<< Flashback 15th Dec 2017 …

Mum was waiting in the hotel room at MTREE Hotel in Kuala Lumpur (KL). She looked radiant with her beautiful smile. We joked. We laughed. We prayed. We cried (of joy). We reminisced. We chuckled. We laughed out loud. Mum looked so happy surrounded by her 6 broods.

It was not Christmas, but we were in a Christmas mood albeit being barefaced with our pyjamas on et al. THAT was perfectly imperfect!

The following day, 16th Dec, was a BIG day for one of my 6 nephews. My oldest nephew got married. The first of Mum’s grandchildren to tie the knot and the reason why all 6 siblings made it to the wedding in KL. The few days spent with Mum were beyond words.

Mum was the proudest mum that day seeing her child #1 embracing a new addition to the family.

Mum shed a tear seeing her children pulling through the wedding service completely unrehearsed. All done extempore with virtuosity – the A Capella choir (children #s 2, 3, 5 and 6), the church organist (child #5), the church reader (child #6) and the church lector (child #4).

Was a child being left out? Never!

That’s how Mum raised us, as One!

The last I saw Mum …

27th Dec 2017 was the day I left KL and the last I saw Mum smiling at me. I gave her a blouse and a pashmina which she wore the same day to the airport. She looked glowingly radiant. That was the last and absolutely special moment I will cherish my beautiful, most gorgeous Mum in my heart.

>> Fastfoward …

The days, weeks, months after ..

We all knew Mum had not been well, with her joint pains here and there. Well, isn’t that the package one gets when one gets older? We did not think anything out of the ordinary with those silent pains that Mum endured, because Mum never complained the pains she went though. Life went on.

My older son felt blessed to have met his Ah Ma in January after completing his 5th semester at Southwestern University Of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, China. While his University mates travelled to Vietnam to chillax, my son chose to visit his grandma for 3 blissful weeks. Good on you, son!

Soon after my son left Kuching for Belgium, I received news from my sisters and a brother who are based in Kuching that Mum’s health went downhill all of a sudden. Foods she liked before were rejected. She had not been out of the house since…

My Mother’s Eulogy

(By: Child #4 shared on Wednesday 27th June, 2018 @ 9 am at St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Kuching, Sarawak )

“When my sisters in Kuching private messaged me to put a eulogy together for Mum, I’m not going to lie. This is not at all an easy task. I was trying to figure out how possibly I could put into words everything in a few minutes when I’ve known her all my life?

Hi, Good morning all. My name is IH, the 4th child in the family. I and my siblings, RH, GH, SH, JH and IH want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. It is very important for us to be here and we are very touched by your presence. Mum would be so ecstatic and so thankful to everyone coming today.

Dear friends, family and Rev Fr Patrick today, we say goodbye to my Mum but we also have to celebrate her life because that is what she would want. Most of you here knew her as a friend, but she was also a grandmother (Ah Ma). She was a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, an in-law, and most of all, she was a MOTHER to us 6 siblings.

Elizabeth Anna Sim Bee Kiaw was born on 25th August 1939. She died on Sunday, 24th June 2018. If you are wondering why she’s 80 and not 79, then only those closest to her, her children know ‘80’ is the right number.

3 years ago in August 2015, we, all her 6 children, her children in-law, and her grandchildren celebrated her 76th birthday, here, in Kuching. By the way, it took us 2 years to plan that FULL quorum reunion as not all her children are based in Kuching. My brother, JH, his wife JL, and their 4 sons, IH, IH, IH and IH flew all the way from Edmonton, Canada to Kuching through different time zones. Likewise, myself, my husband, MV and 2 sons, NV and KV travelled from Belgium, disregarding the time differences and jet lags. My sister, RH and het husband AY, their son TY and his then fiancé flew in from KL. My older brother, GH, his wife AL and their daughters, CH and MH made that special trip to Kuching from Sibu. My sister, SH and her kids, AO and UO and my youngest sister, IH and BL, my Mum’s foster grandson. All of us took time off work and a niece and nephew had to forego a few College and University classes to converge in Kuching for ONE purpose – to be with the matriarch of the family, Mum/ Ah Ma!

