Published: September 3rd 2009September 3rd 2009
August 25, 2009 - San Gimignano & Volterra, Italy
I slept in today while Andrew took a bike ride. He said it was inspiring and beautiful - which means hilly and hard to me. We had a nice breakfast of .78 cent fruit flakes (cereal is very chap here), coffee and lovely juice and headed out to find our way to the northern hilltop towns of San Gimignano and Volterra just northwest of Siena. We passed tons of vineyards on the way. I didn’t realize how arid and dry Tuscany was. The soil that is not covered by grape vines, sunflowers or corn is turned over and looks like hard little boulders. I am surprised that anything can grow here.
The back-roads are empty, narrow and keep winding up. The views are breathtaking.￼ This reminds us why we are doing this trip by campervan so we can see this. We are not able to really capture what we see in a photograph...rolling hills as far and you can see with outlines of tall, slender cypress trees in the background. There are square patches in the distance with perfectly rowed grape vines. Next to that is a field of over
cooked sunflowers - like me, they are a bit wilted and tired but very happy to be here. Sunflowers are used for seeds and the oil in this area. Every 5 or so miles there is a gorgeous hilltop town in the distance with imposing stone walls, church steeples and a clock tower. Scattered around the towns are villas and farmhouses. All of the buildings match in terra cotta tones.
￼The first hilltop town we visit is San Gimignano, known as the Medieval Manhattan because of it’s many towers. We parked a few miles back and rode into town on our bikes. I wore a dress today so Andrew said I looked very Italian. If that means sweaty and out of breath riding up to the steep town, then, Si, Italianiano! San Gimignano was crowded on the main streets and shops were filled with mostly wine from the region and items made from Alabaster which is mined in the area. We first went to the main piazza - Piazza del Duomo which opened up to a huge square that looked like something the Gladiators would have fought in. The town had a medieval and dungeoness decor to it. They
had 2 torture museums here. It surprises me that a small town like this could support 2 torture museums. We passed on them both as we did the torture museum in Germany - who does torture better than the Germans? Instead we opted for a gelato and a sit in the Piazza with all of the other tourists.
The next hilltop town, Volterra, was my favorite. I recently read the Twilight books where the ruling vampires come from Volterra. I could see vampires wanting to live here, The town has really capitalized on the books and you see clever marketing promoting the books everywhere. We saw the Twilight books, T-shirts, calendars and everything in alabaster painted with the red flower logo from the “New Moon” book. They even had a Twilight gelato flavor. It was something chocolate with red syrup throughout to look like blood.
The town is perfectly quaint and easy to get around in. Volterra is very old with history and was home to the Etruscans, dated back to 1,000BC. We visited the Etruscan Museum which was very interesting. Filled with ancient tombs carved of Alabaster. The Etruscans where very spiritual people and based on the artifacts
found, they where a culture way ahead of their time.
We loved Volterra but forgot the camera in the van so we don’t have any pictures of it, just fond memories.
There are more photos below