From Tuscany to Cinque Terre, Sampling the Lavish and Relishing the Simple

Monday, August 7, 2017 | Parco Nazionale delle Cinque Terre, Italy (map)

Vernazza, a picturesque paradise in Cinque Terre.
Still buzzing from the excitement of the sumptuous Roman wedding, Nina and I wrestled our bags into a rented Fiat and headed for Tuscany. It was still early May, so the days were long, the air was sun-baked and warm, and the Italian countryside was in bloom.

We drove to Orvieto, a medieval town whose defensive walls melded seamlessly into the rocky outcropping on which it sat, dominating the fields of grapes and orchards all around. In Orvieto we climbed the ancient bell tower, savored prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches in a tiny shaded piazza, and strolled along stone streets flanked by gelaterias and artisan shops selling everything imaginable in gnarly hand-carved olive wood.

By the end of the day we had traversed Lazio, skirted Umbria, and entered Tuscany, where we settled for the night in a b&b outside Siena. It was a 15-minute walk to the central Piazza del Campo, the vast, seashell-shaped central plaza dominated by the city's famed tower. For two days each summer since the 1500s,