Wednesday, June 14, 2006

VF Day 4 San Miniato - San Gimignano

I woke up wanting a smidge more sleep. For a monastery in was really noisy. Our room was by the road and people were talking outside all night. There were no monks around to pay but a chap in the kitchen sorted it out and gave us back our British and Pilgrim passports. It was our first nice passport stamp of the trip.

We asked for directions to CastelFiorentino from a woman on the road. She gave us very specific and comprehensive directions, including every turn, bridge and landmark but all I really understood was "down there on the right". So we went down there on the right and finally saw a sign for CastelFiorentino which was great because by then we had descended quite some way. We whizzed down some more and made our way through some wonderful tree lined roads with lush green hills all around, occasionally interupted by industrial estates.

We reached Castelfiorentino far quicker than I expected and stopped for a breakfast of coffee and cold rocket and tomato pizza. Yum. Onwards to Certaldo where we turned off for San Gimignano. It wasn't far but it was up a long and winding hill. I spotted a hilltop town with towers slightly behind us to the left and said "I bet that's it!". Lou Pooh-poohed the thought, but 12km later, it was. The climb was long and as we started it at 11:40 it was hot. We stopped regularly in theshade for water and to rest. Signed beckoned us in for olive oil and wine tastings but all involved hilly detours. There were no ice-cream shops.

Eventually the road levelled off for a while. I saw a small grey/green snake with a black and yellow head. It froze as I approached and then slithered back into the grass by the curb. We stopped at a grocery store for peaches, juice and water. We were only a few minutes climb from town back into another walled city.

We stopped to check the address of the monastery and as Lou looked it up I noticed we were sitting outside it. We rang the bell but there was no answer. It was closed between 12:30 and 3:00 and it was 12:39. Boo.

We went to a cafe in tourist central where we had tuna and tomato focaccia and I had a glass of San Gimignano. It was good. Lou had a Diet Coke. We sat for ages and a giant cricket type insect bounced off my head onto the pavement. Small boys gathered to take photo's of it.

We left at around 2:30 and went to sit outside the monastery. A crazy, aggressive Italian woman kept driving past us and hassling us to stay at her hotel. I was too scared to. At 3 I rang the bell. No reply. I rang the main monatsery bell, no reply. A Dutch bloke came and rang the bell. Nothing. I asked Lou to look up the phone number and call them. We could hear the phone ringing inside. Lou passed the phone to me. I asked for two beds. I was told "No, full" and was uncerimoniously hung-up on. Lou was hysterical as she'd heard the monk's "No!" without needing the phone.

We plodded sad faced into town aiming for the tourist office. They said they had rooms - 60E, or 70E with breakfast. We passed on breakfast.

A bloke came in to the office and an argument ensued. I was forgotten. Eventually the ice-cream eating assistant glanced at me and I asked her for direction to our room. Our arguing man was to take us. It's a good, clean double room just around the corner from the cathedral. It's in a house with multiple rooms. It's a bit like Joe's house in Rabanal del Camino!

We got cleaned up and I caught a spot of BBC News whilst Lou showered. I took out my right lens as my eye had been sore all day. I thought it was suncream in my eye at first, but then it felt like there was sand or something in there. I washed it out as best I could with re-wetting drops, but it was sore and swollen and kept watering.

We went out to the Cathedral and had to put on shoulder covers as we'd forgotten to wear sleeves. I otched my shorts down a bit so that they just covered my knees (and bum) otherwise I'd have had to wear a long blue piece of cloth as a skirt. Little girls all over town were sporting natty outfits they'd fashioned from big blue triangles and squares.

The Cathedral had marvellous frescoes, including one of San Sebastian peppered with dozens of arrows. There was a New and Old Testament wall and they were like particularly gory Sunday School lesson pictures on two and three levels. We played "Guess the Bible story" which was great fun.

We mooched about a bit. In the main square they were building a stage for Maria ? to sing on tonight. We were hungry but it was only 5 so no-where was open. We ambled outside the city walls to Caffe Mokaflor where I had gnocchi with tomato sauce, and a veggie lasagne. Both were microwave meals, but they filled a gap. Lou wanted to marry the elderly bar owner - Freak! I wanted another flask of cheap sangiovese.

Back into town for postcards and stamps, which proved to be a tough mission. The bloke in the shop flat refused to sell me 20 stamps, even though he had at least 50. In the end his boss was called and we settled on 10. I have no idea what kind of postage related crimes could have been commited if I bought too many stamps, but he was determined to stop me.

We laughed at the petty bureaucracy until we realised that the main square was now sealed off for the opera singing and so we weren't allowed to cross. We walked around but still couldn't get through so I threw a bit of a strop until a woman who seemed to be in charge ushered us through. A sharply dressed young man came to let us out the other side but really struggled to move the barrier as he was weedy.

So now I'm home, my eye keeps watering, I have over a dozen bites, my ankle still feels weird from where I 'surprised' it when the chain came off at the lights, and Lou has the trots. It's Gone 9:30 and Maria hasn't started singing yet. I can't imagine I'll sleep well.

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