I need to apologize in advance that my pictures from this Sunday in Tuscany will look nothing like anything from the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. There are a few reasons for this:
1) It was cloudy and rainy the whole day. Also, it was cold. Mostly because we went north and up into the mountains, and apparently the last week in January is the worst weather week in Italy.
2) I spent most of the day looking at the backs of my eyelids or staring down into trash cans or toilets.
Tuscany is a region of Italy, much like the Midwest is a region of the United States. It is further divided into 10 provinces (like states). Our day trip took us to two different cities in the region of Tuscany, Pienza and Montepulciano, both in the province of Siena.
Another important fact: Siena is quite hilly. And even though I rarely get motion sickness, these hills plus my seat in the absolute last row of the bus were apparently enough to put me out for the entire day.
At our first stop, Pienza, I was feeling slightly okay, having already puked twice. I walked around a bit, took in the amazing view of the Tuscan landscape, and visited the church. I walked in during the homily of the mass, so I hung around in the back, listening and trying to get warm. I of course didn't understand a thing, but I learned on Saturday at Santa Maria (one of many churches in Trastevere) that no matter where you go, the Catholic mass follows the same pattern. It's nice to know Catholic really does mean universal in this case.
Anyways, Pienza is the home of Pope Pius II. When he lived there, though, it was called Corsignano. When he became pope, he had the entire city rebuilt as a Renaissance town and renamed after himself. Today it is a World Heritage Site, meaning it has cultural value to all of humanity. Less than 2,500 people live in Pienza and it has a distinct untouched-by-modernity feel.
The old men gathered in the piazza probably wondered what all of us Americani were doing there, but soon enough they lost interest in us and got back to their passionate discussions. (I never have any idea what Italians are talking about, but it's always passionate. They love hand gestures and facial expressions.)
After Pienza, we got back on the bus for a short ride to Montepulciano. Here was going to be a wine, cheese, olive oil, and mustard tasting, but all I wanted to taste was some sleep and my stomach really wasn't up to food, so I stayed on the bus for this segment of the trip.
After everyone had cleared out, the bus driver came back by me with the trash can. "You are sick?" he asked. I nodded and he set the trash by me, laughing and patting me on the head. I smiled, said "Grazie," curled up on the seat, and fell asleep for the entire time everyone was gone. When they came back I felt a lot better, even hungry, and ate the banana I had packed for myself that morning.
Now we just had a short ride to our final stop, Ristorante della Fattoria Pulcina, a restaurant in Montepulciano. I was so hungry when we got there, but once we sat down and I started eating, I felt sick again. So I alternated camping out in the bathroom (with no luck) and sitting in our reserved dining room (still not hungry)...until finally, and after having to run back to the bathroom (which was way far from where we sat, and through more winding hallways), I puked one last time and could be hungry. I made it in time for pasta dish number two, a sort of beef stroganoff thing, plus the main dish of oven-baked chicken and rosemary potatoes. For dessert I was craving ice cream/gelato or a popsicle, but instead we got espresso and some biscotto (dessert biscuits).
And that was the day. I slept the entire 3-hour bus ride back and crawled into bed as soon as we got back to our apartment. It sucked to miss out on some of it, but I have other trips to look forward to. In the meantime I'm trying to find popsicles, though I might resort to making my own with our ice cube tray and some peach juice mixed with Sprite.
Here are the pics from Tuscany: