Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bad Umbrellas in Poggibonsi

The title will make sense, all in good time.

Today was a very exciting day: visit to the World Champion of gelato within the walls of a beautiful Tuscan medieval hill town? Yes please.

As usual, our travel day was a rather gray one, but we were prepared and have come to expect it. Got up and whipped up some oats to hold me over through the various modes of transportation we would be taking to reach the coveted gelato:
I made this morning's bowl with this:

Pear sauce! Mott's makes some but it's not unsweetened and tastes rather syrupy to me. Yes, I am an applesauce snob.

It tastes just like cobbler, which is funny because I'm really not a cobbler/fruit pie fan at all, but I like this because the flavors are simple and I love the texture of the oats. Try it sometime!
We cut it a bit close getting to the train station, but we made it with only a few seconds of jogging involved. The train system here is super easy and pretty cheap, and it's fun. I like trains because you can get on and just chill out. In Tuscany there is never a lack of beautiful views! But even if you're on a train going into Boston or anywhere where the outside is not so picturesque, it's a great place to people-watch. You can tell a lot about someone based on how they act on a train ride. And if you're an anthropology geek like me, it's great!
Once at the Poggibonsi (a.k.a best town name EVER) train station, we had to take a bus to San Gimignano. Buses here are also easy - you can get the tickets at pretty much any tabaccheria, which is just a general convience store. There are usual multiple on a single street.
The bus ride gave us a taste of the beautiful landscapes:

(I will try not to overload you with pictures, but if you want to see more, just go to my photobucket album:

We arrived to this:
Btw, San Gimignano is often called the "Tuscan Medieval Manhattan." Love it.
After that tempting bus ride, the first thing we did before entering the town was hop off and snap some pictures:

San Gimignano is in the Chianti region, best known for its - you guessed it - wine! We passed SO many pretty vineyards.They make for gorgeous landscapes.

After the photo-op, our next mission was, of course, food. It's just over an hour-long train ride and the bus is about 20 minutes long, but that doesn't include the "hurry up and wait" time in between. We were hungry signorinas!

We walked into the city walls and did a bit of window shopping...

We stumbled upon a cute little taverna nestled in a corner of the wall and decided it looked good enough.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right? When in Chianti...order some wine with lunch! And we did.

Even I wouldn't say no to a taste. I'm certainly no connoisseur (yet?), but this was notably tastier than any other wine I've tasted. Sorry I can't be more helpful on that front - I'm working on it. I decided several years ago that I would not drink, mostly because there's a bit of family history that shows it as being a tad, er, over-used, and also because I'm just not a fan of the taste (with the notable exception of Prosecco!). But, I do like and understand the concept of wine as a complement to a certain type of flavor on food and I would like to learn how to "taste" it, because it is very interesting. So, hold the Green Apple Martini and the kegger - bring me the sommelier!
I have so far really enjoyed choosing the most interesting thing on the menu, because even if it's not good, it always makes for an interesting story (and none of them have yet to disappoint). So today, I chose zuppa di farro - literally translated 'soup of spelt.' Many who know me also know that I am not a big fan of soups, but in the past year or so I have been able to specify that I love thick, stew-like soups, which are quite popular in Italian/Tuscan cuisine. And like I said, I'm having fun ordering the weird stuff!
It is full of black-eyed peas and another kind of bean (not white enough to be cannellini, around the size of kidney beans) with (what I assume were) gnocchi-like balls of spelt pasta. Topped with good olive oil. It was so tasty! Especially with good Tuscan bread as a spoon :)

After we got some "real food" in our bellies, it was gelato time. Out we wandered to find the central piazza...

And there it was. The sign, the door...right in front of us.
You might notice a small white sign on the door. Spelling our doom.

Closed for work/vacation until March 7th. Yup.

Now, I thought this was hilarious. I mean, I was doubled over and crying I was laughing so hard! We came to this gorgeous medieval hill town for ONE thing...and it's closed! My companions were, er, less than amused. But come on, you gotta laugh at these things people!

We turned around (literally, pivoted in our spot) and there was a gelateria in front of us, waiting with the consolation prize:
Maybe it's not the world's best. But it is very difficult to go wrong with tiramisu gelato. I also got the yogurt flavor, and together it was like tiramisu cheesecake...mmmm. 2nd best ain't so bad!

After our let-down and pick-me-up, we decided to just wander. It was a cold and blustery day! It is such a beautiful place to be, I enjoyed trying to catch my breath from the landscapes all around:

I loved this completely random stop light. We saw maybe one car actually driving through the streets. I was amused.

[These 2 pictures courtesy of Alaina]
Roomie love!
Lunging back up the street. Gotta get that work-out in somehow!

We followed a sign pointing to a "panoramic point" down a secret passageway!
Alright, maybe not so secret, but I can pretend.

More beautiful views ensued...

At this point, those threatening grey skies started to spit on our camera screens, and we decided it was time to do our shopping and head on home. Hand-painted pottery is BIG in San Gimignana (if you've ever been to Lucca, you see very similar stuff there), and it was fun to walk around the shops looking at all the pretty dishes and olive oil carafes and what-not. Someone's getting a present from me - but sshh, it's a secret :)

We also stopped into an artist's store who does watercolors of San Gimignano & Tuscan scenery. I fell in love with one of the original, but 25 euro was a little too steep for me. No worries, I fell just as hard for another print:
SO pretty. It's just like a photo on first glance. I could stare at it forever!

By the time we walked out, it was, well, rather miserable. Cold, almost hurricane-like winds and raining. So, I finally broke down and spent the lousy 3 euro on an umbrella. Red, of course! It took about 5 minutes outside  for this to happen...

Yes, that would be a couple of inside-out umbrellas. But, it was probably worth it for the laughs!

Cold and wind-blown (and ripped-off by an umbrella store), we stopped into a cafe for cappuccinos while waiting for the bus. Good espresso + foam  makes everything better!

We hopped back on the bus happily, and on the scenic route back, mostly decided that we could live here, like, tomorrow. Start a farm, sell some wine. Sounds good to me.

Our train was, of course, delayed, so we got back a little later than hoped for. Dinner was an egg thrown on top of some veggies and various munching afterwards. Nothing too photo-worthy.

Some might say our day was less than spectacular, but I had a great time. Beautiful scenery, good food, lots of laughs. And it may or may not have ended with me translating Josh Groban's Italian songs. Sometimes I'm such a geek, even I laugh at me. But it was fun :)

Oh, and if I didn't make it clear in this post...go to San Gimignano when you get the chance. You won't be disappointed.



  1. Gillian,
    This is a wonderfully entertaining view of your experiences. Thanks for being so detailed about the food. You know me, I hate to see anyone eat alone, so I am enjoying hearing about all of your flavor travels. I'll be checking on your exploits daily so keep up the great writing and photos.

  2. Hey! Great blog! Beautiful pics! That Gelato looks divine! :D YUM! Tiramisu is one of my fave flavors of gelato!