Soon after the 2015 successful reunion, my sibilings and I planned and talked about a subsequent family reunion, a BIG do when Mum would have turned 80 in August, 2019. We planned a cruise with Mum. Mum was excited because she loved travelling and she loved being surrounded by her loved ones.

When Mum’s health deteriorated in February this year and a fall in May that left her bed-ridden, she told my sisters who are based in Kuching ~ SH and IH ~ that she was 80 this year, according to Chinese age. In her poignant expression in the Hokkien language, “Wa pek chap liao. Kio e lang lau liau lai chia”.

The Almighty God took away my Mother’s pain and brought her home to be with the Lord. So, Mum, here’s our promise to you on your 80th year, the BIGGEST cruise you ever dreamt of, joined by all your 6 children, children in-law, grandchildren, foster grandson, sisters, brother, in-laws and friends. We sail with you today to celebrate your eternal peace.

Elizabeth Sim was my best friend and the number ONE person in my life. She was my first teacher. She was a caring soul, a guardian, a friend and a protector and her testament of that is her children – all 6 of us! She taught me all through her life, all through my life and she taught me what humility, dignity, simplicity and honesty look like. The legacy Mum gave us is patience and strength. Mum grew up with hardship, having lost her dad (my grandfather) at a very young age. She and her 6 siblings were immediately placed in a convent in Mukah while her Mum (my grandmother) had to fend for herself and her 7 young children doing odd jobs as an ahma (a servant). Hardship and hard work were what my Mother was familiar with. Mum was the essence of purity, kindness and beauty. Her true truth lies deep in our hearts. She was our Queen of Hearts but without the tiara and glittering cloak. She was a Queen in rags and tatters. Eyes are blind, but Mum looked with the heart. What’s most important is invisible. Mum saw everything with her heart, because of the hardship she experienced.

To the people who are lucky enough to know her personally, she was caring and funny in her own silly way, honest and spoke only where necessary. She cared deeply for those around and her devotion for her family was truly unparalleled.

As many of you knew her, she loved to laugh. She had the genuine, unique and innocent laugh. She didn’t mind we did foolish things or said silly things about her, because that’s how we were brought up as, not expecting praises all the time, but we can also accept negative comments light-heartedly. In her own famous words in Melanau “Mana le nou (Que sera sera, It doesn’t matter. Whatever will be, will be. Up to you). That’s Mum’s legacy to us.

Mum also taught us the values of a good get-together and having friends and family around. I know she’s looking down at us now, very happy and very excited especially with all of us here gathered together. I can feel Mum’s warmth. I can sense her sweet smile. I can hear her sing in her melodious and angelic voice. I can see her playing on her favourite blue harmonica with the most appropriate label, “HERO”. Mummy, Ah Ma will forever be our version of Hero.

Memories of you bring tears to my eyes, to all eyes who knew her. Mum’s legacy will always live on with us. I love you Mum. We ALL love you. Thank you so much for being a part of me and my siblings’ and being a friend to all.

Remembering you is easy. I do it EVERYDAY, but missing you is heartache that never goes away.

A million times I’ve needed you

A million times I’ve cried

If love alone could have saved you

You never would have died

In life I loved you dearly

In death I love you still

In my heart you hold a place

No one else can ever fill

It broke my heart to lose you

But you didn’t go alone

Part of me, part of us, went with you

The day God took you home

Eternal Rest grant unto the soul of a dearest being, Elizabeth, O Lord

And let Perpetual Light shine upon her.

Rest in Peace Mummy, Ah Ma, Ah Chey, Ee Ee, Ji Kor, Aunty Gelad, Gelad, Ah Soh, Aunty, Ah Ee, Elizabeth, Mrs Harry, Mrs William Harry.

Rest in Eternal and Heavenly Peace!

I would like to call my siblings up here, the way Mum would call you…. Jai Jueng, Yet, Tanu, Yan, Diek and myself, Ureu. Lai chia. Lai nang chio O Maria Tina Kou.

O Maria Tina Kou

Slingeh nou akou a aniek nou

Sibet nou akou la ji tan gak nou

Lubieng tulen bersi nou

Puji Maria, Puji Maria, Puji Maria ….!

Why Did Mum Cry?

