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Monday, 30 October 2017

Fast-Forward Tuscany



One of my traveller’s wishes has always been ‘Get to Tuscany, off-season and… please let it not be commercial’. This year, in February, during Carnival, I managed to squeeze in 4 days and – after my Master Class at Carpigiani Gelato University – I helped make it happen.

Florence
We barely made it to the train, pre-paid in fact [this ‘run after train’ was our main theme for all our following days]. Marcel and I were all smiles as we walked to our apartment that evening and sampled some tasty dishes before calling it a night.

My pink shades were of great use the following morning, as the sun was piercing. Florence felt dated through its shops and not as neat as I had expected. It felt crowded. It felt touristy. We had made bookings to avoid queues and, after seeing the Baptistery, we managed to climb up Giotto’s Bell Tower. It was a bit rough, though the views were worth it, so I spoiled myself to an aubergine pizza after.

In our attempt to view Ponte Vecchio from the best angle possible, we reached the other bank of Arno River and headed up, on enchanting streets and alleys – which summed up Florence for me –, on a search for another view, yet a discovery of beautiful handmade items and a lot of bicycles.

Climbing to the top of the Duomo felt even more gruelling than our first climb of the day, but I made it and was satisfied just watching the brick-coloured city.

Reward after a challenging day? Some classic gelato at classic Vivoli.    

Pistoia
A hop, skip, and less than an hour from Florence… and we found ourselves in Pistoia, a town that lured me in by its super-narrow streets and its medieval feel. It’s not always as pictured, you know? I mean, the streets were there, the atmosphere was there, the sunny Sunday afternoon was there, yet something was missing. And not even the second best pizza of our trip – Margherita, this time – was going to fill that space. ‘I still don’t know what went wrong’ was a thought that passed through my head over and over again, as I was playing with the rays of sun and Marcel’s hair at the train station.


Siena
‘A-ha, this is a whole different ball game’. I was in awe. 

The food – I was craving gnocchi like a crazy person and Marcel was all about prawns. The escalators from the train station – I couldn’t get enough of them. The stores – so luxurious and inviting. The shadows of an eerie expedition through the town, after dark. Bonus: the sound of locals sweeping the streets, veeeeryyyy early in the morning, and the yellowish light cast over Piazza del Campo, the following day.

Arezzo
The bus ride to Arezzo was the chance to finally experience those isolated villas, guarded by the lonely cypress trees that have stood as the symbol of Tuscany for who-knows-when. In between a narrow curve and a view of the countryside, my eyes could explore. They were not as in love as I hoped they’d be when I sobbingly watched ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ from my sofa, but the barrenness could have been simply a sign of winter.
…and then, we finally entered Arezzo. I loved it from the very first minutes. It was supposed to actually be only the place we’d take the bus to Cesenatico from, but… when we found out that there was no bus, and took the kind booking clerk’s advice [‘You go back to Florence, go through Faenza and then Rimini. It is a very scenic ride.’] instead, we stopped for more than only a few minutes. We walked up those superb streets to the Duomo and when we took il Passeggio del Prato and the gorgeous view of the vineyards unveiled, I knew that it was my favourite spot in Tuscany, altogether!

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