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The Scenic Tour of Italy’s Countryside

May 26th, 2013 · 2 Comments · Abu Dhabi, Italy, Rome, tourism, Travel, UAE


We spent barely 18 hours (the cretins!) in Florence, and then it was right back out of town, south to Fiumicino Airport, near Rome, for the final two events of a visit to Italy.

We did not return via the A1 autostrade, Italy’s most-traveled highway.

Instead, we detoured south and a little west to Siena, the other famous Tuscan town, and then south on the 223 highway through Grosetto and on to the outskirts of Rome.

And we acknowledged yet again that the Italian countryside is a visual pleasure.

The area just south of Florence offers impressive high views of the old city, and then it is on to Siena, a formal Florence rival, now not known for a whole lot beyond its medieval buildings, steep streets, a church and, especially, Il Palio, the horse race around the center of town.

Had we been in a hurry (or known how long the alternate route would take) we might then have jogged east of Siena to pick up the A1.

Instead we went south and guestimated at the number of shades of green we could see in the rolling hills of southwest Tuscany. More than 10 … less than a thousand? Deeply dark, dark, almost dark, mostly dark, green, semi-light green, a bit lighter green …

The rugged nature of most of the Italian Peninsula explains why the country was so late to unify, in 1861. That was nearly 100 years after the United States was formed, despite Italy having about 3,000 more years of history.

The effort required to hack a simple, two-lane highway out of the dense forests of central Italy, and then across deep gorges and (often) tunnel under tall hills, is daunting. It reminds us that, until quite recently, it was far easier to get around Italy via the sea.

It reinforces the notion that the whole of the country, south of Bologna, hardly has a flat square mile. In the long boot of Italy, you always are walking uphill or downhill. Or so it seems. Makes communication and integration hard. Italy is just now dealing with this, and only in the past generation is really developing a commonly spelled and pronounced language.

On and on, the hours ticking past, the sun back out, the temps in the low 70s Fahrenheit, and all that growing green … followed by the aqua and deep blue of the Mediterranean.

We won’t be seeing its like for a long time, once we are back in the mostly lifeless deserts of Abu Dhabi and the UAE.


2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gene // May 26, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    I recently read an estimate that only about 2.5% of the inhabitants of what is now Italy could speak “Italian” (really Tuscan, but the closest of the dialects to Latin) at the time of unification in 1861.

  • 2 David // May 27, 2013 at 11:05 PM

    Darn, wish I’d known you were going to Siena. My single favorite restaurant on the planet is there.

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