Mum cried because she misses her children dearly. She misses her grandchildren profoundly.

She misses holding and touching us.

She misses the hugs and kisses and the sweet loving words.

She misses talking with us and engaging in deep thoughtful conversations. Mum spoke only where necessary.

Even though it’s just baby talk, because engaging with people, regardless of age, creed and colour, was transcendent beauty in her eyes.

Mum’s Quiet Moments

Mum had many quiet moments. When she’s alone, she sang hymns, she played her favourite games on the iPad, she read, she played on the harmonica and most of all, she prayed. She prayed every single day for our safety, our health and our family.

Until Death Do Them Part

She was 18. He was 12 years older. They promised “to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”

Mum was buried next to her lover, her partner, her friend and her confidante. They are together forever and never to part.

God bless you both in Heaven, Mummy and Papa.

Farewell Mummy. You are in good hands now.

A Blessed 100th day in Heaven 💖

God Bless you 💕

With lots of love and until we meet again😍

Jai Jueng, Yet, Tanu, Ureu, Yan and Diek

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Radda in Chianti is one of the 5 Chianti towns in Tuscany. It is one that perched the highest on the Tuscan hill. The highest point I noted on the GPS was at least 700m asl! It’s ca 15km away from San Sano, our Summer hols based location in August this year.

My memory of Radda was not as positive as the rest of the Chianti towns, at least on the gastronomical aspect at the material time and day. Well, unforgettable memories can be either good or bad, right?

We had originally wanted to dine out at Osteria Le Panzanelle in Radda but could not find the restaurant. Instead we ended up at Ristorante Vignale. It had a lovely patio overlooking the most beautiful view of acres and acres of vineyard!

After having one of the most memorable dinners in San Sano the other evening, we assumed every Tuscan restos offered similar quality of amazing foods. Unfortunately, not at Ristorante Vignale. The menu card looked ambitious and sadly, we were sold by the artistic descriptions of the items on the list.

The plates that were brought out to us were stylishly presented, but the execution was very poor.

On paper, the starter I ordered sounded too good to be true: summery and almost music to my ear. In reality, the actual presentation was quite disappointing. There were way too many goat’s cheese on my starter plate that I hardly tasted or saw any truffle-flavoured bread crumbs! The summer salad was just simple iceberg salad. My verdict? A boring ensemble of the so called, The Vignale Summer Salad with pine nuts, walnuts, goats’ cheese and truffle-flavoured bread crumbs

You bet I was looking forward to my main course that sounded pretty alluring; Medieval style spiced young pork stuffed with prunes and apricots. Too bad, the glamorous sounding Medieval porky were merely thinly sliced, hard pieces of rather salty and dry meat smothered with some sauce with a bit of green salad and 4 wedges of very small potatoes.

And finally, I left the verdict of the pannacotta to my older son. He had the pannacotta at Trattoria Grotta della Rana in San Sano the other evening. By comparing with the one at Vignale, his first bite and comment in one word was “Bubblegum!”

Yup, that’s his honest verdict of the oodles of gelatine used in the pannacotta at Ristorante Vignale! What a shame, it looked nice but the taste was something else. What can I say, looks can be deceiving…

Oh by the way, to add salt to injury, my younger son’s dessert of Cheese Cake with fruit coulis and handmade ice-cream missed out the most crucial item. The handmade ice-cream was missing!!

By not crucifying too much of Radda, I’d like to mention that the best part of Radda that remains mesmeric in my mind’s eye was the view.

Night fell and we left Radda without turning back.

We walked the lighted pathway looking forward to a new tomorrow …

Have a great week!

Ciao!

There are actually 5 Chianti towns perched on the hillside of Tuscany, in Italy. We have explored 4 of the 5 Chianti towns. The one we did not go to was Lecchi in Chianti. It was less than 3 km from the holiday home we stayed in San Sano. It’s the smallest of the 5 Chianti towns, quite similar to San Sano, hence we gave it a miss.

To give you an idea where Chianti is on the map, here’s a scratchy but ‘magnetic’ image of the map of Tuscany 😉

Gaiole in Chianti

Gaiole in Chianti is one of the five main Chianti towns in Tuscany. We stayed in San Sano in the summer of Aug 2018. Gaiole was about 9 km away. By the way, San Sano lies in the commune of Gaiole.

All Chianti towns are best remembered by the iconic rooster standing resplendently before entering the centre.

That’s the very reason why we see the distinctive insignia on all Chianti Classico bottles, the silhouette of a black rooster on a white background, surrounded by a burgundy ring. Chianti Classico is considered the most traditional wine made within the original production zone of the 5 Chianti towns. Chianti wine produced outside the geographical area is simply called, “Chianti”.

With only one tiny and crammed grocery shop in San Sano, we did most of our groceries at our favourite Coop supermarket in Gaiole.

And here were what I have prepared in the most challenging kitchen with no chopping board, blunt knives, broken pair of kitchen scissors, insufficient pots, pans and serving plates with ingredients bought at the Coop supermarket in Gaiole in Chianti.

But, hey! I got by, hopefully? 😉

Market Day in Gaiole

If you have read my posts of our summer hols in the Provence, I mentioned my love of the outdoor markets. It’s all part of the fun, the sun and the local ambience, the colours and smells and strolling and exploring the unending quaint streets.

Market day in Gaiole is the second Monday of every month. I was excited at the thought of going to one up on the Tuscan hills. But alas! Poor Gaiole only boasts of one stretch of road with only a few stalls.

However, it wasn’t the market that enchanted us that day, it was a shop, called L’Eroica. Gaiole in Chianti is perhaps the best known town as the starting point and birthplace of the cycling route of L’Eroica.

No wonder we saw serious bikers taking the route every time we drove past Gaiole in Chianti. The L’Eroica shop tells all with curious passers-by popping in 😀

We had wanted to spend the entire day at Gaiole but it was not meant to be. We headed for the unplanned trip to Siena, instead. Ha ha …

Next up: Radda in Chianti

See you there!

Ciao!

The mercury level was at its highest on Tuesday, 21st August. The glaring sun with a temperature of 39C did not deter us from a 2-hour drive 175km to North West Tuscany.

The Night Before

Mama: Boys, it’ll be a long drive tomorrow, so make sure to sleep earlier tonight. Brekkie’s at 8 sharp.

Son K: Where are we going?

Mama: Pisa!

Son N: Are you going to make that classic pose of pushing Pisa like those tourists?

Mama: Why, of course!! That’s cool, no?

Sons: That’s totally cringey, Ma. You better don’t make a fool of yourself!

Mama: We shall see …

WYSIWYG

Our 2-hour drive to Pisa saw us parking at a spot very near to the iconic Leaning Tower.

Infact it was the first thing we saw when we arrived at the city centre.

By the way, it IS what you see. A tilting tower, which was originally the Bell Tower of the city’s cathedral on Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles)

Gratis Models of Pisa 😀

Busloads of tourists from all over the world come to Pisa just for the Tower and bringing back with them momentos of the tilted tower saved on their mobile phones and cameras.

Now, were the poses cringey as predicted by my sons? Maybe. Maybe not.

Silly and funny perhaps, but innovative as well. The classic and predictable pretending-to-support pushing action we see on postcards and innumerable photos on the net was one, and then there’s the kissing and lifting of the tower and God knows what other poses …

While the tower was the crowd-pleaser, the Medieval Roman Catholic Cathedral next to the Tower was almost deserted, but it’s as stunning.

A Tourist Trap?

The city of Pisa is the least charming of all the Tuscan cities we have been to. It’s way too touristy. There was not much to see or do aside from admiring the tilted tower and pricey souvenirs.

A Mediocre Lunch

We were being greeted by the friendly owners of a Pizzeria Trattoria.

Canned corn, canned tuna, canned peaches. And do not expect the executed dishes to look similar to the photos of the dishes printed on the menu cards. They’re miles apart! What would you expect? It’s a simple family brasserie in a touristic area. We just fell into a tourist trap, that’s all, and we knew it.

Welcome to Pisa!

The Not-So-Cringey Pose…?

At least this tourist did not push, kiss, hug or lift the tower. For her, it’s a memory of a long drive just to stand near the tilted tower she once read in History books as one of the 7 wonders of the Medieval world.

And how’s that, boys? 😉

And by the way, how would you pose when you encounter the Leaning Tower of Pisa for the first time ?

Til my next post, arrivederci!

Ciao!

Unlike the trip to Siena which was impromptu, our trip to Florence was planned on a Sunday. Hubby was of the opinion that the roads to Florence on a Sunday would be less congested, as most people would stay home. He was right.

We left San Sano at 8.30 am and arrived at the city of Florence at 10 am, giving us plenty of time before our tour at the Accademia Gallery commenced at 11.30am.

Hubs bought the “skip-the-line” admission with private tour online, for both Galleries: the Accademia and Uffizi.

If you’re wondering why we drove all the way to Florence just to go to Museums, you will find out why the Accademia and Uffizi Galleries are the epitomes of what summed up the city of Florence.

With the ample waiting time, we explored Florence on our own.

The first instance I entered Florence was, Wow! What a lovely view from afar! I knew what lay beyond the bridge would be a discovery of even deeper artistic heritage and treasures left behind by the many God-given sculptors and painters of the past centuries.

Walking into the streets of Florence was like going back in time. One thing’s for sure, you cannot visit Florence without wandering freely the fully pedestrianised Piazza del Duomo. The picturesque square lies in the heart of the city, surrounded by restaurants, cafés, shops and of course, the magnificent sights of the Duomo, the Bell Tower and the Baptistery, all these have become the ultimate tourist hotspots! So you could see it was just impossible to have a selfie or snapshot without being photobombed by unexpected or unintended appearances lurking in the background of your photos. I’m sure I have appeared on their photos as much as they, on mine. Ha ha ..

Time To Go …

No, it was not time to leave the city, but time to meet our guide outside the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze (Gallery of the Academy Of Florence). It was 11.30am.

Our guide was Carla. We were a small group of 2 families, us and a family from Seattle.

Suddenly, we became very attentive ‘students’… Afterall, the museum was founded as a teaching facility for the Academy Of Fine Arts students.

And by the way, Accademia Gallery is home to Michelangelo’s David. That’s right, the one and only.

Now, will the real David, please raise your hand?

The David on the left stands on the Palazza Vecchio while the David on the right stands handsomely as the centrepiece of the Accademia Gallery in the most visited room, called the Tribuna del David.

Both Davids are ceaselessly surrounded by tourists wanting to have a closer look at the 5.17m (17ft) tall Biblical hero.

The David stand-in or ‘imposter’ or replica or copy ~ whatever you want to call it ~ gets photographed as much as the real David, but coming all the way to Florence, and not seeing THE David that was sculptured by the godly hands of THE Michelangelo Buonarroti, would be a big fat waste of time.

Michelangelo was only 26 years old when he was challenged to sculpt the young shepherd David. He was presented with a simple and ugly looking slab of marble piece BUT he succeeded in creating the most breathtaking masterpiece of gleaming white marble. It took him over 2 years to complete the massive task (1501 – 1504).

David In Full Circle

It’s only at the Accademia Gallery that we could admire Michelangelo’s David from a close distance, ie admiring the perfection and magnificence of the colossal statue 360 degrees!

My favourite angle of David is his right side, from the right hand up to his neck.

Why?

Because the ONLY way to appreciate this angle is to appreciate the work of Michelangelo. Just look at the veins on David’s right hand, his arm and neck! It’s pure attention to details.

Michelangelo was also the first sculptor to depict David before the battle, while most sculptors chose to portray David after his victory, ie triumphant over the slain Goliath. You could see why Michelangelo chose to capture David in a most artful manner during his most tensed moment with full of bodily concentration. What can I say?

Exquisite! Period.

Michelangelo’s David was not the only one mentioned in our private tour. There were also 4 magnificently unfinished slaves of Michelangelo in the Tribuna del David together with the statue of St Matthew and the pieta.

Our tour lasted exactly for an hour and a half. There were too many art pieces and sculptures to mention in this post. I leave it to you to see them for yourself 😉

Thanks, Carla for opening our eyes, ears and mind in that short span of tour time 🙂

Lunch Interlude with a Mistake

Before meeting our next guide for the Uffizi tour, we had lunch at a simple resto, a little away from the crowded square and streets.

The foods were okay except for one and the service was rather slow.

