Italy Day Four (and Five)Day four we spent touring the Tuscan countryside south of Florence into the Chianti region stopping in Siena, San Gimignano and a storybook town called Monteriggioni on the way.
Siena is truly one of my favorite cities in Italy. Despite being just below Florence as a "must see" in Tuscany in all the guide books, it never seems crowded or overrun with tourist. We wandered into town soaking in the atmosphere of the medieval architecture and into Il Campo, the largest Piazza in town where we had lunch. This is also the spot where Siena hosts its annual Palio, a raucous horse race between the nine districts in town. The entire city is decked out with banners and finery and residents dress in period medieval costume.
Siena also has one of the most beautiful Duomos in all of Italy. The work of Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, the cathedral features a combination of Romanesque and Gothic architecture and houses some of the great art masterpieces of Italian art from the 13th to the 16th centuries including Nicola Pisano’s pulpit, Bernini’s chapel of the Blessed Virgin and Donatello’s baptismal font.
On our way to San Gimignano we stopped off in the idyllic village of Monteriggioni. We only spent an hour there as the town is so small you could plunk it down in the middle of New York City and it would scarcely take up on city block. It is completely enclosed by medieval walls and until the 1960s housed a co-op of farmers who grew mostly grapes, this being the Chianti region. These days the main industry in town is tourism which benefits greatly from the town’s convenient access just off the Autostrade.
We finally ended up in San Gimignano which also possesses the classic storybook charm of the previous two cities. Most known for it’s medieval towers, San Gimignano once housed roughly 70 such structures, but only 13 survive today. Still, they make an impressive skyline over the Tuscan countryside from its hilltop perch affording visitors views the stuff that fills guidebooks and Tuscany calendars. After taking in the atmosphere of the city we had a delicious meal featuring classic Tuscan dishes like Tagliatelle Ciangiale, Ribolita, and a variety local cheeses and salume all accompanied by the fabulous wine of the region. Before we hit the road we stopped in Piazza Cisterna for one more gelato, supposedly the best in all of Italy according to a contest they won. It was pretty damn good.
Below are photos of Il Camp and the Duomo in Siena. The walled village of Monteriggioni and one of the many quaint residences there. Finally, some of the many towers of San Gimignano and the beautiful Tuscan countryside surrounding it.
Day five, Sunday, we rested. We ate, sat by the pool, read and I worked on these posts.
Labels: European Travel