As I walked out of the Villa this morning, I was greeted by Alice(pronounced Alisha). She has been a a guide for the past fifteen years & loves telling the story of San Gimignano(known as "little Manhattan"). San Gimignano is a small walled medieval town, which has tall walls and narrow streets. It is the medieval "skyscrapers" that set the town apart from other towns. Today there are only 14 towers that remain, but at the height of the Guelph-Ghibelune conflict there was a multitude of more than 70 towers. The people were able to cross the town by rooftop rather than by road.
The towers were built partly for defensive purposes. Useful for pouring boiling oil on attacking enemies, but also the towers were for bolstering the egos of their owners, who competed with the others to see who could build the highest tower in town.
Today, San Gimignano is known for the shopping. It was here that I purchased two pairs of leather shoes and had the best gelato(saffron cream). Gelateria Dondoli was voted as the #1 Gelato World Champions in 2016.
After shopping, we loaded on the bus and headed to Poggio Alloto to have lunch and to view the breathtaking landscape view of the towers(San Gimignano).
Our last stop for the day was Siena, another of Italy's best-preserved medieval city. Walking through the city, we saw the medieval contrade, which are the 17 districts that have been historically divided. The contrades are a vibrant part of modern life. You see symbols of the contrada--Tartuca(turtle), Oca(goose), Istrice(porcupine), Torre(tower), which are on banners and engraved on building walls. The Sienese still strongly identify with the contrada where they were born and raised. This is very visible during the centuries-old Palio, a twice yearly(July 2 & August 16) horse race, which is held in the Piazza del Campo. Almost 35,000 people attend this event.
It was another great of discovering Tuscany!