Toscana III San Gimignano
Pisa, the Leaning Tower and The Field of Miracles
Following an absolutely stunning two days in Florence, our English tour guide, Elaine dutifully herded us onto our tour bus and we left for Pisa with dire warnings about gypsies, tramps and thieves. I had on my money belt (which caused me to perspire, and I handed out damp Euros for the rest of the trip), so I wasn’t worried. My friend Anne, however, was pick pocketed within one minute of departing the bus. A pall fell over us that lasted the rest of the morning, we moped around the Field of Miracles, not feeling quite so miraculous while Anne’s son in Britain sorted out her finances, cancelling credit cards, etc. Once this was settled, we settled down too and were off on the second leg of the journey, a lovely little hill town called Lucca, home of Puccini. Again we exited the bus, this time with dire warnings not to be even one minute late on return, as the driver would not wait. We had a lovely lunch of the best pizza on earth, did some requisite shopping (I am now in possession of a lovely Italian leather handbag, thank you very much), and a had charming stroll on the Roman wall amid poppies and other spring wild flowers. As we walked we engaged in a discussion about the time we were meant to return to the bus. We each had our own opinions so we split the difference and walked faster. To our utter amazement and shame, the entire bus was loaded and our fellow travelers were looking out the window at us as we approached. As we boarded, the entire bus of Brits gave us a resounding round of applause. Is it actually possible to melt into one’s seat like the wicked witch on the wizard of Oz?
Volterra – Chiesa di Allessandro
The next day we travelled to the town of Volterra, an ancient Etruscan city and our home for the next three days. Our hotel was at the foot of the hill and we walked about a mile up a winding path to the city several times a day to eat or shop. I now know how the Italians can eat so much pasta and not have the obesity problems so common in the States. We passed this picturesque church along the way.
If you have seen the movie Tea with Mussolini, you might recognize this photo. The city is famous for it’s towers, which are actually fortified homes. The rooms are stacked one on top of the other like layers in a cake. When attacked, the residents merely pulled up the ladder and battened down the hatches. We used Rick Steve’s guide for restaurant selections and his choices were superb. In this tiny town we ate lunch in a garage attached to the restaurateur’s home. It was just large enough to hold three tables. As we arrived, the baker delivered a huge brown paper bag filled with loaves of bread that were still steaming. Then the owner came out of her home and sliced fresh Italian meats with a meat slicer that sat on the counter and made incredible sandwiches served with homemade Tuscan white bean soup and the local wine. That was a meal I will never forget!
As I contemplated this trip I was prepared for fantastic scenery and savory Italian food. What I was totally unprepared for was the extreme difficulty I had sleeping. I would hear Anne peacefully breathing across the room while I tossed and turned all night long. Why? Because of the extreme creative process that was being generated by total immersion in this art-filled environment. I was actually designing quilts in my head when I was supposed to be asleep. Then I started having what I will call, “historical dreams.” Being a big history buff, I found my dreams inhabited by the ancient world. All in all a very strange experience that lasted for the entire two weeks. In the end, I decided to write down my ideas for quilts in a journal, and photos were taken with an eye for translation into fabric. When I arrived home my sewing machine hardly had time to cool off between quilts, and the Toscana series was born.