Day 25 – Monteriggioni e San Gimignano
- Barb: Walls
- Mike: Looming
- Jen: Fog
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.