little sweet talking from Nick Panzarella got us three or four more carafes of wine. Winning!
Miss Miranda and I looking quite happy with our new carafe of wine.
After squeezing in this really weird desert, we all grabbed the contraband wine bottles we’d snuck in with our backpacks and headed outside, where we spent the night talking and playing card games and drinking wine. I rolled into bed around 2; breakfast would be served at 8. Needless to say, I passed out properly for all 6 hours.

After a standard Italian breakfast (that included instant coffee… disgusting!), we all took our seats on the bus and drove away (quite reluctantly) from the convent. Our destination: Pienza, a small town build during the Renaissance that takes in 90% of its income from tourists. It was small, quaint, and there were lots of flowers. I bought an overpriced scarf, as per the usual.
The garden outside the church in Pienza. 

Sir Gatto from Pienza. This cat was not particularly fond of us, but he was purrdy (see what i did there?).
After Pienza we drove to another picturesque Tuscan town, Montalcino, before going to a winery in the hills, where we took a tour of the vineyard and the winery before enjoying a picnic-like lunch and two glasses of the wine the family makes. It was great. Then we set out on a “hike” through the hills. I use quotation marks because it was more like a nature walk with a few steep slopes down a gravel road. Beautiful, slightly tiring, but nothing like I was expecting it to be. That took about two hours, and we were back on the bus, heading back to our lovely Bologna. 
The main clock tower in Montalcino

"The Garden of Fairy Tales"

I was SO EXCITED for the hike.

Just some views from our hike. No big deal.

And because I just can't resist:

Dru and Katie were indecently dressed for the church in Siena. So the head nun (or whoever) made them dress even more indecently by wrapping them in cheap gauze that felt like insulation materials. 

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