Tuesday, April 23, 2019
And here we are… in the heart of Tuscany.
We are travelling by car again this week, setting off to discover the heart of Tuscany: Siena and the Val d’Orcia region. But first, a little detour to stop at San Gimignano.
Gimignano is perched on a hill and boasts 14 medieval towers. Tourists are only allowed parking outside the walls – within three large parking areas – and the vista is beautiful as you walk up to the main gate. Inside, though, it seems the whole town is geared towards tourism, to the point of excessiveness (stores and eateries line the main streets, all with enticing displays). You have to take little alleys to savour the medieval atmosphere that once was.
The first tourist encounter happened at Piazza della Cisterna, so called in remembrance of an old well. It is your regular large square where everybody meets, gossips, laughs, and eats gelato.
But… wait a minute… what is that huge line up over there!? It is the Dondoli Gelateria, renown for being the winner of the Italian Gelato World Cup!!! I had forgotten how seriously Italian take their gelato! Inside the tiny shop, it was pandemonium, and there were so many people in front of the counter, you might as well have ordered blindfolded! From the back row, my lips moved to say “pistachio”, and a cone appeared, with the desired flavour… You know the real kicker? Across from Dondoli, there was another lineup for The Best Gelato in the World! I guess everybody is a connoisseur!
Back to our walk: The Romanesque cathedral is worth stopping by because, like all churches in Italy, it is a museum of art, history, and architecture (a side chapel is dedicated to Santa Fina, as she was buried there).
The best part, for me, was walking through ancient streets, up to the Rocca, where the hilltop views of the Tuscan countryside were amazing. We also encountered Dante Alighieri (author of the “Divine Comedy”), dressed in his red robe and bonnet, reciting without a single flaw the entire first canto of the Purgatory. Absolutely “divine” (no pun intended…).
Arriving at our hotel in Siena: Hotel Garden (gardenhotel.it), a great place that we highly recommend, even if this time of the year doesn’t do it justice. The gardens blooms are shy, and swimming is still out of the question!
Dinner, then off to a good night sleep.