Last night, I enjoyed dinner at the hotel (ravioli in walnut sauce – to die for) and had a good chat with the Dutch couple who had given me a lift into town earlier in the day. I was telling them about my research which they found interesting (or said they did!). It was nice to have company over dinner.
This morning I hitched a lift with the Hungarian guys into San Gimignano for another look round. I went into the Convento Sant’Agostino which is a lovely monastery built in 1260 and featuring some very good frescoes. The place was pretty much deserted — just me and a woman from South Carolina were looking at the murals which depict various events in the life of Saint Augustine. I’m really getting to like frescoes! These ones looked like they’d been painted yesterday. Presumably they’ve been cleaned in recent years. The colors were very rich.
The frescoes date from the 15th Century so wrong century for me but still they give a great “slice of life” look at the period.
After the frescoes, I wandered the empty back streets of San Gimignano and checked out the museum containing a pretty nice collection of Etruscan and medieval pottery and a modern art gallery that was very poorly lit (and empty!). I did manage to find a poster depicting three aerial drawings of San Gimignano – from the 12th, 13th, and 14th Century that show the development of the towers over the three centuries. Just the ticket for my research!
I did a lot of just wandering aimlessly around San Gimignano trying to get a sense of the history, but it is admittedly not easy in the 21st Century with the hordes of tourists. Of course I’m a tourist too, but that doesn’t make it any easier! There really is very little that is authentic left about San Gimignano and yet it is still charming. Every time you look up you see a tower silhouetted against the deep blue Tuscan sky and you can imagine what it looked like before gelato was invented. And then every time you look around at the crowds, you see middle aged guys in baseball caps. Not a good look. I’d say the vast majority of tourists today were American, German, and Dutch with a light sprinkling of Italian and Japanese.
I had lunch at a quiet and classy restaurant overlooking a panoramic view of the Tuscan countryside. I was given a corner table right by the window and so spent my entire time just staring out at the archetypal Tuscan view–vineyards, olive groves, cypresses, whispy green trees, blue mountains in the distance–it really doesn’t get old! The lunch was tasty — I tried the Riboletta soup which is a Tuscan speciality I’d read about consisting of beans and vegetables. It was admittedly a bit mushy but the flavours were good and when paired with a glass of crispy fresh white Vernaccia wine – very good.
The afternoon was spent wandering slowly about – really nothing to hurry for. I bought more pottery from the artists who created the San Gimignano 1300 attraction (I can’t get enough of their work!) and had a ridiculously large gelato that I am still full from 5 hours later. Orange chocolate, hazelnut, and Crema. Mamma Mia!
I walked the 2 km back to the hotel to at least make a start at tackling some of the flab I’ve accumulated in just five days!
The sun is now setting, throwing the towers into sharp relief – one side gold, the other side black. The white clouds are turning pink as another day in Tuscany winds down. Now all I have to do is eat dinner. With any luck I won’t be quite so full of food and wine to perhaps do a bit more work on the novel this evening.
Tomorrow I’m off to Siena. I already have my five euro bus ticket in hand (what a bargain!) and the promise of a lift to the bus stop from the people at the hotel.