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Candelaria Design Tour Italy 2014 - Day 9 - San Gimignano & Siena

It's hard to believe we are on Day 9 of our Candelaria Design Tour Italy 2014! We have covered a lot of ground but the time is quickly passing now. My travelers are really gaining confidence now and so we tackle two great hill towns, San Gimignano (the hill town of towers) and my favorite, Siena.

We start the day gathering our cars and my best drivers. From 8 cars we get it down to 4 cars and we are off on our convoy across Umbria and Tuscany.  This is a beautiful drive through the Chianti region of Tuscany. We wind our way through hills covered in vineyards and olive groves overlooked by regal villas and farmhouses.

We make it to San Gimignano first. We parked and made our way to the main piazza where the cistern is. There is a great restaurant upstairs called the Cisterna. You go up the stairs and arrive to this modest restaurant with a spectacular view of the town and countryside. They also serve the best chingale roast stew (wild boar) I've had. Coupled with a dry chianti and I was in heaven. We all tried different things from pizzas, to salads, to soups, to sausages with beans. Delicious.

With lunch complete we had about an hour and half to shop and explore this charming hill town known for its stately towers. These towers left standing since the middle ages were defensible residences and fortresses whereby residents could dump hot oil and arrows on their enemies. Wow - talk about tough times back then. Boy you would sure want to make sure you didn't make a mistake! As with all the hill towns you have the main thoroughfare lined with shops, sausage, cheese and wine shops. Beautiful nonetheless. A quick cappuccino and a gelato and we all gathered at our rendezvous spot, set new pins in our phones to our next location - Siena.

Siena is my favorite place on the trip. I think if I lived somewhere in Italy, this would be it. Home to the famous palio horse race in July, this town is crowned by a spectacular church and the impressive Piazze del Campo. I love this city. It has bravado, style, sophistication all coupled with an equal dose of Italian masculinity and roughness. It's balanced - just like the food. Magnificent. We made our way from San Gimignano through the countryside and then through the outskirts of Siena to our parking spot. That can sometimes be an adventure but we all made it with no issues. You cannot drive into the city center so over the years I have found a nice parking spot whereby we can park, walk about a half mile into the city and have a relatively easy exit out of the city as we leave many times after 10pm.

The walk into the city center of Siena is beautiful. We are arriving about 5pm so the sunlight is in its magic hour. Fantastic views of the duomo and then the streets that come alive with the voices of Italians walking in all directions down the main thoroughfare. We made a beeline to our gathering and rendezvous spot the Piazza del Campo. My favorite space in the world. The main piazza of Siena and maybe of Italy. It is gorgeous and so wonderful as there are not cars or Vespa's. Just the sound of people speaking Italian and enjoying life.

With our rendezvous spot set, I took several of my travelers on a short walk to the Duomo - the marvelous church of Siena. This is also my favorite church in the world. Spectacular is all you can say. What is amazing is what stands today was only a small part of what was to be a mega structure that ran out of bodies and funding during the Black Plague amongst other hiccups along the way. Nevertheless, even this attempt is truly remarkable. I had been through the inside many times, so I got my travelers set up and they went inside for the tour as I took my 50 or so photos of the outside and made my way back to the Piazza.

Several travelers had stayed here and were already settled in for the evening, taking pictures and enjoying aperol spritzers. Slowly the sun made its way down behind the duomo and one by one our travelers made their way back to the piazza and our rendezvous spot and we dined and enjoyed the sights and sounds of this truly magical spot on earth.