So we took a side tour of some towns we wanted to see. Even though they could be visited separately (and cheaper), the time it would take seemed to make the price ok.
The tour started with the hill top town of San Gimignano, known for the tower homes! In the medieval era- about 1100 to 1300- the town held contests for families to build the highest tower home. Not long after, the importance of the city diminished to almost nothing, which is good for us!! The town is really small, with one major tower: Torres Grosse, the town hall. We of course climbed it. Got some good photos of the town itself and some of the tower homes. stupidly, I did not get a photo of the city tower. It is the highest tower in the region. I have wanted to visit this town ever since I first read about it in the 70's! Climbing the stairs in the tower was really an experience- going up was no problem. But going down the light had changed, and looking at the stairs, they are see-thru steel mesh! The first step I took, I looked down and saw how far down I had to walk! My stomach churned, and my first thought was that after 1400 years, the tower was about to collapse:-). It didn't, but what an experience!
The town square from atop the tower
Town square at street level- as you can see, we were not the only ones interested in visiting:-)
The town from top the tower- this is the section of town from outside the walls, up the main (only) street to the city hall and main square.
Me at the top- check out the verdant hills! (don't you love the word "verdant"?!!!)
Another view of the main square
Off to Siena, where we spent about 3 hours. First, beautiful! It actually deserved a couple days by itself rather than a few hours on a side trip. The city is known for the color Burnt Siena because of the color of the tile. Also, the main square, or Campo, was the sight for Roman chariot races, then horse races after the fall of Rome. The Cathedral is magnificent! It uses the same colors as Florence: white marble and black marble, although it is really dark green (go figure;-)). The interior of the Siena cathedral was beautiful- the entire floor was inlaid marble, they had a library of medieval manuscripts, and tons of art. Much better than the dark, vacant interiors of both Florence And Milan Cathedrals!
The Cathedral and town square from the road side. We joked about the best way to get rid of the tree!
The Cathedral floor was completely covered with inlaid and detailed art
The front of the Cathedral
Interior of the Cathedal
Detail from a Medieval book- their art was so excellent!
The old town hall in the Campo (main square) we did not climb this tower:-)
Rich in the main square (Campo)
Then off to Monteriggione, where we spent only about 45 minutes. It is an ancient fortress town where 47 people currently live:-) It has a wall with towers, a main square, a couple restaurants and a few shops. I loved it!!!!! It is all brick and 1500 years old!
Rich at the back gate
Main (and only) square
Outside the wall!
And of course, nothing in Italy is complete without lunch and wine tasting! Sadly, we had the wine before we went to Siena, so it was a sleepy tour:-)