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Candelaria Design Tour Italy ~ Day 9 ~ San Gimignano & Siena

After yesterday's dreamlike experience of our splendid wedding it was time to get up at 4 am this morning and fly home....ahhh what a slap back to reality.....

Well we are flying somewhere over the Atlantic and after two movies, three naps, and a horrible airplane panini, after two weeks of food heaven, it seemed like a good time to catch up on the blog and the missing days between our Day 8 and Day 13. So here is Day 9 our trip to San Gimignano and Siena.

As with all the other days of our trip I love this day too. We started about 10 am allowing a little recovery time from the 6 hour cooking class feast from the night before. We set up our convoy and we were off over the hill and onto the highway bypassing Siena first and off to the country medieval village of San Gimignano.

San Gimignano is a beautiful medieval hilltown set in the hills and vineyards north of Chianti. What's sets this town apart are the seven towers that are still standing from the original 34 that once were there. We parked after a little trepidation due to the traffic from this towns tourist popularity. We walked up the hill and to the main street lined with beautiful stone buildings forming a canyon only interrupted by two delightful piazzas that when we arrived were filled with vendors for the morning market. As we made our way from shop to shop and to a stop for a quick bite and then a gelato the market had ended and the vendors packed up and you could experience the piazzas in a totally different way.

It is always easy to stay on the main road and be enslaved by the shops and tourist shops selling wine and cheap Pinocchio puppets but what you really need to do is wander up a tower or off a side road to the perimeter of the village for an amazing view of the countryside and back at the town. I love the age and feel of the buildings and the smattering of these dramatic and stoic towers. Your mind wonders what this village must have been like back in the dark ages or during the black plague and what life and culture must have been like in those days! The preservation of the architecture and absence of cars made this very easy to do and for a moment you could almost transpose yourself back 700 years!

With San Gimignano explored it was time to return to the cars, do our best to reassemble the convoy and make our way out of San Gimignano and down the winding hills and southward towards Siena - the rival of Florence!

We Google mapped my favorite parking lot in Siena and we all gradually found our way  to the lot and some spots to park. About a 15 minute walk and we were in a walled city. I LOVE Siena! It is probably my favorite city in least so far!  We walked down the main boulevard - all 20' in maximum width with 6 - 8 story buildings forming a winding canyon all leading to the exclamation of this city - the Piazza Del Campo. This is truly one of the best spaces in the world. Home of the annual Palio horse race held each July where each neighborhood in Siena challenges each other in a free for all horse race around the outer perimeter of this piazza.

We made our way to our final rendezvous spot, determined what time we would all meet here and then I led everyone to the Duomo for a tour of again, probably one of the best churches in Italy. Again, I love this structure and I am always in awe in the design and craftsmanship that was employed in its execution. It is truly a miracle and masterpiece of what man can produce when inspired. This year was special in that a series of the floor panels were uncovered for viewing and we were fortunate to have scheduled our trip during this period! Spectacular!!! This is definitely one of the must sees for any trip to Italy!

With the tour of the Duomo completed it was time to wander through town and back to the Piazza Del Campo and my favorite spot on the far Northeast corner of the piazza. Isabel and I sat down and ordered some grilled vegetables and mixed grilled meats and of course a bottle of wine. Then you just sit and enjoy life - people strolling around and through the piazza - no cars, just the background sound of people speaking Italian and the ever changing light at dusk was slowly descending on this Italian masterpiece of space and life.

Gradually all of our travelers trickled to our rendezvous spot and joined Isabel and I and the laughter and conversations became more and more amplified and animated as we consumed more wonderful food and wine and a cigar or two. The rest of the patrons of the piazza also shared the enhanced tempo and soon the entire space was filled with laughter and happiness!

We also were able to surprise one of our travelers, Barbara Murphy, with a little birthday celebration which was a lot of fun. With several hours of enjoying the slow sunset and then the lights of the piazza come alive along with the patrons it was time to pull ourselves away and start the walk back to the cars.... But first, one more gelato!