I guess from the collage you could pin-point the odd dish out. I won’t say which one, so it’s up to you to give it a guess and interpret why it’s a mistake dish that made someone really disappointed that day 😦

The Only Bridge Standing

There’re many bridges across the Arno river, but there’s only ONE bridge that attracted tourists and the like the most.

When Florence was severely damaged during WW2 by the Germans, blowing up all its bridges, Ponte Vecchio or Old Bridge was the only Bridge standing. Rumour has it that Hitler found the view from the bridge too beautiful to destroy.

So here we were, walking on the Ponte Vecchio, admiring the bridge as it is today without being destroyed from any wars.

Ponte Vecchio is also one of the few bridges in the world that still has shops on it, specifically jewellery shops.

Uffizi Gallery

Just outside the Museum, we were greeted by Monica, our guide. Monica is Swede who has lived in Florence for the past 25 years. This time the group was bigger, at least 40 of us, with the youngest being a child of a year old. It was not difficult to decipher Monica’s audible explanation as each of us was given a headset.

The Uffizi Gallery housed the world’s greatest collection of Italian artworks and Renaissance art from Giotto to Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian and Caravaggio. Thanks to Anna Maria Lodovica, the last of the Medici line who left her property to Florence, ensuring that the Medici collections remained intact forever.

The Meaning Of Florence From A Single Painting

One of the paintings that everyone listened in awe to was the one from Alessandro Filipepi aka Botticelli. It’s called La Primavera.

There may be many other interpretations of La Primavera, but Monica narrated the painting in a very enlightening and interesting manner. I could remember almost every word she described the painting.

The painting is a symbol of Spring. It depicts love and marriage, sensuality and fertility.

The scene is set in the garden of Venus, the Roman Goddess Of Love. She’s standing in the centre of the painting. Above her, is her blindfolded son, Cupid, who shoots arrows of Love to the Three Graces. On the far right of the painting is Zephyrus, the wind that billows and pursues Chloris, the nymph.

On the far left is Mercury, the winged messenger of the Gods. He is holding a staff to dissipate the gloomy clouds of Winter for Spring to come.

When Zephyrus succeeds in making Chloris pregnant, she transforms into Flora, the Goddess of Spring. The transformation is depicted by the flowers spewing out of Chloris’ mouth. Flora then scatters the flowers she gathers on her dress, thus, symbolising springtime and fertility. And that’s how Florence (the city) got her name, from Flora.

I thought that interpretation of Florence was really enlightening, and that, from a single painting but of course there are other naming theories that seemed to conclude the floral definition of the city.

The Leaning Truth Of Tuscany

One hour and a half went by in a fleeting moment. We left Florence basking under the scorching Tuscan heat of 34C homeward bound 75km back to San Sano.

My thought lingered to our next adventure in Tuscany, one that would reveal the leaning truth of our Summer Hols …

Stay tuned 😉

Ciao!

It was a lovely morning on the second Monday in August, 2018. It was Market day in Gaiole in Chianti, one of the 5 Chianti towns in Tuscany.

Our holiday villa at San Sano lies in the commune of Gaiole which was about 9 km away.

I LOVE outdoor markets. The colours, the smell, the fresh local produce, the haggling and just about everything, including the scorching sun!

We planned our trip after I was done with a full batch of dirty laundry. I hung them out in the sun to dry.

We left the house at 10am so we would have sufficient time to stroll around the market square until middday when we could have our lunch there.

But alas, there was not a stall in sight. Where was the market? The town was as quiet and almost deserted that morning.

We left Gaiole and were thinking where to go next, and then we saw the signpost direction Siena!

Yup, that’s where we headed to. Siena! An impromptu trip.

Siena is about 30 km from San Sano. It’s a historic city listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. It’s a hill city, very, very hilly and one of the most beautiful medieval cities in Italy.

Crowded Siena

We were so used to the quiet surroundings of the Chianti region the past days, that Siena was chock-a-block with people, more specifically, tourists, innumerable cars and busloads of more tourists!!

And by the way, there was simply no place to park our car in the centre or anywhere near the centre, hence, we made do with a parking area away from the hustle and bustle of the centre.

So what does that mean? Well, of course LOTS of walking and ascending stairs, roads and pavements!!

