We took a day to visit 2 of Central Italy’s hill towns. And whilst we had some challenges with parking and a shocking lunch in Volterra, it was a great day out!
The towers of San Gimignano…
The day started a bit earlier than planned as we woke up to a vicious electrical storm and pouring rain at 6am. It was black as midnight except for the radiant flashes beaming across the sky and lighting up the bedroom (that was before we closed all the shutters and bunkered down). Fortunately we managed to find the electrical board to turn everything on when we lost power. And there was enough water left in the pipes to wash (ourselves and hair) as the power to the water pump must’ve gone off too.
We had eggs and toast before heading off, so on arrival in San Gimignano (Province of Siena) soon after 10am, we skipped coffee and headed straight for the Torre Grossa (the highest of 14 towers in the town) and the Musei Civici to get there before the tourist buses arrived. The 218 steps of the tower were worth the climb for an amazing view of the town and surrounding countryside. The artworks in the Civic Museum were interesting albeit a bit shiny for our taste. We did like the 1422 altarpiece by Taddeo di Bartolo showing St Gimignano holding the town in his hands.
More cannoli! Time for a coffee and treat before continuing on our walk around the town.
The scale model made of clay showed the town as it was in the 1300s, including the 72 original towers. Gave a great perspective of what life was like. And the wine museum gave us an opportunity to taste the local white wine – Vernaccia di San Gimignano. A bit light for us – like Semillon – but worth trying.
We debated whether to have lunch in San Gimignano. Walter was keen on some of the pork. In the end we decided to head off to another town – Volterra
Off to Volterra
Half an hour down the road, in the Provence of Pisa, is Volterra. We made the mistake of visiting on Saturday which is market day. Even though the markets were closed for the day, stalls were still packing up, so most of the parking areas were full. But persistence paid and we managed to find a spot. Unfortunately we were tired and hungry by this stage, and whilst trying to orientated ourselves to find a restaurant that was recommended, we stumbled across a nice looking Trattoria. A big mistake!! So far, the worst meal that we’ve had in Italy (and most places I’d say). If you ever go to Volterra, unless they improve, I’d stay away from Il Poggio, near the Etruscan Arch.
The original Etruscan city gate was erected in the 7th century B.C. It still stands thanks to the local citizens who buried it in stones in 1944, to keep the Nazi Army from blowing it up as a means to stop the advancing Allies. We also enjoyed seeing the Roman Theatre. Built in the 1st century B.C.
We did like the town though, so it was worth the parking and food challenges. And we discovered a nice quirky bar for another macchiato.
Our drive home took us via a slightly different route. And we were lucky to stumble across another historic town. Unfortunately we were too tired to stop and have a look around, but we certainly loved what we saw.