I have seen Pisa with its leaning tower a half dozen times, and I have driven with my husband from Florence to Perugia in nearby Umbria, so we had been awed by what is in fact Tuscany, and Florence as its capital.
But the Tuscany countryside many of you know from films and books of recent years is an area we had not explored in detail -- until now.
Here are a few of the panoramas we would like to share with you.
First, San Gimignano with its many towers dating back to the first millennium. Buildings along its medieval streets were constructed anywhere from 1000 to 1400 and beyond.
The main square
An ancient castle still standing guard, with vines of caper plants pouring down its walls
After walking the whole town and soaking up its wonderful vibe, we stopped for a cold drink in the main square, listened to the medieval clock chime noon, then moved on to Siena, about 90 minutes away.
Siena is the home of the most authentic Italian language in all of Italy. It is also famous for its yearly Paglio - a horse race in its main conch-shaped square. The various neighborhood "Quarters" surround the square and each has its own flag and its own horse entered into this historic race. The men of Siena participate heartily (women have no role in the Paglio since Middle Age rules excluded them and that has never been changed.) The men still wear ancient costumes (or replicas of those) in the colors of their "Quarter." The winning horse is allowed into the cathedral as a demonstration of the honor paid to that animal for winning the race. Never doubt that this isn't a VERY serious matter -- even today -- among the Sienesi. If a woman marries a man from another Quarter, on the day of the actual race she goes to her parents' home in her native Quarter not to participate in any way with her husband's rival territory!
Here are some images of lovely Siena:
Siena's Main Square where the Paglio is held
We had a lovely lunch in Siena at a restaurant called "Le Sorelline" (The Little Sisters) which we HIGHLY recommend. All the pastas as well as the desserts are made fresh DAILY....the main courses were superb and the prices reasonable (party of 4, 90 Euros or about $120. total or $30. per person!)
Around 4 PM se said good-bye to Siena and headed through the breathtaking Tuscan countryside toward our last stop, Piensa...but I'll just let these images speak for themselves.
Looks like a post card, right??
Finally, the fairytale town of Pienza, one of the most well-kept, meticulously manicures towns I have ever visited.
Typical Pienza side street
So we said farewell to breathtaking, Pienza hoping that
THESE two (on the side of Pienza's duomo) will last as long as
uh..duhh..uh..duhh...That's All Folks! (for now anyway)