This week we had our last tour with the whole group. We spent Tuesday between Siena and San Gimignano. Probably my favorite two cities, next to Cinque Terre of course. We started the day in Siena. Siena was medieval Florence's archrival. Florence eventually won the battle for political and economic superiority, but today Siena competes quite well for the tourists. In the late 13th and early 14th centuries, Siena used to be a major banking and military power. It was even bigger than Paris with a population of 60,000. But in 1348, the plague hit Siena and wiped out over 1/3 of their population. The city never recovered. In the 1550s, Florence conquered the city. Fortunately for us, it's political and economic irrelevance managed to freeze Siena in medieval times. Today, Siena's population is still 60,000 compared with Florence's 420,000.
|The old walled city of Siena|
|Church of San Domenico|
|The goose district announces the birth of a baby girl with a pink ribbon.|
|Il Camp, scene of the Palio horse race|
Siena was interesting both in a physical and cultural way. The city is trapped in time and many of the cultural events are as well. Pedestrians rule in the old center of Siena making it easy to take a relaxing stroll. We did just that...wandering narrow streets lined with colorful flags and large iron rings to tether horses. Bellissimo!
From Siena, we moved on to another midieval city trapped in time, San Gimignano. This is the epitome of a Tuscan hill town with 14 medieval towers still standing (out of an original 72). In the 13th century --back in the days of Romeo and Juliet--feuding noble families ran the town. They would periodically battle things out from the protection of their respective family towers.
|Porta San Gimignano|
In the 14th century, San Gimignano's good times turned really bad. Yes...you guessed it...the Black Plague attacked the city for 6 months. This left the once mighty town with barely 4,000 survivors. Like Siena, San Gimignano came under the rule of Florence and Florence redirected the vital trade route away from the town. The town never recovered and poverty left it stuck in a midieval time wartp. Also, due to its lack of importance, it has survived almost completely in tact in spite of all the European wars. This well-preserved city scape is ironically responsible for the town's current prosperity.
The Towers of San Gimignano
And inside this walled city is new treasure, not of gold or silver, but....gelato! Gelateria Pluripremiata whose master gelato maker has won the offical Gelato World Cup! Of course we had to sample. I had pink grapefruit, peach, and sparkling wine. It was molto buono!
|World famous gelato|
|The whole gang!|