Basilica di Santa Maria NovellaThis "New" 13th century church was built on the site of a previous 9th century religious building. It's the principal Dominican church in Florence, situated near the main railway station that is named for the church. We've pretty much exhausted our interest in ABCs. And we've yet to investigate the Florence Duomo!
San GimignanoWe revisited the town and what a surprise - it looks no different than it did several years ago. We climbed the Torre Grossa, 214 steps up the tallest tower and were rewarded with a great view in all directions.
Rolling Tuscan hillsIn its heyday San Gimignano boasted 70 towers. But as the warring families conquered each other, they demolished the losers' towers and now 14 towers remain. The 1348 Black Plague devastated the town and it lay dormant for many centuries. It is only in the last century or so that the town has slowly revitalised. San Gimignano is also the only region to produce white Chianti wine, called Vernaccia.
MonteriggioniBuilt in the early 13th century by the city of Siena as a forward defence, fortified village. Siena and Florence warred for centuries until Florence finally triumphed in the mid 1500s.
SienaSiena's famous Piazza del Campo is the venue for the annual Palio horse races. On two evenings In July and August, 10 bare-back riders race clockwise around the square three times. The winner can be a riderless horse and it is as important to win as to prevent your rival from winning! The second horse is considered The Loser. The stones are covered with compacted soil, but even so it is a hairy race. The typical winning time for the 1300m race is 75 sec. The winner gets a banner and huge bragging rights over the defeated districts. Robyn with Carlos and Alex, from Colombia.
Duomo de SienaThe cathedral is impressive, especially its 50 or so marble-inlaid floor panels and the remarkably well-preserved 14th century frescos. Four Michelangelo statues adorn one of its chapels. Extensions to make it bigger than Florence's Duomo were well advanced, until the Black Plague struck. 60-70% of the population perished and the city took a long time to recover. The extensions were never completed. You can just see part of them, peeking over the building to the right of the Duomo.