Cecchi family estate, Villa Cerna, surrounded by olive trees, grape vines, umbrella pines and cypress trees.
Besides visiting Pisa, our group visited a Tuscan vineyard. The Cecchi family produces Chianti Classico, about eight million bottles a year. This part of Italy reminds me a little of California, with its rolling hills and vineyards around every bend. This early in the season things are quiet in the vineyard, and our warm and well-informed guide told us the history of the place, and showed us how the wine is produced.
After we saw how the wine is made we were treated to a tasting session, which included some very fine wine, bread, and salami. Later in the day some of our group bought wine to bring home, though we did not. I wasn't sure the bottles would travel well in luggage, and would certainly add extra weight. Villa Cerna Chianti Classico is available in the United States, at any rate.
Our final stop of the day was in the ancient walled city of Siena. Like Florence and Pisa, Siena is a World Heritage Site. As before, our bus parked quite far from the old walled part of the city, and we were shuttled in. We had to take a series of escalators to the upper city level, which I appreciated, since was getting tired. The weather got colder and damper, and the wind was fierce. Our guide, recognizing our discomfort, sent us out to find some lunch (we had lovely bread soup), and then we regrouped in a sheltered area near the Piazza del Campo, where popular and historic horse races are held twice a year.
While I was interested enough in stories of the horse races, and explanations about the architecture of the cathedral, what interested me as much was the color of the soil, a pale yellow. The earth pigments used to make artist colors raw sienna and burnt sienna were originally mined in this area, and now I will always associate them with this pretty city.