Monteriggioni e San Gimignano

Day 25 – Monteriggioni e San Gimignano

Daily Wrap-Up

One Word
  • Barb: Walls
  • Mike: Looming
  • Jen: Fog
Two Words
  • Barb: Medieval stones
  • Mike: Serendipitous drive
  • Jen: Award-winning gelato
Three or Four Words
  • Barb: Another cool scenic drive
  • Mike: Hill town skyscrapers
  • Jen: Step in time
One Sentence
  • Barb: Love those Collegiata fresco cycles.
  • Mike: I think there may be more towers in San Gimignano than there are representations of the Madonna and child.
  • Jen: The road between San Gimignano and 439D beats the heck out of the autostrade.

It’s back to hilltowns today, another of my favorite things here in Italy.


Monteriggioni, built in 1203 to guard Siena’s northern border, is the poster child for hilltowns, often photographed from the air, perhaps because it fits easily into a frame while showing enough details to make the image interesting and inviting. It’s a teeny-tiny place with all of three roads. We walked them all plus an informal path outside the wall. We might have walked on top of the wall, but this adventure is closed on Tuesdays, which is when we happened to be there. Once again, we find the unpredictable closing days/times inconvenient.

Screen shot of a Google image search for "Monteriggioni."

A Google image search for “Monteriggioni” returned this. Five of the top six images are aerial shots.

Some interesting tidbits I noted about the town are as follows:

  • Dante compared the towers on the wall here to the titans guarding hell.
  • The church we popped into had music playing. I wish more churches had music playing while we visited.
  • It seems to be an artist community. Among other things, there was a hand loom workshop and a shoemaker.
  • There is a large green swath between interior buildings and the wall, and this provides lovely, productive garden space for residents. I’m surprised more hilltowns don’t have a green space between the wall and interior buildings.
Stairs with pots of flowers and greenery on every step.

Stairway to Home in Monteriggioni.

Tiny ridges in the cobblestone road divert water to the outer edges.

Look how they divert water on the sloped entrance. Pretty and practical.

San Gimignano

San Gimignano is famous for its towers. Not towers that line the protective walls or towers on a grand castle but private towers built hither and thither through the town by noble families for personal protection, perhaps from rival noble families within town walls; I’m not sure. There used to be many more than the thirteen that remain today.

We were waiting and hoping for a sunny, blue-sky day, but we’re running out of days. I have to say, I rather like the way the towers loom in the fog, playing hide-and-seek.

Towers loom in the fog in San Gimignano.

Towers loom in the fog in San Gimignano.

We visited the Collegiata, an 11th-century church with wall-to-wall-to-ceiling frescoes of the Old Testament and Jesus’ life. I was pleased with how many of the stories I could identify—I’ve come a long way! And there was a giant painting of Saint Sebastian pierced with arrows.

Sebastian’s story goes something like this: He was serving in the guard under Diocletian, who was anti-Christian. Sebastian, however, was a stalwart Christian, and he went about encouraging and supporting other Christians, performing miracles, and making new Christians.

As you might guess, this displeased Diocletian when he found out about it. He ordered Sebastian taken out in a field, tied to a tree, and shot with arrows.

Soldiers executed the order and left Sebastian for dead.

But Sebastian did not die. Irene of Rome (also destined to become a saint) went to bury his body and found he was still alive, so she took him home and healed him.

You might think Sebastian would have learned something from the arrow incident, but apparently not. Sebastian later stood on a step and harangued Diocletian as he passed by. This time, Diocletian had Sebastian clubbed to death, and it took. The end.

Saints Rocco and Sebastian

I found one! This is from our day in Lucca, but it’s a painting with Saints Rocco and Sebastian. Rocco, he’s the guy with his robe up and pants down; Sebastian is the guy holding the arrow. More often than not, Sebastian has arrows piercing him, but I haven’t found such an image in our collection. We weren’t allowed to take pics in the Collegiata today.

Despite the cold temperature, we were compelled to get gelato because we discovered a shop in the Piazza della Cisterna that is owned by a Gelato World Champion. I am not making this up. How Barb and Mike missed this in the guide books is beyond me, but it seemed to surprise them as much as it surprised me.

I had caramel and passionfruit—a dreadful combination but individually delicious. I will not argue with their World Champion status. The Pisa gelato is a close second, and Lexi’s shop is a respectable third in my ranking to date.

Stuffed wild boars adorn the doorway of a shop in San Gimignano.

I don’ t have any World Champion Gelato pictures, but I do have these nice close-ups of stuffed cinghiales. We saw live ones a few nights ago, and I can connect these to the gelato theme by saying we’re making pigs of ourselves by indulging in daily gelato. See? It works.

Categories: Italy, Travel

4 replies »

  1. Thanks, Sandra! I love writing these posts, recapping the experiences, and I’m grateful to have friends who read and comment.

  2. And the World Champion Gelato had the added advantage of actually having real sugar cones! Something I’ve never seen in Italy before. Yum! (I, of course, had deep, dark chocolate and yogurt, which is what I almost always get. Yogurt gelato has supplanted riso–rice, kinda tastes like rice pudding–as my second favorite flavor–behind chocolate, of course.)

  3. That’s right, sugar cones. And the scoops of gelato were big, too. Mike finished the passionfruit for me, but I got the last bite of cone.

    Yogurt gelato…ew. To each her own to eat.