Travel theme: Tradition (under the Tuscan Sun)

Ailsa of  “Where’s my backpack” fame, created a travel challenge: Tradition. I’m a bit late with my post, as the new challenge comes out tomorrow.

She asks us, “What is your interpretation of tradition? If you’d like to join in, create your own post, title it “Travel theme: tradition” and put a link to this page in your blog post to make it easy for others to find your post.”

So, continuing on from my “Florence” post:

From Florence, we drove through avenues of Cypress trees, past olive groves and vineyards reminiscent of the movie, “Under the Tuscan Sun,” whilst Andrea Bocelli serenaded us with his wonderful voice and Italian songs. Our next stop was to the World Heritage site, the typically Tuscan, Medieval town of San Gimignano. It is mainly famous for its medieval architecture, especially its towers, which may be seen from several kilometres outside the town. Despite the passing of the centuries, this town has managed to preserve its Medieval architecture and its charm, and today is considered to be one of Tuscany’s greatest treasures. The “city of the beautiful towers,” as it is often called, has been a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990.

The city was built on top of a hill about 300 meters high and enjoys a wonderful view of the entire Elsa Valley that surrounds it. Historical records going back to the 10th century mention that the city is named in honor of Saint Geminianus, a bishop from Modena.

We were able to spend a few hours, basking in the beauty of this ancient town, with its tall stone buildings and narrow streets.

The main square has the town’s 13th century water cistern, in the centre and is surrounded by some of the town’s majestic towers.

Everywhere you look, there is beautiful, traditional medieval architecture.

Whilst in other cities, such as Florence, most or all of their towers have been brought down due to wars, catastrophes, or urban renewal, San Gimignano has managed to conserve fourteen towers of varying heights which have become its international symbol.

The Punch and Judy show is an Italian tradition, and has roots in the 16th century Italian “Commedia dell’arte.”  The figure of Punch derives from the Neapolitan stock character of Pulcinella which was anglicised to Punchinello.

Another tradition of San Gimignano, is Wild Boar meat. This shop sells it in many forms, such as sausage and salami.

Out on the street, you can get a bread roll filled with slices of this Wild Boar, whilst it watches as you pull out your money. 😉

Another great Italian tradition is of course their delicious gelato, which I may have mentioned before. 😉 Ice cream is a very serious business, and we got to taste the best gelato in the world, made by master ice cream maker, Sergio Dondoli, of the Gelateria located in the central Piazza della Cisterna. Newspaper clippings on the walls of his establishment, in German, English and Italian, not to mention the letters from all over Europe, testify to his popularity. His chocolate ice-cream even won the title of the world’s “best ice-cream of the year.”

I know some of you have seen this before in my “food” post, but I think it bears looking at again.

Three scoops of our choice were included in our package, and I chose Chocolate Grand Marnier, Raspberry & Rosemary, and Creme do Patzi Chocolate Orange. So very yummy!

One place which I didn’t fancy going into, was the ‘Museo Torture’ which has on display all the incredible and terrifying devices and techniques of medieval torture, instruments for the execution of the death penalty, and interesting documents of the Santa Inquisizione, or Holy Inquisition, a medieval church court instituted to seek out and prosecute heretics with horrible torture practices.

All too soon it was time to leave for our hotel, and as we drove away from this town full of traditions, our guide told us that we were going to stop at the roadside for one last look back, as we sipped a very small glass of Vernaccia di San Gimignano.

A lovely end to a perfect day “under the Tuscan sun.”

Next stop Venice, via the Leaning Tower of Pisa.