When we finally reached the centre, we saw a huge crowd making their way to a particular location. We followed suit, out of curiosity.

Guess what? We ended up at the spectacular shell-shaped medieval square, Piazza del Campo.

But look at the sea of people! I bet 99% of the crowd were tourists, just like us, pinning our own little imaginary flags and claiming, “yes, I’ve been there!” 😀

It was at Piazza del Campo that the Palio Horse race takes place twice a year, on 2nd July and 16th August. We missed the live show but it was aired on the local TV channel.

Il Palio as we know it today first took place in 1633. Many of the traditions established in its earliest years still remain today. The Palio di Siena is held on 16th August, coinciding with Assumption Day or Ferragosto as it is known in Italy.

With the scorching sun of 31C above our heads, we took shelter in a shaded alfresco terrace of a restaurant nearby. Our lunch at Gaiole that was not meant to be, was compensated with colourful platters at a touristic resto in Siena. The foods were passable, made in a hurry and lacking passion.

We were famished, so whatever were presented to us were devoured in no time at all.

When in Italy, having the gelato is a must especially on blistering hot days, so that was our desert.

Yum!

It’s lovely to walk in Siena strolling past souvenir shops and the likes.

When we finally ended up at Duomo di Siena (Siena Cathedral), it started to drizzle, and that’s when my mind became disconcerted. I immediately checked the weather forecast of San Sano. Lo and behold, there’s a thunderstorm back at our holiday home. “Oh no!!! There goes my washed laundry!!

All’s well that did not end so well …

We left Siena but almost lost our way out of the city. It seemed like we have been walking for hours on end …

Back in San Sano, we were caught by another hindrance. There was a short circuit after the thunderstorm that caused a power outage in the mountain area of Chianti.

And then there’s my washed laundry that was completely drenched! Ouch!

Going back to Gaiole

Oh by the way, I forgot to mention that we drove past Gaiole and guess what? The market started from 2pm to 10pm. Luckily, we did not stay on in Gaiole for the market all morning because there was absolutely nothing we have missed. The tiny outdoor market covered just a stretch of one road.

With all the foul-ups, bleeps and blunders, we had a hefty day ascending 51 stairs, walking 17.5k steps of almost 12 km …. and then there was the laundry, the entire laundry!

Phew … What a day!

Fingers crossed for our next trip up … to the city of love and marriage, sensuality and fertility.

See you there 😉

Ciao!

San Sano is a quaint little village of stone structures that lies on the Tuscan hill in the province of Siena. The villa where we stayed lies 400m above sea level. The bigger town or commune 15km away, Radda in Chianti, was higher at 650m asl.

San Sano is a hamlet, really. There’s really not much to see, but surprisingly, a LOT to tell!!

You’ll ‘see’ why as you read on …

Mysterious San Sano

The village of San Sano has no supermarket, no post office, no park, no church (at least I had not seen one). Forget about going out for late night movies because there’s just no cinema, neither bars nor cafés in sight! In other words, there’s no night life, or was there …??

There’s just the main road with a handful of rustic stone houses, small square, one or two alleys with medieval landscape, one hotel, one restaurant with an adjoining super crammed sundry shop manned by an elderly man and a statue of a “drunken frog” that appeared to guard the village, ie, positioned in a seemingly perfect spot … for fung shui reason?

So why in heaven’s name did we end up in that sleepy village in the Chianti region?

Beats me, but one thing’s for sure the picturesque backdrops and landscapes were picture perfect and what more could we ask for with the neat and rolling vineyards just behind our holiday villa!

It’s quietly stunning. It was heaven on earth!

Night Out in San Sano

Are you kidding me?

Nope!

Against all odds, we went to San Sano. We wanted to have our dinner. It was a lovely evening and the stroll to the centre did us good. The only nuisance to combat were from the bites of the bloodsucking, slender and long-legged flies aka mosquitoes! Humph!

We ambled our way leisurely on the main road. There was not a car in sight.

We did not walk very far until we reached a junction with crossroads. There, in the centre of the junction was the ‘drunken frog’!!

