Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pienza with a confused GPS

I know I told you that rule number one of travel in Italy is to always have a paper map with you, but I never listen to myself.  So, the Stoic One and I decided to just hop in the car and program in Pienza and see the little town, have lunch, buy some cheese and return.  I think the GPS had other plans. (We didn't have a paper map in the car because Pienza is in Tuscany and we only had an Umbrian map).

We started off without problem.  Down E45 to Perugia and then to A1 to FLorence and then we got off, and decided to faithfully follow the GPS, without an additional map.   We were in the middle of nowhere, taking round abouts, small roads and worse, no signs to Pienza anywhere.  But we are learning to enjoy the journey as the destination, as they say,  and we remarked upon the beautiful Tuscan countryside and had no idea where we were. We eventually ended up on a dead end road.  So much for the directions from the GPS.  We reversed ourselves, and eventually found signs to Pienza and turned off the GPS.  I think she was having a bad day.

The problem with these machines is that they provide you with no contextual information.  The directions are at such a detailed level, that it is hard to see the bigger picture of not only where you are, but where you went wrong.  I think this is true about life in general.  Not only do we not get a map of our life but we have no idea where we are along the road.  Are we in the beginning, middle, or near the end?  When I look back over my life, I can see how one thing led to another but at the time it just seems like one more day of living, but enough metaphysical musings, on to Pienza.

So Pienza is known as the "touchstone of Renaissance urbanism"  if you want more information on that, look it up.  Basically, it is a town that was built in the 1400's. Pope Pius II was born here and had great plans for the town, but he died before it was finished. It has a beautiful piazza and Duomo.

It was designated a World Heritage site for being a seminal representation of "the humanist concept of urban design."  Seeing this was commissioned by a pope, I wonder about the "humanist" part, but whatever.  Needless to say, I was not here to see only the lovely piazza. I came also to see and taste the cheese.

That is pecorino cheese in the left window

Pecorino is made from sheep, and it is delicious.  If it is "new" it has a soft, fresh taste, which I prefer. It is is aged, it has a sharper, harder texture.  It is great with pears and honey or munching on as is.  

Pienza is a beautiful, if touristy, town.  The views of the valleys, where we were lost, are magnificent.  It is a beautiful town to walk around and imagine life 600 years ago.  How much have we changed?  How much have we all remained the same?

I love the modern and the old that you find on these streets.  Such a great shade of yellow!

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