Monday, 10 September 2007

Day 54 - Gambassi Terme - San Gimignano - 16km

Paul has decreed that for his birthday treat we will take time out in San Gimignano (where we could only pass through with Lubie last year), a request I utterly support because we need the break after yesterday's heat and last year's frustratingly brief glimpse. So this means an easy, short day, mainly off road and through rolling vistas of the Tuscan countryside (it is hard not to drop into clichés when you are riding through the epitome of postcard land). Yes, there are some tough climbs, made slightly tougher by the continuing heat, but when you know you have only 16km to cover, even that is not so bad.
In spite of streets filled to bursting with tourists, San Gimignano does not disappoint us. We are still able to enjoy its famous towers, faded brick walls and the shade of narrow passageways that more often that not lead you back to where you started, but we are chilling out so don't care.
One day is not enough to visit all the attractions (some appropriately historical and others plain bizarre - what is an Oriental torture chamber doing there?), but sufficient to gain a sense of what it might have been for the pilgrim passing through.

My only disappointment is that I have been unable to find a decent present for Paul amongst the overpriced tourist dross, that in most cases has absolutely nothing at all to do with the region. But it is a perennial problem and I hope Paul will forgive me one more time if I do not manage to find anything of birthday present calibre. We always seem to be travelling on or around his birthday and I am never imaginative enough to find something small enough to take with me at the outset.

This part of Tuscany can't fail to grab your breath. It is almost too perfect, those rocket shaped conifers interspersed with the umbrella shaped Mediterranean ones and the hillsides combed into vineyards and olive groves, while every farmhouse stirs that 'I want one' feeling. Pancole just before St Gimignano has it all, views, vineyards and fresh made olive oil.
After some searching we find the Fosteria del Monastero San Girolamo ( if you are using Pistoni's guide relapce Porta San Giacomo by St Jacopo). After getting over the shock that the monk in charge of accommodation is a monkess we get a good room with all facilities for 20 euros per head a 7 euro discount on what is 'normally' charged to tourists, but bad news for Vaz, DOODAH have left their traces and he spends most of the night locked in the monastery garden.

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