Friday, September 18, 2009

Along the Via Francigena - 13 September 2009

SienaAlthough not planned that way our stops seemed to always be on the Via Francigena, the Pilgrims route. The closest we got to genuine pilgrims was some walkers who were staying at the same accommodation as we were in Monteriggioni; the rest were tourists, like us, on a a much more rapid progression across the landscape.

SienaSienaLeaving the enclaves of tiny Monteriggioni we headed into the big city of Siena were we bumped into a procession that appeared to be something to do with the local saint day: to us it was much drum beating and banner waving.

SienaAfter seein' Seina via a tourist trail and a look around the fortress we moved on to Asciano where, once again, banners were out and preparations were being made for their saint day festivities.

Monte Oliveto Maggiore monasteryVery nearby is the Monte Oliveto Maggiore monastery so we made a short detour for a quick look at the outside as we had arrived after closing time and then moved on to San Quirico d'Orcia, a tiny UNESCO World Heritage town that seemed to be largely ignored by the tourists, but definitely worth a visit.

In an act of considerable vanity, Pope Pious II completely redesigned his birth-town, Pienza, as a utopian San Quirico d'Orcia“New Town” and it remains an outstanding example of Renaissance architecture. The tourists certainly knew about this stop-over. We could happily have spent the night there but Montepulciano, the home of our favourite Italian red wine, was calling so we moved on.

PienzaPienzaMontepulciano is the highest of the Tuscan hill towns and is a rabbit-warren of twisting streets on many levels. Parking is restricted to areas outside the city but our hotel had parking available and fortunately our host offered to take me to our car and lead me back to the hotel parking. I am not convinced that even with the aid of a sat-nav I would had found my way back through the maze of one-way streets, alone.

The photos would have been better had it not been for the failure of our 4-month old Canon Powershot G10

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