Our route led from Certaldo to San Gimignano to San Donato to Pignano to Volterra.

It was almost like a dream, walking so far through such beautiful country, farms, vineyards, orchards, dotted with classic ruins, delightful villages, and cafes full of delicious pasta, pizza, and wine.

A farm near San Donato.

The hills of Chianti.

We traveled under our own power, smelling the mint that we walked through along the roadsides, tasting the dust of the fields, hearing the sounds of the local environment, feeling the hills right down in our muscles and bones. Seeing Tuscany this way, walking, carrying all our things, the way the ancients did, was our way of getting in touch with the real spirit of the place.

We came to the Villa Palagione after a long day of walking, about 23 kilometers from San Gimignano. It was an old villa previously inhabited by royalty, now a bucolic hotel in the Tuscan hinterlands and a welcome sight to tired and thirsty backpackers. We sat down to a family style dinner of salad, pasta, and a big bottle of chianti, the perfect tonic for our dusty throats.

And, finally, the only good picture I have of Venice. This is the tiny bathroom in our hotel. And the shower handle that came off in my hand. Venice is indeed moldering before our very eyes; after our long, quiet Tuscan walk, which stilled our souls, Venice was a bit of a shock -- quite the urban experience.

But hey. We'd carried those nice dress pants and cocktail dresses all the way through the hills, we weren't about to let them go to waste. We jammed the handle onto the shower, got bathed, got dressed, and went out and had a good time. And, for once, we left the camera in the hotel.


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