Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Taste of Tuscany Part 1

For my third weekend I was dying to meet some fun English speaking people to hang out with. I chose to book a tour the day before, that just happened to have one spot left...for me! I was signed up to taste Tuscany the next day with Italy on a Budget tours, and I was psyched. The tour was to leave from Florence at 2pm on Saturday, so I took the hour and fifteen minute train ride in the morning and checked into my even more budget hotel. It was a speck of a room, but it did the trick. They even let me check in early. I used the two hours before the tour to explore Mercato Centrale, which I hadn't been to yet since it only stays open until early afternoon. I wandered around this piece, eyes wide, and wishing I could buy a million things to bring back to my dollhouse sized fridge in the hotel. It's two floors of colorful, vibrant marketplace with choices upon choices. 

Yum, biscotti! (Yes, I bought some)

Fruit so fresh you could slap it..

In light of my current "situation" with my stomach troubles, I was trying to heed my mother's warning and steer clear of cheese for a while. BUT IT WAS EVERYWHERE. Every corner I turned, every inviting stand I approached, there was loads of cheese. 

I wanted to literally stick my hand in one of these bowls and grab a big ball of fresh mozzarella to just walk around with and eat out of my hand.

But, I restrained myself. Until...

That's right. I not only ordered this beaut, (pizza a capri) but consumed the whole thing. Sorry Mom. I figure this was the lesser of the two evils. Delizioso.

It was time to meet the group at the tour office to head into the hills and taste Tuscany. Unfortunately it had started raining..

We piled into two vans, and headed off into the hills (and rain) towards our first stop, the town of Monteriggioni. The group was mostly couples, with the exception of myself and a group of two friends traveling together. Our guide driving the van we rode in was pretty funny, and kept us well informed with historic tales of many places we passed along the way. 

The town itself was preparing for some sort of medieval times reenactment. As much as I wanted to see that, I was glad to hear it didn't start til later in the day. At first when we were told that we were to regroup back at our meet-up spot in a half hour I thought, well that's not very long. But Monteriggioni is tiny. A baby medieval town if you will. 

It had stopped raining for a few, and it was beautiful. As I meandered my way into a few shops, I found one that I loved. It was a home shop with handmade pottery and such. I purchased a small cup,and wished I could buy more.. but thinking of how my already gigantic suitcase, and my arms would suffer, I stopped at that.

We departed Monteriggioni and headed to a local winery at a Tuscan villa. No big deal.

We toured the large wine barrels, I suggested a keg party with the barrels in the wine room, all normal. 

We tasted some fantastic wines and I got the chance to chat more with my fellow tasters of Tuscany. Almost everyone was Australian, and a good time. Unfortunately the rain started up again just as we were leaving and we raced to the vans..

The rain kept up even though it was time to explore Siena. 

I opted to grab a drink at a pub and keep the buzz going with an Australian couple and a few others that joined us halfway through. We all swapped travel stories and I gained some good ideas for planning my "after camp" adventure. We then went back to the trusty vans and headed to what would become my favorite part of the tour...

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