A Tuscan run, a visit to Siena & San Gimignano and a blizzard

Today is exactly fifteen days since I last worked out. That was a week before IMAZ.

It was cold and slightly breezy this morning. The sun was peeking through the clouds. I felt just good enough to go out for a short and sweet 20 to 30 minute run. I asked the villa owner David for a nice run route and he told me about a loop that would take me through some of the Tuscan country-side for 4 to 5 kilometers. Perfect!

I started running east from the villa downhill for about a quarter of a mile before turning south towards the country roads. It had rained and snowed a bit last night and the road had a few puddles that I had to skip over. I saw a few olive groves in the distance and the road soon turned into dirt with nothing but farmland around me. Other than a few crows flying and the occasional call of a rooster, all I could hear was the wind. My lungs were a bit heavy and running didn’t feel natural, but I was just happy to be out there shedding some sweat. After making a wrong turn and running an extra mile or so, I found the loop David was talking about. It soon turned west and then back up north.

I passed by a small Italian village called Mantalla where I asked a random motorist for the way back to Pergo. We communicated in sign language but I understood that I had to go straight until I hit the main road and then take a right. I thought I was almost back to the villa, but soon realized that I was still quite a distance away. My heart-rate was revving high for my speed but my perceived exertion was medium. Maybe my heart was working hard to compensate for my weakened lungs. I ended up doing 4.7 miles (about 7 kilometers) and wasn’t sore. It felt good!

Cold and windy outside our cottage at the villa

We had to pick up Naman in Firenze (aka Florence) at around 10:30PM. Binita and I thought we would visit a couple of small towns en-route to Florence and have dinner at a good restaurant there.

In the afternoon, we set out for Siena. I wanted to visit a bike shop to see if I could rent a bike and ride on Friday. We parked at the fort next to the stadium and walked to the main bus terminal. From there, we decided to eat at Il Pomodoro which was recommended by a few reviews. It was only a 10 minute walk. It was cold and windy. We walked briskly and got there in no time only to realize that the restaurant was closed! We ate at a random restaurant next door. I had pici (a local spaghetti specialty) with pomodoro sauce. Delicious. After experiencing the wind and cold, I gave up on the biking idea.


We headed out to San Gimignano which is set atop a hill with a fortress around it. We could see the distinctly medieval architecture and tall towers everywhere.

By the time we got to Florence, it was around 7:00 PM. We parked at the airport, got a restaurant recommendation and took a cab to the old city to a restaurant called Cibreo. In Italy, people are used to having dinner after 9PM. At around 7:30 PM, we were the first ones there!

Great food and wine – Binita is happy

The restaurant is elaborate. It has no paper menu. The restaurant manager sat down at the table with us to explain the menu. She went over the first and second courses and we picked from it. I felt a bit of pressure having to decide right there on the spot, but ended up selecting potato flan with ragu sauce and grated ricotta cheese followed by beef carpaccio (uncooked beef) with sliced truffle mushrooms and pecorino cheese.

Beef carpaccio – lots of it!

They brought out a funky-tasting yogurt with turmeric which did not really suit my taste. They also brought out some cooked bell peppers, capers and veal slices as aperitivo. Eventually, they brought out the potato flan which was absolutely phenomenal. Of all the things I have eaten in Italy so far, that by far is the best. The flan melted in my mouth while the ragu and cheese provided the perfect accompaniments.

The beef carpaccio was a bit much (both in quantity and quality). I expected it to be very thinly cut, but it was actually rather thick with loads of truffle slices; making it very rich and heavy. It was also still mooooving (ok, that was a bad pun but I had to use it).

When the manager came back asking about dessert, we had thrown in the towel. I did ask for some digestif fennel tea which she brought out with a slice of flour-less chocolate cake. Rich!!

By the time we took a cab and arrived back at the airport, it was around 9:45 PM. Naman’s flight landed a bit late and we left the airport around 11:00 PM only to encounter white-out conditions on the highway on our way back to Pergo. Instead of taking about 80 minutes, it took us almost 2 hours to get back to the hotel.

Yes, it snows in Tuscany and if you are really lucky (or unlucky), you may even be caught in a blizzard!

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