Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Ciao from Italia -2 – Volterra, San Gimme Gimme & Siena

The wondrous cafe in Volterra

I humbly submit, dear readers, another snapshot of our Italian trip for your delectation…..

Volterra was a wonderful medieval town, walled, and perched atop a hill where one could survey the rolling Tuscan countryside. The town even incorporated a State prison within the walls of its Ancient fortress, the first time I’d really seen a correctional facility in the guise of a tourist attraction!

Just inside Volterra's walls

They seemed to get the mix right here, lots of shops selling wines, pasta, local produce, and lovely cafes, but the town still had natural ambience about it. One thing that’s amazed me is the amount of great swimming pools. Even the tiniest towns have them, and everything points to Italy being quite a wealthy country, certainly when compared to Spain. We enjoyed a great couple of days in Volterra, getting in a couple of kilometers in the pool, too.

San Gimignano - Manhattan's inspiration?

San Gimignano, or ‘San Gimme Gimme’ as I preferred to call it, was a different kettle of fish altogther. Another classic medeival town, boasting no less than 17 towers (there used to 72!) it rose above the hills like some kind of renaissance Manhattan.

About 2k outside the town, on approach, I spotted a HUGE gathering of motorhomes – at least a hundred, in an official parking area.  These places charge the earth, and we avoid them like the plague – our logic being that if you’re shelling out big bucks to buy a motorhome, you sure as hell don’t want to be paying the price of a hotel room to park it. Unbelievably, a geezer at the gate tried to wave us in! He looked like some kind of hooker, touting for business. I drove on. We came upon another motorhome  park, asking a euro an hour, meaning a day’s stay would have been 24, with no electricity, water, nothing. We gave that a body swerve too.

On the walls of San Gimme Gimme...coach trip with flag-waving leader just out of shot....

I did like this bell, and the Frescos surrounding it

Eventually, using the tried and tested method of heading for the local football stadium, we found a lovely quiet spot, completely free, within walking distance of the town.  The town seemed drab, a collection of greys, perhaps the overcast weather didn’t help, but neither did the legions – and I mean LEGIONS of tourists scrambling over each other to photograph the many towers, each other, or both.  We normally gauge the TROQ – Tourist Rip-off Quotient by the price of a Latte. Portofino won hands down  – 5 euros for a singularly unimpressive cupful.  Volterra was 2.50,  a lovely one, served with a smile. In San Gimme Gimme, they wanted 3.50, and we didn’t even get any frickin’ froth.  Musuems (door charge) Churches (door charge) all were ignored by us, as human snakes with a guide at the head waving what often appeared to be a white flag of surrender “and we’re waalking, we’re waaalking…”

Unfortunately, my lasting impression of San Gimignano is one of a Medieval shopping mall, built to cater to the Americans.

Anyone who has listened to my track “The Heretic’s Song” will know my views on being charged to enter a so-called house of God. I also found it mildly amusing that San Gimme Gimme was also falling over itsalef to sell ever piece of tourist tat and then some on Easter Sunday. Noew, I’m no Christian, but wasn’t JC seriously pissed off with the merchants on the steps of the temple?? and this, on the day he did the big Houdini thing???  (Cue Mott the Hoople’s ‘Roll away the Stone’) Seems like a serious faux pas to me, if you believe that sort of thing.

If in doubt - Mangare Gelato!

 Siena we were looking forward to – James Bond rooftop chases, etc. – But once again we were confronted with 20 euros to park. Eventually, I found a place just outside the town where we could park for free until 7pm, at which time I assume we would have been machine-gunned.  We walked up the steep hill to what we thought was the town, but in fact turned out to be a fort, built by or for King Leopold, who had a stab at being King here a while back.  It turned out to be a good move however, because as well as giving us a nice walk around the battlements, it also gave us the chance to check out at least 30 pristine Ferraris parked out on the gravel in the courtyard, awaiting their appearance at a weekend car show. Cue boyhood enthusiasm! Actually, without wishing to offend the Ferrarinistas, if a Lamborghini Miura had been parked there, I’d have nicked it, and hang the consequences!

“My other car’s a Skoda….”

From the walls of the fort we looked out to see the huge Cathedral and clock tower in the distance, and set out for it in the sunshine, me tempting fate in a vest and shorts.  We’d managed to see both monuments when God, clearly aggrieved at our failure to purchase tickets to see the inside of either, sent down a deluge of biblical proportions.  The upside of this was I got another ciocolatte calde in the cafe we had to shelter in. Every cloud, etc.

Siena Cathedral, imposing, with gathering stormclouds behind....

Suffice to say, our Siena trip was brutally cut short, so we headed off for Buonconvento, a small town on the road to our next destination proper, Montecino. We got parked up for free next to..the local swimming pool!  After spending the night, we got a swim in, and were on the verge of giving the town a minus score after shelling out 6 euros each to swim and finding you needed to pay extra if you wanted to shower after, plus getting moved along by the Carabinieri  because we were incorrectly parked. But that soon turned into a plus, as I found internet that has enabled me to write this article, and a lovely friendly Cafe which has currently got the record for a Latte Macchiato – only 1.10, and extra foam and chocolate sprinklles. Eat that, San Gimme Gimme!

Kev Moore

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April 26, 2011 - Posted by | Art, coffee, Easter, travel, writing | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Yay — chocolate sprinkles! Glad to hear the story had a happy ending 🙂 Love the pics.

    Comment by shelleymhouse | April 28, 2011


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