Sunday, 15 December 2013

San Gimignano - that unpronounceable tower town

We arrived in this famous hill town on a rainy Monday morning and immediately found that we had to switch into urban battle mode - fighting to enter a parking lot, fighting to keep my parking ticket and fighting for a parking spot!  Are we really in Tuscany?

Although we had been warned about parking in San Gimignano by Rick Steves, we thought we had left things like faulty parking entrance gates and raging drivers behind in the city.  But no, cars were trying to enter the small parking lot from three directions through two small gates, one of which was not working very well.  An obviously stressed out female tried to grab the parking ticket from the driver in front of me because she had entered without taking a ticket from the intermittently malfunctioning ticket machine.  When that was unsuccessful, she tried to grab mine.  While I was able to defend myself it still left a slightly sour taste in my mouth.  What a beginning to what was supposed to be a peaceful Tuscan visit!

However, all went well after we entered the city gates  - no cars allowed.  We just had to battle the rain which was intermittent.  It was a bit of a downer but  it made the sunny part more precious.  It was a particularly gratifying moment when the sun suddenly came out at the end of our climb up the 218 steps of the Bell Tower.  Lo and behold - 360 degrees of Tuscan countryside spread out below us bathed in warm sunshine.  What a view!  It made us forget all the slippery cobblestones we had to wade through in the rain.

Panoramic view of the surrounding countryside from the Bell Tower. 

You can see from this angle the long narrow shape of the town

Beautiful gallery atop the courtyard
The Palazzo del Popolo and its Bell Tower

This 3 ton bell was the main bell in the tower since it was cast in the 14th century by a Florentine.  It was shattered into three pieces during the Second World War but wasn't taken down until 1952.  It was finally restored and placed under the loggia in 2010.

High-rises in the medieval town!  Apparently there are only 17 surviving towers from the original 72 towers, which were constructed as symbols of wealth and power -
surprise, surprise!

The Piazza della Cisterna with its beautiful stone well

We ate lunch in this small restaurant near the gates - good homestyle cooking

Yummy looking cookies

The Gelateria Dondoli claimed to be "GelatoWorld Champion" - recommended by Giuseppina (of the cooking school) - the mango and chocolate I tried was definitely superior to what I had in Florence.  Worth the lineup.

This looked like a good deal!
Che un paesaggio perfetto!

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