Saturday 14th October – Last full day in Siena and Tuscany. Tomorrow Torino awaits.
I don’t think anyone would argue that Tuscany is a region rich in many things. Great wines that are famous around the world; beautiful landscapes peppered with and made even more pretty by cypress trees and long rolling hills; a people who pronounce (some) words that begin with a C with an H; and more than its fair share of Castles! So Saturday saw us journeying deep into (what has been colloquially called) Chiantishire and a visit to Gaiole in Chianti to Castello Meleto.
I left early with GSG (the JobMother) and Kenjay Savvy. First challenge of the day was asking the person from the hotel who knew how to open the gate to open the gate. This took a couple of minutes but not long enough for anyone to get excitable, though I was close to adding a little emphasis (sarcasm) to my ‘per piacere’. As soon as the gate slowly began to open we were off and away out into the lovely rolling countryside immediately surrounding Siena following (as always) our road-book.
We arrived at Castello Meleto well early (always my preference) so we found and introduced ourselves to Carlotta who our main point of contact (coincidentally called Giulia) told us to liaise with. Carlotta was busy watching a group of American wedding guests onto a Minibus when she clocked us and I instantly sensed her head drop as she realised her peaceful Saturday morning shift was not going to be a peaceful Saturday morning shift. Undeterred I bounded up and shook her energetically by the hand and bombarded her with questions. I asked her about parking, toilet facilities (the number one question I get asked during the Italian Job so I always find this out instantly) timings, the castle tour, the enoteca and finally lunch arrangements. She answered all efficiently so all was well.
We set up our time control and with 40 minutes to go until the first car was due to arrive the first car arrived. We had limited space so we had to send Team 20 Maldwyn and Carol away and back down the twisting track that connected the castle to the main road below. By now our other two cars arrived so we were mob handed. We dispatched Paola and Josh to the bottom of the hill to barricade the road to all Italian Job teams whilst not impeding the passage for anyone else with legitimate business at the castle. Fast forward to a few minutes before the 10am arrival time and a few cars appeared and lingered quite happily on the final approach. Parking was (according to Carlota) in two areas around the castle which required a little jostling and reversing shenanigans but nothing to challenge the driving skills of Jobbers.
We received messages that a few cars had got a little lost but were on their way. I sent my location via WhatsApp to give those teams a reference. Kerry and Paul aka Team 02 in the very pretty silver 1275GT messaged to advise a big merc had reversed into them at slow speed whilst they were standing still. They were OK but of course annoyed that their car now showed a few war wounds that weren’t there earlier in the day. They made it to the check point (too late for their time) but in plenty good time for an exclusive cuppa, biscuit and a bakewell tart from the back of the service van. This is normally not something Jobbers get to enjoy but the calming and soothing qualities of a nice cup of tea are universally known and we felt Team 02 needed the comfort of a PG Tips.
A tour of the castle was well underway when Team 02 (and a few others) arrived. It was lead by Irena and Pietro who were excellent guides and seemed genuinely delighted to be sharing the story and history of the castle with us. When it was complete we reunited the stragglers with the main group and started rubbing our tummies in anticipation of yet more food.
Lunch was delicious and I think enjoyed by all. Whilst teams enjoyed their luncheon, Kenjay unleashed his drone and set it aloft to snap some footage and stills of our visit, which I promised Stefania (the very jolly and helpful GM of the Castle) I would share with her. At the conclusion of lunch a special stage awaited teams. It required them to descend the road away from the castle and pass two traffic cones after the first bend in a precise 34 seconds. First though came the second challenge of the day. How to extricate cars that had been parked (shoehorned) into the areas we had been assigned by Carlotta? Carefully and slowly was the answer but this task became easier as more cars were released and all teams exited pretty swiftly.
We said our goodbyes to Castello Meleto and as it was still early’ish O’ Clock, many teams headed straight into Siena for a stroll and ‘un gelato’. I was sent a number of lovely pics of teams in Siena enjoying the still very warm temperatures and of course each others company. Paul & Mark from Team 45 are always so thoughtful and they sent me a charming group photo from a hostelry in the city centre.
We tanked it back to the hotel and saw Alan and Collette (Team 26) stopped at the side of the road. The question ‘are you guys ok’? was answered with ‘yes thanks, we’re looking for a supermarket’ was music to my ears. Later I spotted them walking into the hotel with a bag so I suspect they found one.
A briefing in the bar took place at 7.30pm and we advised all present about arrangements and timings for our visit to and meeting at and lunch in La Spezia tomorrow (actually today). A tour bus load of our French cousins had arrived at the hotel earlier in the day and strategically dotted themselves around the large foyer and bar area. Hence they were exposed to our IJ briefing and I suspect one or two may now believe they are heading to a lunch meeting in La Spezia tomorrow (actually today).
More on today, tomorrow