The last visit on the Tuscany trip was first to San Gimignano. San Gimignano is a small, walled medieval hill town known as the Town of Fine Towers, it is famous for its medieval architecture, unique in the preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses, which, with its hilltop setting and encircling walls form "an unforgettable skyline".
Within the walls, the well-preserved buildings include notable examples of both Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with outstanding examples of secular buildings as well as churches.
The Palazzo Comunale, also known as the People's palace of San Gimignano has been the seat of the civic authority in the commune since the 13th century.
We wandered around taking in the alleyways
then I found a little shop selling the most beautiful hand stitched Italian leather handbags! Oh Joy! You ladies reading this will understand why I just had to buy one, they were a fantastic price and the smell of leather was divine.
It was time to get on the road again to Sienna. Sienna, like other Tuscan hill towns, was first settled in the time of the Etruscans (c. 900–400 BC) when it was inhabited by a tribe called the Saina. The Etruscans were an advanced people who changed the face of central Italy through their use of irrigation to reclaim previously unfarmable land, and their custom of building their settlements in well-defended hill forts. A Roman town called Saena Julia was founded at the site in the time of the Emperor Augustus. The first document mentioning it dates from AD 70.
We made our way through the winding streets, taking in the medieval cityscape,
stopping for lunch in a small bar,
before making our way to The Piazza del Campo, the shell-shaped town square, which unfurls before the Palazzo Pubblico with its tall Torre del Mangia, itself a great work of architecture, houses yet another important art museum.
The Piazza del Campo dips to the centre resembling a bowl, surrounded on all sides by hotels, shops and restaurants.
A pageant, the Corteo Storico, precedes the race, attracting visitors and spectators from around the world. The spectators crowd the bowl at the centre of the square whilst the race circles the Piazza del Campo, on which a thick layer of dirt has been laid, three times and usually lasts no more than 90 seconds. It is common for a few of the jockeys to be thrown off their horses while making the treacherous turns in the piazza, and indeed, it is usual to see unmounted horses finishing the race without their jockeys. We weren't there at the time of the race so obviously didn't get a photo but I have borrowed two from Wikipedia to give you an idea of the numbers of spectators and the race itself.
We walked away from the Piazza and found the beautiful cathedral,
then ventured further through the back streets where we found the steps leading to the back of the cathedral.
I would like to say the journey to the airport the following morning was uneventful but it was very ,as we got caught in a huge traffic jam on the motorway and instead of checking in two hours before our flight left we had only 40 minutes to check in, get through security and board the plane - PHEW! Thankfully we did make it and the flight home was smooth.
We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Tuscany, I hope you have too. The next time I post, in a few weeks time, will be to tell you about our visit to China, I hope you'll join me for that.