you know you’re in italy when…

– you never had road rage before, but you do now
– the men have better style than the women
– most buildings are older than your country
– you can’t turn right or left because they’re one-ways going the wrong direction
– there are no lane markers on large, busy streets
– the ben and jerry’s is empty
– you’re pretty sure the ninja turtles are around, somewhere
– you suddenly realize you never knew what italian food was before
– you hear “ciao bella” in a beautiful, authentic accent (i now love italian)
– cappuccinos are made properly every time
– you see more nude people on a bunch of ceiling paintings than you probably will the rest of your lifetime
– you look up and see michelangelo’s david standing still as a statue next to you
– your guest house owner tells you you can’t drive up a certain road, but that “everything here is negotiable”
– residents walk by 2000yr old city ruins like it’s not a big deal
– you purchase a leather bag for 45€ that would normally cost four+ times that
– you eat gelato every day (for the record, i now know how to distinguish the good stuff from the bad stuff… ask me, i do consulting!), sometimes as dinner

so, after we reluctantly left rome, we got out our trusty road atlas to figure out where to get off the highway for our last two nights in san gimignano, tuscany. we’d booked a guest house with rave reviews, in this small town deep in the tuscan hills and surrounded by vineyards. then, we missed the first exit. no problem! there’s another one we can take, which will veer down and meet up with the road we were meant to be on. sort of… well it was the “scenic route”. might have been nice if it wasn’t pitch black, and filled with innumerable hairpin turns up and down hill after hill… then, you think you’re almost there, and, well, you’re not. i’ll spare the frustration and a few more issues (seriously, italy, is it so hard to actually LABEL the street names instead of just telling me what town i can get to by taking a certain exit? especially if the town is too small to be in our atlas?!) and re-enter the story when we finally arrived in san gimignano (“guess we’re not getting dinner again tonight”). i pulled up my laptop to check the booking, only to realize that we missed one minor detail – namely that the guest house wasn’t even in san gimignano. okay so it is, technically, but it’s more in a commune of san gimignano, (san jimmyjohns, as we referred to it) called “certaldo”, 15min away. and once we got there it STILL wasn’t easy to find. i just about gave up but an old man helped us and we found it. and then, we realized that the reason they weren’t ready for us was because i had booked the wrong days!! ugh. stupid me. the hosts were very gracious though, and once we got settled everything sort of melted away and we slept till 11:30 the next morning. oops! we awoke to a prepared breakfast, and were made fresh, organic eggs (from the chickens in the backyard, and yes, next to the vineyards) and very good coffee (if you’re ever in tuscany, it’s called “il pianigiano” and it was really so great).

because of more rain (ugh, spring), we relaxed for a large portion of the day and headed into san jimmyjohns in the early evening to explore the castle town there it’s famous for. photos are up on flickr. it was really neat. unfortunately, because of the time of year, most things were closed, but it really felt like we had been transported back to 1910 or something. we got some gelato, of course, then headed to certaldo’s own centro antico (more time-transporting…) for dinner at ristorante l’antica fonte. this was exceptional (fresh spinach ravioli with ricotta and fresh pesto? beef tagliata with colonnata lard? panna cotta?). we turned down an offer from two italian guys to go to karaoke with them and drink limoncello (worry not)… and pretty promptly fell asleep back in our room. repeat breakfast, and we were on the road home.

the drive was largely uneventful but for two separate 3+ car accidents that put us off schedule an hour and a half, and we returned the rental car in aix just 20min late with no issues. and that was that! my italian roadtrip-of-a-lifetime extraordinaire is over. although, provided that little boar in florence lives up to his word, i’ll be back one day.


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