Sibling and I caught a train from Rome to Sienna, and were picked up by her boyfriend. I have to say, the Italian countryside is super cute. Each little town/village was quaint, very sweet. Large old school stone buildings with brightly painted shutters. We were staying at a friend of a friends place just out of Asciano (pronounced ashano). A gorgeous Tuscany Villa with associated olive grove. We were there with the caretakers, and two dogs. It was pretty brilliant. I spent most of my time laxing out, enjoying the amazing view, sitting by the fire, drinking wine, ALOT of wine. I also did some cooking, which was kind of novel. It was definitely the place for warm cosy meals.
Day one was spent recovering - yay, sleep! Day two We visited a neat little winery, that had some amazing reds. The wine? Phenomenal. We brought a case for Christmas Presents and things. Actually, all the wine was pretty brilliant. The owner of the villa likes his wine, and there were cases and cases of red wine in the basement in bottles without labels. He gets them wholesale before they're branded, which means they are super cheap. It was a brilliant arrangement!
Sibling and I being stupid on one of the drives
On our third day, we were meant to do a day trip to Pisa. Except that the weather had other plans. It snowed. And not in perfect little flakes, but it giant fat globs that painted everthing it touched white. It covered the countryside in a gorgeous blanket and made everything look very pretty. It also made the roads dangerous. We set out for pisa, but turned about 10 minutes in after we slid down a hill, and watched a truck swerve back and forth across the road. So we spent the day drinking more wine, eating more food, and lighting more fires.
The snow (Photos about 15 minutes apart. So much snow!)
We went for a drive once the snow had eased off a bit. That was alot of fun, we did wheelies in the streets, and had hot chocolates at nearby coffee bars, and visited a nice little mall (yay, another Kiko!). After, we sat around near the fires, drank hot + sweet mulled wine, and had a dance party in the kitchen. It was a brilliant upside to the Pisa road trip cancellation.
Dance Party in the Kitchen
We did however make it to Pisa the next day, courtesy of three trains (not awesome when you're lugging all your stuff around). We were meant to catch a plane from Pisa to Gatwick, but the snow had other ideas. Apparently, this was the most snow Italy had had since 1984. Which meant that the Pisa airport was closed, and they couldn't get us into the air. Our flight was cancelled.
It took them four hours to tell us this. Then it took them a further two hours to tell us that Easyjet.com was putting us up in a hotel, and there would be buses. Another two hours before they asked us to assemble, and another hour after that before we were on buses.
It was frustrating not knowing what was going on. It was frustrating that there was no one to ask, that all the announcements were in Italian, so we had to ask random strangers if they spoke English, and what the deal was. It was a long and horrible day, and by the end of it I hated the Pisa International airport, was grumpy, and tired, and had spent over $100 (NZD) on crappy airport food.
Worse was the hotel we were put up in. It looked okay from the outset, but the room was cold, the toilet leaked, and the shower drain was blocked. Classy. Still, it was free, so you put up with it. They also provided a meal, which tasted like something you'd get at school camp, except that it came with a cheap bottle of asti.
The best bit was meeting people who were in the same position as we were. A girl who was studying archeology in Pisa trying to get home for Christmas. A couple from Oxford, who were on holiday. It was nice knowing you weren't the only one in a crap situation. The hotel also put on a party for us, so in the lobby people were drinking and dancing. There was even kareoke for while. Nice drunk kareoke in Italian, a laugh and a half if I ever did see one.
We spent the next day in the airport again, a really really long day. I'd spent a phenomenal amount of money trying to get us on a flight - any flight - to London. It was expensive, and I'd taken a risk switching airlines - the new one (Ryanair) apparently didn't put their customers up in hotels if their flights were cancelled. So I was quite high strung waiting to see if this flight would be cancelled, too.
It wasn't, but we weren't positively sure that we'd make it off the runway until the wheels where in the air. There was a cheer when we were off the ground, and we were all very very glad to be on our way!
Next up: London
Things I learnt: - They have sieasta's here. Everything closes down from about 12-4pm. Which is crazy, because I thought the idea of a sieasta was to rest during the hotest part of the idea, except there is snow on the ground here. Uhm, what?? Perhaps it's to make the most of the daylight hours, or something. Still, it means that everything is open late, every night. Yeah! - Sinistra, Left. Disistra, Right. Helpful to know when trying on shoes. And we did. There was lots of shoe trying on. - When you answer a phone? You say 'Pronto', where it doesn't mean move faster. - I'm not a fan of shows I'm familiar with dubbed in Italian. The Simpsons, Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis etc etc all have very distinctive voices. When you dub over it with an italian voice? It just sounds wrong. - I'm beginning to realise that Italians don't really have a sense of urgency. Or understand the concept of a queue. Best decision I made was wriggling my way to the front of each group to get us hotel rooms, and into the restuarnt. - There's no vitamin water here. I drank it all the time at home, and in Canada. But there's no real equivilent here! It's a little frustrating. - Not a fan of the eyeroll you get when someone speaks to you in Italian, and you respond with 'English?'. I tried to learn the phrase 'I don't speak Italian, do you speak English?' only I butchered it so badly, it was better to stick with 'English'.