We love Italy, that amazing country surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, home of the Occidental culture, a land of art and gastronomy. Italy is a synonym of good wine, better music and lots of romanticism. And the best part of it is that we are quite close to such a paradise. So there was no better way to celebrate Dídac’s birthday last summer than a short break to Tuscany.
Despite our trip mainly took place between Pisa and Firenze, we decided to rent a car in Pisa to spend a day driving (without map and without GPS!) to discover some hotspots in the region. In our plan we had two must stops: San Gimignano and Siena, but we still had time to end our day with a nice dinner in Monteriggioni.
Pisa is the home for the secondary airport of Firenze and a good place to land if you want to discover the region in a low cost manner (fortunately, we found the perfect flights from Girona to Pisa!). However, the offer of car rental companies in the city centre (where we were staying) is quite reduced, and most of the companies are based in the airport. But the airport is close to the centre, so we had no trouble to go back to the airport early in the morning to pick up our car, which was, of course, a Fiat 500 (Cinquecento).
The first stop in our route was San Gimignano, a small World Heritage village built at the top of a hill. During medieval times families competed among them to construct the highest towers and nowadays around 15 towers out of 72 that have survived give its own character to the town. Getting to San Gimignano was not easy for us. Road signs were not always clear and, although we had the Google-made route in our minds, we even had to stop at a petrol station to ask for instructions. But as soon as we saw San Gimignano’s skyline in the horizon we knew that we had taken the right way.
We parked the car in one of the parking areas that have been enabled around the village centre and got lost in the streets of San Gimignano, which are full of shops where you can buy typical products of the region (such as a nice hat for Dídac!). And we kept walking towards the Piazza del Duomo where we found, in our opinion, the main tourist attractions of the village: the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta (former Duomo) and the Torre Grossa (part of the Museo Civico), which is the highest tower in San Gimignano (54 meters high).
The first thing we did when we arrived to the Piazza was to buy our tickets and enter the Museo Civico, located in the Palazzo Comunale, where you can find the famous “Sala di Dante”, decorated with nice frescos, and a picture gallery. From there we went up to the top of the Torre Grossa. The views from the tower were breathtaking and the stone colour of the old city mixed with Tuscany’s green. We were so happy to be there, far from modernity and crowds, with one of Italy’s most beautiful landscapes at our feet.
Later, we visited the Collegiata. It would be difficult for us to choose the most stunning church among all that we visited in our trip to Tuscany, but the Collegiata is so exceptional due to the frescos decoration added during the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries. There is no corner inside the church that has not been decorated. We promise you that it is worth a visit!
After having lunch in San Gimignano (great pasta with truffle sauce!) we went back to our car and continued our trip to Siena, a city that welcomed us with a huge thunderstorm. But when the rain momentarily ceased we could leave the car and walk to the centre, towards that dreamy cathedral that we were yearning to visit.
During our walk we got to the Piazza del Campo, one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. Twice a year a horse race (the Palio di Siena) is held in the Piazza and this is not difficult to imagine when you see the immensity of that site. Unfortunately, access to the Torre del Mangia (adjacent to the Palazzo Pubblico) was closed due to the rain so we couldn’t go up.
Thus, we followed our promenade through the streets of Siena to the Duomo, built mainly in the 13th century in the Romanesque and Italian Gothic styles. The façade of the Duomo, full of sculptures, is really amazing and so it is the inside, where we got fascinated by the black and white marble stripes on walls and columns. The building is topped with a golden lantern by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Other great decorative elements are the mosaic floor and the ceiling of the colourful Piccolomini Library.
When we left Siena we thought that we still had time to make a quick visit to Monteriggioni, a medieval town placed as a defensive fortification that we had seen in lots of photos. So we wanted to be there, to cross its walls and get to its heart, the beautiful Piazza Roma. From the walls we could observe a beautiful sunset with a rainbow after the thunderstorms. We ended that intensive day with good pizza and calzone matched with red wine at the Ristorante Il Feudo.
We were finally back to Pisa at night, after getting a bit lost (for a second time!) in the Tuscany roads. But it didn’t matter because when we arrived at our hotel we were still impressed by the historic sites that we had just visited.