Sunday, January 6, 2008

Rainy Epiphany in San Gimignano

We woke Sunday morning to another rainy day, and after a leisurely breakfast (Alex reconstructed Todd's yummy apple french toast, which was great but suffered from a lack of maple syrup), I fell back asleep. Eventually, the rest of the group decided that they wanted to go out, so I was rousted out of bed and we had a quick lunch before driving to San Gimignano.

San Gimignano is a famous medieval hill town about 30 miles away that has many tall stone towers. When we arrived in the early afternoon, almost everything was closed (as it was a Sunday, and a holiday, and in low season, we weren't expecting much anyway). We wandered around for awhile on the narrow streets. Normally, the big feature of the town is the view of the surrounding countryside, but it was so misty that we couldn't really see anything. (It was kind of like being in the White Mountains and knowing that Mount Washington is towering invisibly over you.)

We ended up toward the top of the town at a wine museum that also does tastings. They poured six wines: three were the local white wine called Vernaccia, and three were Chianti colle Sienese (meaning Chianti from the Siena area rather than Chianti proper, in which case they could be called Chianti Classico). Afterwards, Alex tried some grappa made from Vernaccia, a mere whiff of which nearly knocked me out. It was completely colorless and turned out to be 42% alcohol! The sommelier explained each of the wines to us, and it was generally a delightful and interesting time.

After meandering back down the hill, we found Trattoria Chiribiri, one of the Rick Steves-recommended restaurants. It was incredibly early for Italian dinner (just before 6), so we were the only group in the place, but we had an AMAZING meal. The big feature was homemade pasta. I had a pumpkin ravioli with leek and cheese sauce that was one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten. Everyone else's dishes were wonderful as well. For dessert, we ordered an apple tart, a panna cotta with raspberry sauce, and a tiramisu and just shared them around—also fantastic!

When we arrived back home, it was to a darkened power! The circuit breakers were not the problem, so Dad ended up driving to the neighbors' house (they have been a tremendous help all along). Matteo came over and helped in the futile search for the magic electricity box, and then called the power company for us, flipped the outside switch they told him about over the phone, and became our hero! Power was restored instantly and we all breathed a sigh of relief, since visions of dealing with an unresponsive Italian electricity company were dancing unpleasantly in our heads.

Tomorrow we're off to Siena.

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