Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If at first you don't succeed -- buy, buy again...

What a great day today! 

Wow. I really hope that statement didn't make you fall off your chair. We are in Italy, after all, and really -- how can you help but have great days in the Land of Oz? But don't worry, there's always so e sort of craziness included in our daily adventures. Today is no exception.

We followed the incredibly curvaceous road into Siena with an idea of where we wanted to go, but no real clue as to how to get there. The market, we were told, is near the bus terminal. I decided to follow the numerous signs toward the center of town and the bus we are close behind. Voila -- we find the market AND parking right across the  street. As mom is complimenting me on my amazing parking karma, I get a weird feeling that this was all too easy. I ask a carabinieri (that's pig -- oh, I mean police!-- in Italian), who tell me parking is for residents. We hop back in and head toward the direction he points, which consequently is about an hour walking distance straight uphill toward the nearest public parking.

Puh-lease. We circle back in the Panda and find another great spot a few hundred meters from the market entrance. We will take our chances. 

The  market is awesome. There are food stands when you first start in, with fresh vegetables, meats and cheeses, fish, and fried foods of all kinds. We pass through and on to the clothing stands, where socks, underwear, affordable and designer Italian fashions are heaping on racks and tables everywhere. Mom picks up a few scarves, including a really gorgeous designer one. I find an adorable and very cheap dress, so I do the only natural thing and buy it in two colors. I also discover a stunning and very expensive designer coat. Actually, for a good fall coat, I would probably spend $150 at home. This less than that... and marked down from 650 euros. Yes, I said 650. Those Milan designers, what can I say? So, when everyone gushes about how fabulous this jacket is back home, would it be misleading to say -- very nonchalantly, of course -- "Oh, it's from Milan"?

I just like the sound of that. 
We spend a good part of the afternoon wandering from stall to stall before looking at our non-existent watches and realizing it's time to head back. Getting out of the shopping maze is a bit challenging, but we manage and even stop to pick up some fried vegetables, polenta and calamari on the way to the car. 

The car with the big fat ticket on it. 

Not cheap, and definitely not clear how we are actually supposed to go about paying it. I tell mom we will deal with it after we return the car and can ask Hertz. Frankly, I'm a little worried about speeding tickets, too. Though I have been extremely careful, there are cameras everywhere (I will NEVER complain about DC again.) The GPS keeps telling us the speed limit, but it doesn't always seem to correspond with the posted speed. Or common sense, for that matter. If I took some of these curves at 90 kilometers per hour, we'd be off the road and sailing into never never land.

Speaking of the GPS... mom and I have been giggling our socks off the last few days. The voice is male and has a sort of Aussie accent. He definitely doesn't speak Italian very well and can't pronounce the street names to save his own electronic life. That, and the street names are like six words long. He starts out okay, then by the time he gets to the second word, he's just vomiting letters. It is really something to hear.

"In 200 meters, turn left on Via Contraaaaallllleeeeeeiaaaa Le Contraaaaallliiiaadddeentnneeeee Piaaaaannneee....."

Our next stop is San Gimignano. Hoping to make up for a bit of the fried foods and the copious amount of chocolate we bought in bulk at the market as "gifts", we stop at a darling little agriturismo on the way called Taverna di Bibbiano. We order a light lunch -- mom gets risotto with truffle (unbelievable) and I get a salad with pecorino cheese, pear and truffle. There are actually truffles cut up on top of the salad. 

Look, you are going to have to drag me kicking and screaming away from this place if these people keep feeding me truffles. I don't give a damn about the gelato, but I am freaking addicted to these damn truffles. They put them in honey. On salad. In sauce. Pizza. They even make chocolate sauce out of them. 

Kicking. And screaming.

San Gimignano, whose towers we could see in the distance from the terrace where we enjoyed lunch, is quite like Montepulciano. It's a quaint, walled city with all manner of shops lining the street. I think it may be a tad bit more expensive, but there are lovely finds to be had here, too. I also try and convince mom to go to the Torture and Death Penalty Museums with me, but she won't have any of it. They have over 100 instruments of execution, including the hanging cage, which can be seen in front -- free of charge. A little macabre, but we are talking Spanish Inquisition here. How cool is that? I will add this to my growing list for "next time" I'm in Italy.

I won't spend too much time, but I have to award the patron saint of today award. It goes to Antonio from Le Torri, a leather goods shop in town. My eye was drawn to the Tiffany blue snaps on these purses. Audrey Hepburn had the right idea with a steaming cup of something, a croissant... and a window into heaven. I love Tiffany. Now, the crow in me is a bit won over by the sparkle at Swarovski (thanks to you, lady D), but overall -- a bauble is a bauble, and I love being a girl in bling. And bling is what these purses are, and as Antonio explains, so much more. The snaps actually convert the purse from a satchel, to more of a triangle shape, then to a boxier version. There are short handles attached, and it comes with both a long and short shoulder strap. It's like six purses in one. 


Here is my only issue. I want three, but I settle for a mustard yellow colored one and a long conversation with Antonio about how to get more. That leads to a conversation about how to help him sell the bags in the United States. Purse party, anyone? Seriously... this bag is amazing. 

And it goes with my new jacket. 

This isn't why Antonio gets the coveted honor of the day. Antonio gives me money. Let me explain. Apparently, here is a duty free thing in Italy. Prices for goods include a VAT tax. If you spend more than 150 euros on and good (not valid for services), you get a special receipt. When you leave Italy, you take this to an office at the Airport and they give you money back on your purchases. I've been in Italy for a little more than two weeks now, and though I have not made many purchases of this dollar amount, I am very upset to have this be the first time a merchant has bothered to explain this. Ugh. 

It's a long drive back home in the dark with the twisty roads and hazards like a few fox (alive) and a wild boar (not so much)... yet, thankfully, we arrive in one piece. I am making some chicken with red pepper, sautéed bacon from the butcher and tomato sauce for dinner when I notice two bees on the window. I decide to leave them be. They are kind of nestled in together and I think maybe they are mating. I keep looking over my shoulder while I'm cooking to make sure they aren't coming for me -- mind you, I'm a foot away in this tiny kitchen -- and when I look again, there are not two, but ten. 

Did I mention I don't like bugs, much less ones that fly and can sting you?

That said, I'm a bit fascinated. They are kind of swarming together. I'm hoping they are simply cold or lonely and not planning some sort of sick midnight attack while we are sleeping. I've got a nervous eye on them as I wash the dishes and tidy up, but they don't seem to mind me at all. 

The feeling is definitely not mutual, you little bastards. So, just to be safe, as I flick off the light... I close the kitchen door behind me. 

I fully expect they will have turned the kitchen into a massive hive by morning.

At least I'll have honey for my tea, right?

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