Why was the frog drunk? Ah ha … storytime at the end of this post. Be patient, ‘kay? 😉

Trattoria “Grotta della Rana

I mentioned earlier that San Sano has only one restaurant and Trattoria Grotta della Rana was THAT restaurant!

By the way, “Grotta della Rana” means literally, “The Cave Of the Frog”.

What a coincidence, eh? We just met our friend the “drunken frog” and now the restaurant with a froggy name? San Sano could be Tuscany’s very own Sesame Street! Ha ha …

It was 6:20pm when we arrived at the resto. It’s a lovely restaurant with a decent size alfresco terrace. We were seated at a table for four. There were no other customers then, except for the bloodsucking mosquitoes!! Arghhh!!!

A friendly looking guy came to our table with a big smile on his face. He welcomed us with open arms. He spoke very limited English, but we seemed to comprehend one another pretty well. He brought us the resto’s menu card, and lo and behold! The menu card was entirely handwritten in Italian!

I guess that’s the beauty of being authentic, original and traditional without the touristy fluff.

What I noticed about Italian restaurants in general, is that, menus are usually composed of the following courses: antipasti (appetiser), primi piatti (first course, usually consisting of a pasta dish), secondi piatti (second or main course of meat or fish served alone) and contorni (vegetables and potatoes side dishes)

Surprisingly, with the owner’s limited English and our limited Italian, we ordered the most amazing plates, one after another …

The dishes were ridiculously scrumptious from antipasti to deserts!

Oh by the way, I could never finish a glass of red wine, but not the one served at Trattoria Grotta della Rana! It was one of the best local Chianti wines.

The waiter who brought us the bottle of water and breads was an elderly man, who’s also the old chap manning the tiny grocery shop adjoining the Trattoria.

We found out that the Trattoria’s a one big family affair of 3 generations. The elderly man’s the father (grandfather), while the guy who greeted us was his son, the current proprietor of the restaurant. The owner’s son also waited and served at the table. The owner’s wife and the ladies in the kitchen were the unsung chefs who made sure the palates and tummies of the customers were fully satisfied.

If you’re looking for a Michelin star presentation or trendy fine dining plates, I’m afraid this is not the place for you. In all honesty, the kitchen serves simple and rustic but wholesome and genuine ingredients of ancient Chiantigiana or Tuscan traditions. That’s what we were looking for, a surprised hidden gem in a secluded and off-the-beaten-path location.

It was 9pm. Before we called it the night, we ordered deserts and coffee.

We left our table at 9.30 pm. 3 hours earlier, we arrived when there were no one else there, but we left a packed restaurant that evening! That summed up EVERYTHING about the Cave Of the Frog Tavern!

Now, are you ready to hear the story of the ‘boozy frog’? According to the website of La Grotta della Rana, it’s based on a true story.

It went like this …

The Story of the Drunken Frog

Once upon a time an elementary teacher from San Sano, Ferdinando Anichini, enrolled himself to a game show program called “Il Tappabuchi” on the Italian television. It was April 1967. The host of the show, Corrado, offered prizes to contestants who could sing, dance, recite a poem or to imitate the sound of an animal. Anichini chose to imitate the sound of the croaking of a frog, because in Gaiole (San Sano lies in the commune of Gaiole in Chianti), the inhabitants were called “ranocchia” (frog people) in ancient times due to the large number of frogs on the banks of the Masellane. According to Corrado, the frog imitation from Anichini was rather shoddy, however, the contestant went on to justify himself with a cheeky statement, “Our frogs sing like that, because they drink Chianti wine!” Having said that, the elementary teacher won the show with one condition that he devolved his winning prize of 200k Italian Lira (equivalent to Euro 103.29 today) in favour of the tiny village of San Sano. The most interesting thing was the contestant mentioned “Chianti” four times on national television – in an era where such outspoken promotion were unimaginable. With his prize money, the winner of the TV show commissioned Siena-born sculpture, Plinio Tammaro to build a frog statue (fountain), gulping down wine and spewing water.

That was the day, the drunken frog of San Sano was born… 😀

Sorry, if you’re thinking the frog was once-upon-a-time a Prince. There’s no Prince on a white stallion, but, San Sano has, without a doubt, radiated a princely charm to those who appreciate Tuscany’s simplicity at its best.

Arrivederci!