Grand Tour of Italy Day 8 Florence to Siena to San Gimignano

Day 8 Saturday March 23, 2013
Today is a free day in Florence to explore the many sights and museums.  Some of us have elected to take the optional tour to Siena and San Gimignano (with a wine tasting!) Before I left for this trip many friends told me Don't Miss Capri and Don't Miss Siena! They were right on both counts!
After breakfast, we board our bus and head south along the Chianti Way. Driving though Florence, Misia points out the English Cemetery which used to be outside of the city in the 15th century but as the city grew is now part of the thriving city center. We cross the Arno River and get a great view of Ponte Vecchio. Then start to climb up into the hills. We pass Forte Michelangelo and the villas of the wealthy Florentines.
More Images from Florence

As we approach Siena, Misia explains that Siena was know for banking. It was along the route from Rome to France and travelers would stop to get money to continue their travels. In Medieval Times tables were set up along the Via Roma to lend money to the travelers. She also points out the World War II American Cemetery.
We meet our guide Maria Elena in front of Basilica of San Domenico, also known as Basilica Cateriniana.
No photos inside and no hats for men.
Saint Catherine of Siena, was a tertiary of the Dominican Order, and a Scholastic philosopher and theologian. She also worked to bring the papacy of Gregory XI back to Rome from its displacement in France, and to establish peace among the Italian city-states. She was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church in 1970. She is one of the two patron saints of Italy, together with St. Francis of Assisi. St Catherine died in Rome on 29 April 1380. She was buried in the cemetery of Santa Maria sopra Minerva which lies near the Pantheon. The church here in Siena contains holy relics collected during the crusades--Saint Catherine's head and her index finger. 

We make our way to the Piazza del Campo, the sight of the famous horse race Palio de Siena.

We are on our way to the magnificent Cathedral of Siena  (Duomo di Siena).
They allow photography but no flash and again, no hats for men.
Interior Images of Siena Cathedral, click here.

I think the highlight for me was the Liberia Piccolminea. The frescoes were gorgeous and the books on display were breathtaking.
From Wikipedia: Adjoining the cathedral is the Piccolomini library, housing precious illuminated choir books and frescoes painted by the Umbrian Bernardino di Betto, called Pinturicchio, probably based on designs by Raphael.

The visual impact of these very colourful frescoes is stunning. The frescoes tell the story of the life of Siena's favourite son, cardinal Enea Silvio Piccolomini, who eventually became Pope Pius II. He was the uncle of cardinal Francesco Todeschini Piccolomini (then archbishop of Siena and the future pope Pius III), who commissioned this library in 1492 as a repository of the books and the manuscript collection of his uncle. The ceiling is covered with painted panels of mythological subjects. They were executed between 1502 and 1503 by Pinturicchio and his assistants.

Before exiting the church Maria Elena points out the Papal Coat of arms that is due to replaced later this week with Pope Francis' coat of arms soon.
We have a bit of free time to wander around Piazza del Campo then off on the bus to San Gimignano. As we are leaving the Piazza, Jay and I spot a poster...
The Boss is everywhere!

San Gimignano, is a small hilly, walled city in Tuscany know as the Town of Fine Towers.
Every time the lordship would change a new tower was built. They have 25 towers;  the Italians call it the Manhattan of Medieval Times.

We stopped for lunch at a Bar Pasticceria Gelateria called Boboli. I had the spaghetti pesto, Jay had the Insalata Boboli (tuna, egg and cheese) with coffee it came to 20.30 euros. We also stopped and bought some cookies at Pasticceria Armando E Marcella, a small bag full was 4 euros.

Back on the bus and ready for our wine tasting. We make our way to Tenuta Torciano. We are greeted warmly and loudly by "Crazy" Luigi.
Luigi gives us a lesson in how to properly taste and appreciate wine with various foods. He tempts us with his 30 year old balsamic vinegar and we all ooh and aah over the truffle oil. Quite an adventure. I'm glad Alfonso is driving because we all leave there a little tipsy.
More wine tasting images, click here.

We take a power nap on the bus ride back to Florence. A bunch of are getting together for dinner at Mostodocle. Misia was kind enough to make us a reservation, it is Saturday night and place will be rocking.
More Mostodolce images, click here.

What a long but exciting day. Tomorrow we head to Assisi--a town and comune of Italy in the province of Perugia in the Umbria region on the western flank of Monte Subasio. It was the birthplace of St. Francis, who founded the Franciscan religious order in the town in 1208, and St. Clare (Chiara d'Offreducci), the founder of the Poor Sisters, which later became the Order of Poor Clares after her death. The 19th-century Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows was also born in Assisi.

Next up Assisi!
Pubblicare domani!!! (Post tomorrow) 

Florence to Siena to San Gimignano March 23 Day 8 
Grand Tour of Italy
Go Ahead Tours 
March 16-30, 2013
Copyright ©2013 Nancy Nutile-McMenemy
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