Saturday, June 18, 2011

Small Town Italy

Scrofiano was well situated for visiting lots of the small towns in Tuscany. We were about 20 minutes from Siena and no more than an hour from most other places. We spent many of our days driving to little towns to see the sights.

One day we visited a town called, Arezzo on the recommendation of our host. It is where he and his family live and he told us they were having a huge antiques market so off we went. The antiques market was enough to make you drool! I have never wanted to buy furniture so much. The town was a perfect setting, of course but the reams of quality furniture and household stuff was exciting. Some of the furniture was just drop-dead gorgeous. Tom and I just couldn’t figure out how to get it home.

Another day we visited the town of Civita. This town was built on a bute and there is a footbridge you cross to get to it. It is very cool. The town fills the entire bute. The Etruscans were the first to build there and you can still see their caves and tunnels under the town. The Etruscans were the people here BEFORE the ancient Romans. When they built, the town was still connected to the mainland by a stretch of land but over time that wore away and so they built a footbridge. We met Maria, the only resident still living who was born and raised in Civita. Imagine living your whole life in such a small town!

Orvieto was a neat place. It had a well built by a Pope who was trying to protect the city in case of siege. It worked because the city was never attacked. Lucca, the place we cycled the walls was like that too. The citizens spent one third of their income for one hundred years building the wall to protect themselves and they were never attacked. I guess you like to think you weren’t attacked because of your great fortification, not that you completely wasted your time and money because no one wanted anything in your crummy little town anyway. Orvieto also had a huge cathedral with an eye-catching exterior. The cathedral seemed all out of proportion to the size of the town. That whole Pope thing again. It really benefited a town to have a Pope take interest in your town.

We visited an interesting number of small towns beginning with the letter “M” and serving delicious wines. Fortunately, all gave samples. Wine is serious business in Italy. We visited a wholesale wine outlet where the bottles amounted to all of about $2. The wine was fair but not excellent. However, the gasoline tanks used to meter out the wine were fascinating! Montipulciano had the best samples, we thought, so we bought a bottle there from the Contucci family. Members of this family have lived in that palazzo since the 11th century! Imagine having the same family home for over 1000 years! I saw the Count on his way out but he didn’t look scary at all. Apparently, Montipulciano is where “Twilight” was filmed.

If you’ve read or followed the vampire series, the town in the novel is “Volterra” and we visited that place too. This town had a definite dark medieval feel and they hadn’t even done a whole lot to promote the vampire thing. They promote instead their Etruscan wall into the city. The wall is over 2000 years old and survived the war because of the desperation of the town. They pulled up the road to prevent the Nazi’s from blowing it up near the end of the war. We managed to walk through the whole town unmolested and while we saw several very well dressed people, they all seemed to be enjoying the sun. No one had an unhealthy skin tone and no one appeared overly interested in my neck. All in all, a nice town.