Tuscany - it looks exactly the same as it does in photos or in those TV shows your mother watches where British people move overseas and renovate old farmhouses. That shocked me.
In Japan, you go to somewhere like Mount Fuji and you really all those photos you've seen of it being all pretty and zen-like were taking from very specific spots, in between industrial buildings and other shit. That makes you jaded. Tuscany is not like that at all.
I did a bit of reading about how to get around Tuscany then realised it was going to be a massive pain in the arse so booked myself on a day tour on a nice air conditioned bus. Except that when I got to the bus, the tour was jam packed. They asked if anyone was on their own and I put my hand up so they squeezed me onto the first bus. I should've kept quiet since there was only one seat left and it was next to this horrible Russian man.
You'd think he'd have offered to swap seats so I got the window for at least one leg but every time he got back to the bus first and got the window seat. Even when I tried my hardest to beat him, he still managed.
The first stop on the tour was
In Sienna, they have a horse race called the Palio which is kind of a big deal. Different districts of the town compete to win the prize which is a huge honour and means they can have massive piss-ups for a year. They all pay big money to get good jockeys but the horses are drawn by ballot then the horses get taken to the church to get blessed and it's considered good luck if they poop on the floor (we were told this like 500 times).
We got to Sienna the day before the race so everything was being set up. Every district had their banners flying and bunches of men stood around, trying to set up for the dinners in each area. You can pretty much look at those groups and see who is the pompous old bastards in each area, standing around giving orders and doing no work. Some things are universal.
We had a local guide to show us around and we walked through the city then went to a building that had been an old hospital. Maybe the first hospital in the world or something like that.
Did you know in the olden days, when people went on pilgrimages, there were places that gave them hospitality but, because all these people were walking so much, they'd get sick so the hospitality places gave them treatment and that's where the word 'hospital' came from.
There were lots of paintings of Christians attacking the Infidels (ie. Muslims) which made me really glad we got all that cleared up back in the middle ages.
Our tour guide pointed out a church on the other side of the city. Apparently it has all kinds of relics and dead saint stuff but we weren't going to see any of that macabre stuff. Except I really wanted to see it. Luckily, I got to see awesome macabre stuff in Bologna but I won't give you spoilers on that.
After some time to wander the town, we headed to lunch at a Tuscan farm near San Gimignano. But first we had to have a tour of the farm and see grapevines and cows. Fuck yeah, never get to see that shit at home. I was pretty much acting like a recalcitrant teenager at that point in the tour but I've been to about 8000 vineyards in Australia and the whole 'growing white roses for white grapes, red roses for red' shit is pretty tired by now.
The farm house lunch was simple but good. Most of the ingredients were organic and grown on the farm.
I'd been worried that we'd only have red wine for lunch - I'm allergic to red wine, but we had wine and, when the women sitting near me found out I couldn't drink red, we commandeered all the leftover white. Ergo, I left lunch feeling pretty pissed.
I don't have any photos of lunch because I was too busy quaffing wine. Oops. The absolute best part of the meal was the dessert - biscotti dunked in dessert wine. OMG, that was amazing. I must buy some to have at home.
So then I slept most of the way to San Gimignano because that's what I do when I drink at lunch time.
We had plenty of options of things to do in San Gimignano but, when one of those options is to get gelato at a place that has won awards for top gelato in Italy, it's pretty much a given where I'd head to.
Next stop, Pisa. I had no interest in actually going inside the tower. There were a few touristy things around but, when we arrived, I saw a hot dog van and was like hell yeah, the leaning tower of hot dog got in my belly. Then I got a beer and lolled about on the grass near the tower.
People were taking photos of themselves pushing the tower but I figured I'd go one better. I was going to full put my legs in the air but I had a dress on and didn't want to expose myself that much.
The Tower of Pisa really isn't that high. It is only about 5 floors. Also, it was recently renovated and had structural work done. They could've straightened it up but choose not to because they wouldn't get any tourists. I think that makes it a bit gyppy.
We had to go on a little toot-toot train from the bus to the tower and back again which meant we got a tour around the city. Wow, a lot of smart people used to hang out in Pisa back in the day. I got annoyed because the tour leader told us about Fibonacci who "you may have heard of in the Dan Brown books". No, I've heard of him because he was a maths genius!
After Pisa, it was back to Florence. Since it was a public holiday, I thought they'd be nothing open for dinner but I found a place. I had my second tiramisu in Italy and again it was pretty ordinary. I never managed to find good tiramisu in Italy at all. Boo hiss.
The best part of the tour was definitely not having to deal with any of the transport logistics myself. I went to places I'd have probably not bothered with on my own. And the bus was air conditioned.
The worst bit was that the tour guide on the bus would tell us about each place before we got there then the local guide would say exactly the same thing. OMG, I hate that shit. It got annoying having to keep to someone else's timetable. And it did feel a bit school-trip like. One of the couples on the tour got off the bus at Pisa rather than travelling back to Florence. I quickly nabbed their seat so that I didn't have to sit with the annoying man -- and got in trouble for moving without permission!
That was the end of my Florence adventures, apart from having breakfast and coffee before leaving the next day. Next stop, Bologna.