Paolo Does Europe - Sept. 12

I am in pain today. My right knee is giving out for reasons I know not. I especially notice it when I’m walking up and down stairs. The pain has put me in a bit of a bad mood, so I’ve put together a “F*** You” list. F*** You:

  1. Right knee. You’re a real buzzkill right now.
  2. Bugs. My legs and arms are all eaten up and itchy. I mean, my left leg looks like a mine field, and I’ve even got a bug bite on my cheek.
  3. TBD.

On to happier things: I spent my last day in Florence yesterday getting outside of downtown. In the morning I climbed up some hills and took some nice landscape photos. Those Gonzaga brats who study abroad here have it good. At 2 p.m. (14:00) I took a wine tour in Tuscany’s Chianti region, between Florence and Siena, for just $37E. Score!

The group on the wine tour was mostly older British and American couples. I could tell this because a) they looked old and b) they all wore expensive, huge jewelry and designer clothing or PGA-embroidered shirts and hats. I was the youngest by at least 15 years, except for an Aussie couple my age.

Our first stop was at a castle named Il Palagio. We toured the estate and wine cellars before going into a tasting on the patio. There were tables of eight and I strategically sat with a family of four – an older couple with their daughter and son-in-law. Each table received three bottles of wine regardless of vacancies. The older woman didn’t really drink, so basically the four of us drank twice as much as everyone else – three bottles down in just under an hour. We were plastered. And in our glorious inebriated conversation, I learned that:

  1. Both couples were celebrating wedding anniversaries.
  2. Both men are Marines. The older man has been retired for nearly 10 years, but was called into duty for Iraq and currently works with Boeing there in some capacity.
  3. The son-in-law got out of the Marines after four years and now makes several million dollars a year as a private government contractor.

In one of my enthusiastic interjections into the conversation, I managed to accidentally fling one of my several wine glasses off the table. It shattered, and applause broke out to which I stood and took a bow and blew kisses to my supporters. I seemed to be everyone’s friend after that.

Our next stop was a hilltop church. It was adorable and all that, but I was completely distracted by my bladder. All that wine at the castle caught up to me. I saw an open gate to a nearby vineyard. I took a couple nice photos just inside the gate (as cover) and then relieved myself behind a shack. It was a tripod-worthy experience. I took so long, in fact, that I had to jog to catch up with the group afterwards so that I wouldn’t miss my bus.

We stopped by a small town called Greve, and then proceeded to another little town, the name escapes me, where we had dinner. I ate a variety of tasty pastas and veal. I sat with a couple cougars who’d been hitting on me since the castle, two male OBGYNs (“You were a forceps delivery? Cool!”) and the young Aussie couple.

Our group was the youngest delegation on the tour, even though the median age was about 40. The Aussies represented and took all of the unempty bottles of wine from other tables from our group who were “drinking responsibly” and we finished the bottles off. I’d probably drank near three bottles of wine total by this time.

On the bus ride home, the OBGYNs and Aussies encouraged singing and the lady Aussie persuaded me to duet with her on the Bloodhound Gang anthem, “You and me baby ain’t nothing but mammals, so let’s do it how they do on the Discovery Channel” – over the bus intercom. I think all the seniors actually loved it. Their frowns and looks of confusion only masked their appreciation.

At some point, I recall proposing to our tour guide, Sonja, but I don’t remember all of those details. I do know that I am still single, so something fell through there.

We got back into Florence and parted ways. The cougars gave me their email addresses, of course. I still felt a bit tipsy and thought I should get some more food in me. I went into a restaurant nearby the hostel and ate like a king for my second dinner of the evening. Good lasagna. AMAZING chicken cattiatore. Most Italian meals I feel either Dad or I could make just as good, but this was by far the best cattiatore I’ve ever had: slow cooked and served on the bone from which the meat fell off at touch. I ate another tiramisu for dessert (second of the night), but it was just OK. I went back to the hostel, once again overly full, and crashed.