Monday 7 September 2015

Tuscany Part 6 Finale..........

OK the final part of our Tuscany travels today.   Need to finish this trip now as we are off to China next Tuesday!

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.
 the Collegiate Church contains frescos and cycles dating from the 14th and 15th centuries.
The first church on the site was begun in the 10th century. During the early 12th century the importance of San Gimignano, and its principal church, grew steadily, owing to the town's location on the pilgrimage route to Rome. The present church on this site was consecrated on 21 November 1148 and dedicated to St. Geminianus (San Gimignano) in the presence of Pope Eugenius III and 14 prelates

We wandered around taking in the alleyways
 and winding streets,

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.

The Piazza is also the site for the Palio horse race which is held twice each year, on July 2 and August 16 consists of ten horses and riders, bareback and dressed in the appropriate colours, represent ten of the seventeen contrade, or city wards.

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.
We would have liked to have stayed longer in Sienna but unfortunately it was time to head back to the coach for the journey back to the hotel for our final evening and an early night, as we were leaving Tuscany very early the following morning.

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.