Sunday, August 19, 2007

San Gimignano - at last!

Boak continues to put the ‘fang’ into “Fangio”. Yesterday he revved the rented Nissan and we were off again, this time zipping up to the area between Siena and Florence, to the little hill town famous for its towers, San Gimignano.

I’ve been trying to get to San Gimignano for almost twenty years. That’s how long it’s been since I first walked into the Tourist Information office at the railway station in Florence and asked if there were buses that could take me to any of the famous hill-towns in Tuscany. At that stage I had no names of towns to go by, just vague pictures in my mind, memories of places I’d read about.

“Where do you want to go?” was the reply.
“I don’t mind,” I had replied. “Any of those beautiful little walled towns Tuscany is famous for. “
“You have to tell me where you want to go”, came the petulant reply.

And there we had remained - a Florentine stand-off. San Gimignano could have had my meagre tourist lire (as they then were) twenty years ago, but better late than never, and yesterday I finally managed to leave a few Euros there.

The weather was hotter than it was earlier in the week, and after a long trek from the dirt road about a kilometre from town where we were forced to park our car, all official car parks being full, we abandoned our initial plan to climb up the tower on the Palazzo Communale from where the view across the terracotta-tiled rooftops is apparently spectacular. (There used to be 73 towers in San Gimignano - now there are 14, and twice as many leather goods shops). Instead we explored the cool palazzo, took lots of photos of buildings, and wandered the narrow, crowded (pedestrian-only) streets browsing in shops and deeply inhaling the aroma whenever we passed a leather shop.

Eventually we settled ourselves at a table on the shady side of the street and ordered ice-cold Cokes, and while I stitched and Boak read his book we watched the passing parade of visitors like ourselves, snapping photos and pointing and licking gelati.

We didn’t neglect the gelati either. A cone with two scoops for each of us – mango and saffron for me, and chocolate and saffron for Boak. Saffron? Apparently it’s the local specialty, so we had to try it, but it was quite ordinary and not nearly as exciting as the delicious fruit flavours I’ve had here. Still, our cold gelati cones kept us cool for the long walk, mercifully downhill, back to our car and the 3 hour ‘fang’ home via the autostrada.

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