Atlantis Alumni

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Travels in Tuscany

We took a full day’s excursion into the Tuscan countryside, after the ship docked in Livorno. Our tour bus drove through wheat fields, now brown and sere, but still beautiful and decorated with umbrella pines, cypresses, olive trees and bright golden sunflowers. Mountains rose up around us, the lower portions covered with Chianti vineyards. Our first stop was Volterra, a wonderful old Medieval town full of fortress-like buildings, chapels and churches in the Romanesque style, and slanting, hilly streets. At one site, outside the Medieval walls, one could see the remains of an ancient Roman theater, designed according to the principals of Vitruvius. But the town is even more ancient, and was first settled even before the Etruscans took over. There are also legends of witches and our handsome young, openly proud gay guide Nicolo told us that a movie about vampires was recently filmed in Volterra! I was also delighted to see an exhibit at the art gallery about the great Florentine Mannerist artist Rosso Fiorentino. With his neon-like colors and distorted anatomical proportions, he looks very modern, and his style was eccentric from the start. After our guided tour of Volterra, the bus took us up more basic, unpaved roads to a farmhouse for lunch. The farm made sheep’s cheese which is sold in Whole Foods in the US, but also offers tourists lodging and food. The authentic lunch started with platters of different types of cheese, fresh tomatoes and basil leaves. Then there was a homemade lasagna (the best I’ve ever had) or for vegetarians like Jim, a flavorful plate of fresh spaghetti. The side-dishes (contorni) included slivers of eggplant and zucchini, or a plate of barley in the fragrant olive oil, pure Italian and delicious. Everything served was organic, and accompanied by bottle of the best Chianti we ever drank. The views from the farm were magnificent, but eventually we headed to the town of San Gimignano, with its famed tall, Medieval towers. There the cathedral (not very large) is covered with frescoes from the 14th century, but also a chapel painted by the Florentine master, Ghirlandaio. After free time in San Gimignano we drove back to the ship. The entertainer for the evening’s show was Cheyenne Jackson, who has appeared on Broadway and was very confessional for a celebrity, telling the audience all about his divorce from his last husband, and his struggle with alcohol. But of course one supposes that you could read the same stuff online, supplied by the news media.—Dan

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