The villa was spacious (see picture) with an expansive view of Lake Trasimeno and the mountains behind. Each morning when we got up we would look to see another beautiful sunrise.
drove to buy bread and whatever we needed, we ate a leisurely
We also prepared dinner at the villa with long conversations warmed by the glowing
wood in the fireplace.
The villa was well situated for touring the amazing hilltop villages; San Gimignano was our first outing. It is hard to say which village was more impressive but San Gimignano with its 14 stone towers was definitely one of them. At the height of its importance there were some 72 towers in the village. Saffron was produced in the town and some believe that the towers were to dry the lengths of saffron-dyed cloth. But they certainly served to show the political and economic power of the rival families,
and I sat on the steps of the Piazza Publico while
Aviv and Limor climbed Torre Grosso.
In Montalcino we bought Brunello wine. That night over dinner we couldn't resist and drank the bottle we had bought for for Mikhal (very good). A few days later we drove an hour back to Montalcino to buy Mikhal a bottle of wine from that same place.The weather had turned and here is Limor posing like a statue in the rain.
in Siena is a huge problem. We drove around for
over an hour until we found a public parking place that didn’t entail
up the steep hill.
Many years ago we arrived in Siena the day after the Palio to find that the race had been postponed to the next day because of bad weather, and we were fortunate to see the flags display and ceremony and the race. The horses race around the outer edge of the piazza. First horse to reach the winning post – with or without a rider - wins.
took pictures of the piazza where the races are
On our 10th day we drove up the hill to Montepulciano hilltop village. Up until then we had been in the lower more modern area while shopping daily (hourly?) at the supermarket, or visited places where we could buy wood.When Aviv and Limor left we had a feeling that our holiday had ended and that we had perhaps stayed on for too long. So the following morning we drove up to Montepulciano overlooking our villa. We were glad that we had found parking at the top of the hill when we saw tourists trundling up to the top. We walked along the main street, mainly looking for a place to eat that night. It was pleasant with wide streets and a magnificent view. But the most exciting thing about Monetepulciano was the torturous drive down the hill, both narrow and oh so steep. But that was nothing compared to that night, when after dinner at the very good Osteria del Conte restaurant on the top of Montepulciano I had to drive down those steep and narrow streets in the dark and rain!
We left Montepulciano and drove to Arezzo. After
parking we weren’t sure in which direction to walk. A young man
but insisted that we visit the Basilica nearby to see the frescoes by
della Francesca. Only 30 people are allowed in to the church at a time,
30 minute visit, so after buying tickets we waited for our turn by
surprisingly tasty crisp focaccia, filled with vegetables.
The large church has fragments of frescoes from various periods, but the jewel is the cycle of frescoes by Piero della Francesca dating to the 15th century, in the ambulatory, the area behind the main altar.
The ten episodes recall apocryphal events relating to the Legend of the True Cross. It starts with Adam who asks his son Seth to find the tree of mercy. The next episode as they call them shows the meeting of the Queen of Sheba with King Solomon. He had the tree cut down to build part of the Temple, but it was found to be unsuitable and he made a bridge over Siloam instead. It later continues to the dream of Constantine that if he had the chiro sign on his flag he will be victorious over his rival Maxentius. It goes on to describe Queen Helena in Jerusalem (more about that later), the battle of Heraclius against the Persian King Croesus and the return of the cross, ending with the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she will bear a child.
It was episode 6 that I found most fascinating.
Helena, Constantine’s mother comes to Jerusalem to find the true cross.
learns that a Jew named Judas (what else?) knows where three crosses
are buried, that of Jesus and the two crucified thieves.
Judas is captured,
and lowered into a well without food or water.
Francesca’s frescoes are based on a book The Golden Legend, written by the Bishop of Genoa Jacobus de Voragine in 1265, which has several versions.Afterwards we went to Piazza Grande. When Eitan and I visited Arezzo about 30 years ago we watched many takes of a movie being filmed. Imagine our surprise when seeing the movie Life is Beautiful we suddenly recognized what we had seen being photographed. We both clearly remembered the scene with an open car being repeated and replayed until the director was satisfied. Eitan and I couldn’t agree exactly where in the piazza the car was. No matter, it was a most interesting visit.
Castiglione del Largo - Lake Trasimeno
Lunch was the least successful meal we had on our trip. The restaurant was reserved by a birthday party and we were seated outside. It was really cold and miserable and the food took ages to be served.
We were planning on driving to Tivoli to visit Hadrian’s villa, but on the way and on the spur of the moment we detoured to Orvieto. Orvieto has a most imposing church that has bands of black and white stone running all over. The Duomo is light and airy but the main attraction is the New Chapel at the back of the church with amazing frescoes. Begun in the mid 1300’s by Fra Angelico it was richly decorated by Signorelli. Scenes of the Anti Christ by the Temple, Hell, the Resurrection and Heaven were intricately and intimately depicted. My luck was to join a guide who explained many details of the paintings. Eitan's bad luck was having to sit outside the church and wait and wait for me to return.
the other side of the
church is a reliquary – a cloth with plasma and serum that they believe
from the blood of Jesus.
From there we drove to Fiumicino Airport in
Rome and flew home after a very successful trip.