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Jill McCracken’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 19 Feb 2011

Location: San Gimignano, Italy

MapTour of Tuscany - SAN GIMIGNANO & PISA

San Gimignano is a great little town that sits on a hill looking over the Elas Valley. Now it is a touristy place that has rediscovered agriculture but it used to be quite powerful during the 1200s. There were incredible power struggles between the Ardinghelli family (Guelphs) and the Salvucci family and the town's population was drastically reduced during the Black Plague. The stunning skyline of towers dates back to the 11th and 13th centuries, but only 14 stand now whereas there used to be many, many more. The Salvucci family responded in a quarrel by building two towers in the Piazza della Erbe that were each shorter than the maximum height but were arranged so close together as to make it clear that their combined height would be higher than anything built by the commune [see photos].

It turns out that Dante mentioned San Gimignano in the Divine Comedy and we actually heard a busker reciting it in the Rocca courtyard when we explored the city! E. M. Forester hardly romanticized this location in "Where Angels Fear to Tread". There were painters and harpists in the garden courtyard where we climbed to the top of a tower and took in the beautiful views of the Tuscan countryside.

SG also has the prestige of winning the World's Greatest Gelato award so we had to try some! I purchased some alabaster gifts for folks at home. We hopped back on the bus and had a little nap on the way to Pisa. We passed hilltop hamlets, castles and scores of cypress trees standing guard to the expensive villas. For any Twilight fan readers, we also passed Volterra (home of some sort of vampires or something.....)

It turns out that there's nothing much to do in Pisa except check out the Field of Miracles and the leaning Tower. By that time of day I was pretty exhausted anyway though so it worked out for the best. The area that we were in was sort of seedy and made me feel uncomfortable. Our stay there was only about an hour though and then we headed back to Florence.