Thursday night was the last night of our Inntravel itinerary. Therefore, Friday was another walking-free day. But it was an active day, nonetheless. Michael and I had to get to Siena to pick up our rental car, which will be our mode of transport for the rest of our stay in Italy.
We had arranged to be picked up in Pienza by taxi and driven to the train station in Buonconvento to catch a train to take us to Siena. Things began well, with us up and out about ten minutes before our 10 a.m. pick up time. Because the town was being shut down to car traffic due to the big cheese festival, we walked the block or so to the main square where we thought we would catch our ride. Ten a.m.came and went and nobody showed up to collect us. Quarter past ten arrived and we began sweating bullets as our train was scheduled to leave Buonconvento, which is a 30 to 40 minute drive away, at 10:59.
With butterflies in our stomachs and stomachs in our throats, we finally called the transfer company . . .only very fast Italian spoken by the lady answering. I did manage to get a phone number for the taxi driver. One call and he was on his way BACK. Turns out he had gone early to our hotel to avoid the street closure and the front desk told him that we weren’t checking out until tomorrow. So, he waited a bit and then left while he could get out of town. Criminy!!
The story has a happy ending because he drove quickly through the countryside and got us to Buonconvento in time for the train. I have to admit it seemed odd to cover in 35 minutes the territory it had taken us six days to walk! Inntravel really is slow travel.
We collected our car at the rental place outside of Siena. We rented a compact station wagon, a Renault Megane or similar. Well, we got the “or similar” again* and this time the “or similar” is a bit smaller than the listed vehicle. It is supposed to be able to carry four adults and two large and two small suitcases. What the graphics on the auto rental website don’t indicate is that two of the adults need to be either contortionists or amputees. There is very little legroom for those in the back seat. I’m just glad that our traveling companions are such good sports.
Michael and I decided to forgo the opportunity to visit Siena and headed straight back to Pienza where we managed to secure a parking space not too far from the center.
This weekend, September 2 to 4, is the Ferie del Cacio in Pienza. Michael and I happened to be in Pienza four years ago on this same weekend and were treated to the cheese rolling event. Unfortunately, we will miss it this year; but, the preparations were well under way Friday night.
One of the sidewalk stalls sold locally crafted beer. One of the beers was a porter and Michael thought it compared well to Deschutes porter. The beer maker told us that he uses hops he grows himself but the varieties are Cascadia, Willamette and Chinook! We watched two ladies make mountains of pici for a community dinner being held that night. And, we got to see the parade of the drummers and flag throwers as well as a flag flinging exhibition in the main square. We also got to see the local blacksmith brand the official cheeses that will be used in the cheese rolling events. The icing on the cake, however, is that we revisited our favorite gelateria (see next entry). In other words, it was just another boring evening in Italy.
*Last fall in France, we rented a Peugeot 308 compact station wagon and we given a Peugeot Partner as an “or similar” and it was a much larger “or similar” and, therefore, a much nicer surprise.