This morning we set off with a mission. The lady on our campsite had given us the name of a couple of places in the area that supposedly sold Camping Gaz. Since being unable to replenish the gas since Denmark, we were keen to exchange our two empty bottles. Whilst in Greece, we have made do with boiling our kettle on a small outdoor gas cylinder, keen to conserve the small amount of gas we have left in the van.
So optimistically, we ventured off to the first address, about six miles or so down the road. The drive there was stunning, through some exceptionally beautiful Tuscan scenery. We arrived at the town of Certaldo, and sought out the hardware shop we had been directed to. Unfortunately, it was closed.
Undeterred, we decided to defer our coffee, and head off to the next address on our list, in the town of Colle di Val d’Elsa. Here, we discovered a wonderful old town square with a splendid fountain. The hardware shop here was open, but sadly, the Camping Gaz they sold was only in the tiny cylinders that don’t fit our van.
Determined to complete our mission, we googled the first shop, and discovered that it should re-open again at 3.30pm. So we wound our way back to Certaldo, once more through some wonderful landscapes, and sought out a cafe to fill in the time before it re-opened. As we sat drinking our coffee, we noticed a sign for a Funicular Railway on the other side of the square.
3.30 pm came, and the little hardware shop was still closed. I spoke to a girl from the neighbouring shop, who thought it unlikely to re-open before four.
So, with another half hour to kill, we decided to give the funicular a shot. This turned out to be an inspired decision. The short ride up the hillside led us to the very oldest part of this Tuscan town. We suddenly found ourselves in charming herringbone-bone brick streets, beautiful little squares with vistas over the surrounding countryside, and a main street that led up to an elegant church. It was an absolute gem of a place, and with hardly another soul in sight. We stopped for a gelato, and took a wander around the side streets, peppered with statues, some old, and some contemporary. It was so completely unexpected. We have visited this area in the past, and been to all the high profile places such as Florence, Siena and San Gimignano – but had never even heard of this lovely old town.
Keen not to miss the hardware shop, we hurried back down into the town below. The old man who ran the shop tutted and looked quizzical for a moment, then asked if we could come back at 7pm. We negotiated to return the next morning instead, and the deal was done. Somehow, he would re-fill our cylinders, and have then ready by tomorrow. Success! We were delighted to have resolved our problem, and I was also pleased, since it will give me a chance to take a better look at this lovely old town, when we are not so time pressured.
The reason we had to dash off, was because we had a dinner date. Two of our dear friends from back home, Vicky and Andy, are out in Tuscany this week on holiday, and staying just a few miles away from our campsite. We had been invited out to dinner with them, and so were keen not to be late.
We somehow managed to locate their obscurely sited villa, down a track that led on to a vineyard, with the help of one of their party, who was sent up the drive to find us! The setting was sublime, with gorgeous views across the hills.
So tonight we have enjoyed a very convivial evening, sharing some wonderful company, and some really tasty food. All credit to Andy for doing the shopping – he arrived back at the villa after we had arrived, very frazzled, having apparently been faced with three aisles of pasta to choose from – probably par for the course in Italy. I must say that it was a real treat to have some other people to talk to (no offence to Howard, of course), and to catch up on all the local gossip.
We arrived back at the campsite just before our ‘curfew’, when the gates are locked, feeling like naughty children.
Tomorrow we will explore some more of this wonderful area, and will discover what our man has put into our gas cylinders!