During my last week in Castellina, Nana’s cousin Susan and her husband Dennis came to visit. While I remember them from when I was younger, I hadn’t seen them in years. Their son Johnathan and his friend Kevin also came for the weekend, and were almost immediately dubbed “the ragazzi” by Nana, “The guys”. On Sunday, the ragazzi and I planned to meet Nana, Tom, Susan and Dennis in Siena, but we took a few detours first.
First we went to Greve. It’s another small town in the Chianti region, though much bigger than Castellina in that there was more than one street to walk down. We were drawn to Greve by word of a most-famous butcher. This guy had a big personality and an extremely crowded shop. They also had free samples! (Who doesn’t love free samples?!) Well, these were interesting because after we at a piece of bread with this creamy spread that looked to have some sort of herb in it, I asked the girl preparing them what it was. I believe I asked, is this some sort of cheese spread?. No, she said, this is called burro di Chianti. But don’t let the name fool you, this isn’t butter. This. Is. Lard. Really, really, good lard. I never thought I’d say it.
We decided to buy some salami from Mr. Famous Butcher. Then we went on a tour/search throughout the town for cheese, bread and wine to complete our meal. There was a big market going on too, so we got lucky finding these things at various stands, including two bottles of wine for 8 euro, from the vineyards of the man selling them. We also snagged a few little cups (the size of shot glasses) for the consumption of said wine. After exploring most of Greve, we were back in the car and heading to San Gimignano.
San Gimignano is not a huge city, but it certainly has the traffic of one. For some reason it is a huge tourist city. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s cool and medieval and has a great view of rolling hills and vineyards, but it was just so crowded! And parking was next to impossible. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that San Gimignano has a gelato shop rated as Italy’s best. However we did not partake in such world famous gelato because we were too full from our incredible lunch, which we ate on the steps of the church.
I think it was Kevin who described the meat as “salami cream cheese”, which was too perfect of a description. This stuff rocked, it was sliced thick and would completely melt in your mouth. So good!
There was the obligatory picture to prove we were in fact there, taken by a brave man who risked his life standing in the middle of the street to get the shot. Then we were off to Siena!
We climbed over 400 steps to the top of the tower in the middle of Piazza del Campo. It was incredible, the day was so clear you could see for miles (or should I say, kilometers), and though I tried to look for Castellina in the distance, I was only guessing at the correct direction and the hills blocked the view.
Did I mention this was a bell tower? I tried my hardest to ring the bell, but wouldn’t you know, it was too darned big and heavy.
However, while we were up there, other church bells started ringing throughout the city. It was as if the churches were singing to each other, communicating with the rest of the city’s buildings. Looking down from so high up really gives you a different perspective.
I could have stayed up there forever, but eventually we had to make our descent.
Later that evening, Johnathan and Kevin left for Florence and Rome, where I would be meeting them before we would all fly back to Chicago. Spending time with them and Susan and Dennis was so much fun and it reminded me of life back in Chicago. I think it eased the transition from the surreal Italian life I had been living toward the real one I would have to return to.
I spent my last day in Italy in Rome. I walked and wandered for a few hours, taking in the city that is so magnificent, where everything is just so grand. I don’t know how else to describe it. This city has existed for longer than I can even fathom and it just exudes majesty, like it knows how awesome it is.
I walked along the Tiber river, sort of knowing where I was going.
Eventually I met up with Johnathon, Kevin and their friend Dennis, where we had a phenomenal last meal in Italy, (not counting the pizza we would later consume in the earlier hours of the morning).
After dinner we hung out in Trastevere, a very fun area across the river that has a great neighborhood feel to it, with smaller streets full of people just hanging out. Later that night, before heading back to the hotel, I had to stop at the Trevi Fountain. Every time I have been to Rome I have thrown a coin into this fountain, and so far it has ensured, (as its mythology dictates), that I would once again return.
I wasn’t taking any chances.