• Day341

    Day 342: San Gimignano

    January 22, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 5 °C

    Time to head out of the city and start exploring Tuscany! Left the apartment quite early, walked over to the station and caught the shuttle bus to the airport, a short 20 minute ride. We're in the habit of arriving our car hires from the local airport rather than in town because generally the rates and availability is much better - it's more expensive for companies to keep much stock in the city carparks than at the airport.

    Everything went smoothly with the pickup (I was mildly concerned because the T&Cs stated I needed an International Driver's Permit and mine had expired, though it had never been looked at once in the past 12 months). Our car this time is a Renault Megane Estate - basically a small station wagon. Not the best car for small Italian roads, but I'll manage! Quite nice inside with lots of good features.

    We hit the freeway and headed east towards the small town of San Gimignano, today's world heritage site. This is a typical Tuscan hilltop town, still built from stone and surrounded by walls. We were basically the only people in an enormous carpark on arrival, which boded well - apparently these small Tuscan towns are absolute bedlam for 6 months of the year.

    The main distinguishing feature of San Gimignano are the tower houses, built in the 14th and 15th centuries by competing noble families. Some of them reach up to 70 metres high which is absolutely incredible, and apparently at one point there was around 70 of the tower houses! It's not a particularly big town either, so it must have looked like a medieval Manhattan or something back in the day.

    We wandered the streets and then I decided to climb the Torre Grand, or the large tower, attached to the town hall. It's now the tallest tower in town, as it was eventually decreed that nobody could build a house taller than the town hall tower. Fantastic views in every direction from the top, completely unimpeded by other towers. Just a shame that there's only 12 of the towers left these days!

    Descended back down and wandered the last few streets of the town, filming as we went. In the end it was pretty quick, as although it was a really nice town there genuinely wasn't that much to see. 90% of the shops and restaurants were closed due to the off-season, so it was mainly just a locals enjoying their town along with a handful of tourists. Quite nice really. We had a good little lunch too in a cafe; I had a lasagne and Shandos a pasta dish.

    Exhausted with the possibilities of the small town, we hopped back in the car and headed for our accommodation for the night - a hotel this time! It's about halfway between San Gimignano and the large town of Siena where we'll visit tomorrow. Checked in to our room (very large and a definite bargain due to the season), relaxed for a couple of hours then headed for dinner at the hotel restaurant.

    It's a large, campus-style hotel and the restaurant was a few minutes walk away by the large pool, though it's obviously still far too cold for swimming! It felt for quite a while like we were the only guests at the hotel, but over the next hour a few others trickled in. We had a fantastic dinner - a large shared plate of appetisers including cured meats, beef tartare, local pecorino, bruschetta and olives, and for mains Shandos had a tagliatelle with rabbit ragout while I had ravioli with pork cheek and truffle. Delicious, though we spent a bit more than intended! At least the room was cheap.
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