Thursday, April 10, 2014

Italian Extravaganza: Day 8

We spent the morning wandering around Florence. My goal was to get a city scape of every city so, based on an "insider's tip" from the National Geographic guide book, we headed to a cafe at the top of a department store. Not only did we feel like we shouldn't have been there, the view also wasn't spectacular. The one and only time NG steered us wrong. And I still got a pretty decent half of a city scape. We also stopped by the replica of the Estruscan Boar. Apparently if you put your hand in its mouth and let your money drop down the drain it's good luck. I thought it was highly unhygienic so I took the photo op and got out of there.
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In order to best take advantage of Tuscany, we rented a car. Getting out of Florence took a couple tries but once we got onto the highway, it was pretty smooth sailing. We kind of winged this part of the journey since there are countless picaresque Tuscan towns to see. We knew we weren't going to do any vineyards or wineries because it wasn't really the season and we're not wine aficionados (we're from Milwaukee, we like beer). Don't get me wrong, we'd tried our fair share of wine along the way, but we wanted to focus more on the villages and windy streets. Our first stop was San Gimignano. It's known for it's skyline because of its many towers. San Gimignano was one of the more touristy towns we visited. We walked around for a bit, bought some presents, ate pizza the size of our faces and headed back out on the road.
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Our next stop was Monteriggioni. This beautiful gem was thanks to the National Geographic guidebook. There was a blurb in the margin of one of pages saying something along the lines of "Monteriggioni is one of the most beautiful walled cities in the world. Go see it". So on nothing more than a blurb, we went to see it. It was straight out of Lord of the Rings, or some other fantasy series. It's teeny tiny, so we were able to walk along the wall, walk around the entire town and get back to our car in about 45 minutes. I could have stayed there soaking in the history for the rest of the day, but we wanted to get to our final destination, Siena, before it got dark.
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Once we got to Siena we prepared for New Years Eve and made our way into the city center. Our concierge had reserved us a table at a restaurant right on the main piazza to enjoy a traditional New Years Eve dinner. That dinner  and New Years was a highlight of the trip. We had a five course meal ending with popping champagne in the main square. Our meal started with appetizers. I couldn't name anything I ate, but it was delicious or...interesting. Then a lentil, pumpkin soup. After that came tortelloni with a pair sauce. Our main course was a choice between pork or prawns. Here's the thing, I'd never had prawns before. So when I popped the head off and the brain juice squished out, I was done. Later, my roommate told me the brains are the best part, so I guess prawns just aren't for me. The meal ended with a cornucopia filled with cream. We rushed outside, counted down with the rest of Siena, popped our champagne and rang in the New Year an ocean away from home. I had an emotional moment thinking about how I got here. I celebrated the New Year in Siena, Italy with my father. It's hard to top that, or believe it.
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