For the bulk of the family vacation, Greg & Kim had reserved a beautiful villa in the Tuscan countryside near Cortona (of "Under the Tuscan Sun" fame). We left a steaming hot Rome that morning anxiously awaiting a dip in the villa's pool. However, most of our week at the villa would be near sweater weather, except for a glorious warm patch our very last day.
We spent the week at a more leisurely pace, usually deciding after breakfast about which towns were nearby and interesting and just exploring them. The villa's owners were very chatty and informative about the local area. A lot of the towns tend to blend together in my memory, but a few do stick out for various reasons:
Montepulciano: a pretty, if steep, hill town. It's massive cathedral was one of the more thought-provoking I've encountered in this area. The light inside was an ethereal blue-gray. It still had the prerequisite gory crucifix, but this one seemed more approachable or perhaps I'd gotten used to them by this point. The funniest bit was that by the time everyone had rendezvoused at the top of the hill black clouds rumbled in. As it started to pour we ran down the hill back toward the cars, rain mixing with my gelato. While we ran back to our Fiat Panda Nicky started laughing hysterically, I asked him why and he gleefully replied "I love the chaos!"
Civita del Bagnoregio: This stunningly-situated city is pictured above. Its only accessible by footpath. It's nearly deserted except for a few elderly people who try to entice tourists. One old lady chattered at us something about her garden, inviting us in. It was very beautiful, and with a panoramic view. On the way out I realized she was charging donations. Ryan and his brothers argued about whether they liked the town or not, noting its deserted feeling not unlike that of "the beginning of the zombie apocalypse."
Castelfiorintino: Ryan and I went alone on our last day at the villa to hit the weekly market. It was a cute little town completely without tourists. We bought a delicious picnic lunch and a sundress and enjoyed the winding streets that led up to a tiny piazza.