Today, we were up early and out to see the the towering town of San Gimignano, set high among the Tuscan hills. The scenery is beyond belief and early in the day, there was mist rising from the land that gave a light silver blanket covering the meadows. Soon, the sun warmed the land and revealed the spectacular jewel tones of the vineyards and olive trees in the fall.
On our way, we stopped at a very solemn and thought-provoking American war memorial just outside Florence, the Florence American Cemetery and Memorial. It is impossible for most not to shed a tear while thinking of all of the young Allied men who died for our freedom. May we always remember these brave soldiers…
Once in San Gimignano, we climbed the hills and soon were at the gates of this tiny tower village and then within the first piazza. Farmers and wine makers were setting up their stalls when we arrived. The gelato shops were busy, even first thing in the morning!
We climbed higher as we admired the ancient towers and medieval architecture and finally made it to the ruins of the fortress on the pinnacle of the highest hill. One can see over the lands for many miles and we can all understand why it was built there for defense from marauders long ago.
On the way down, we stopped to look at the central village cistern where the villagers would have drawn water, and also at the very ancient frescoes that are still colorful after hundreds of years.
After that, we went back on the bus for yet another wonderful afternoon of wine tasting and a light lunch. I have to say that “light” lunches in Italy are huge! The lunch consisted of much cheese, salami, salad and olives served with Tuscan breads and sweet-tasting biscotti. This was all eaten while learning how to properly taste wonderful Tuscan white and red wines, plus a few sips of excellent dessert wines. Oh, the taste of the truffle-infused olive oil is beyond belief! Many of us ordered mixed cases of wines and oils to greet us at our homes later this month.
We drove to Siena and walked off our lunch and wine with a wonderful and informative tour of this very famous town. The tour included a history of the summer horse races, the beginnings of the town and a tour of the famous cathedral that has its magnificent marble cut floor on display at this moment.
After the tour, we wandered through the tiny alleys back to the main square for more sightseeing, shopping and a cup of espresso. The coffee in Italy has to be the best in the world. For all you coffee lovers, this is the country to visit. Tiny stand-up shops open by six in the morning and their coffee is excellent and often less than $1.50 USD. That alone is a reason to visit Italy!
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at a deli and bought more Pecorino Romano cheese, grilled vegetables, prosciutto ham, local wine and fresh Tuscan bread to share with our friends at a picnic on the hotel’s grounds. It was the perfect way to finish a dream of a day!