Friday, September 18, 2009

Touring Tuscan Towns – 12 September 2009

VolterreAfter our croissant and coffee breakfast we set off for Volterre, the first of our four Tuscan hilltop villages that we were to visit today. Being there fairly early in the morning we beat any tourist rush that there may be and the town seemed like a 'regular' town with normal shops selling normal stuff to normal folk. This certainly did not hold for the next town.

VolterreWe visited the Palazzo Viti, one of the finest private residential buildings in Italy. However, after seeing so many wonderful ceilings in England painted by imported Italian artists we were surprised at how under-whelming the ceilings were in this Palazzo. Nevertheless it was an impressive home, still lived in by descendants of the Viti family.

San GimignonoThe entry ticket entitled us to a sample of local produce at the bar in the cellar below the Palazzo. There was local salami, 60-day and 6-month old cheese and a glass each of wonderful white and red wine. San GimignonoNone of it was from more than 20km away. (The food-mile police would be very proud of us.)

Leaving Volterra we plunged into tourist territory by arriving at San Gimignono. Eventually finding a carpark, we joined the thronging tourists wandering along the streets lined with shops all selling tourist oriented Tuscan goodies.

San GimignonoThe town is remarkable not only for its hilltop position but also for its distinctive skyline made up of 14 towers; all that remain of the original 72 mediaeval towers built by the feuding families each seeking to out-do the other for the highest tower.

Colle de Val d'ElsaLeaving the tourists behind we wandered into a different world when we visited Colle de Val d'Elsa. There may have been some other tourists around but they were few and far between so it seemed we had the narrow streets and cobbled passageways to ourselves as we explored.

Setting off for Siena we drove straight towards another hilltop village vista of walls and towers so a quick detour was called for and we stopped at Monteriggioni. Colle de Val d'ElsaThis tiny gem of a medieval hilltop town was built in 1203 and still retains its complete set of towers and city wall.

Both Monteriggioni and San Gimignano are on the pilgrims route from Canterbury to Rome which passes along the via Francigena.

Monteriggioni appealed so much that we decided to stay the night and found a delightful room in one of the old buildings in the town.

Apologies for the poor photo quality but our 4-month old Canon Powershot G10 failed

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