June 7: San Gimignano and Siena
We ate a mediocre breakfast, and walked over to the bus stop nearby. We had bought our tickets for Siena yesterday at the bus station, so we were ready to go.
We had to wait a bit for the bus to arrive, because we'd just missed one. After it came, we boarded the bus and headed to San Gimignano. I fell asleep rather than watching the beautiful Tuscan countryside.
The bus dropped us off right outside the gates to the city. San Gimignano is a picturesque walled city perched on a hill, with many of its buildings dating from the 12th century. Its main businesses appear to be tourism and wine production. Unlike Siena, the streets were filled with tourists and very few residents.
We walked down the main pedestrian arcade into piazza della Cisterna, which was filled with merchants selling various articles of clothing. Today apparently was market day.
We worked our way through the merchants and into Piazza Luigi. We visited the Museo d'Arte Sacra, and the Museo Etrusco, two small but interesting museums.
We then went to Palazzo del Popolo, a 13th-14th century building housing the museo civico, which we also visited. This museum was decorated with interesting frescoes from the 14th century. Also housed there are 12th-15th century paintings from the Sienese and Florentine schools.
Since this is a city of many towers, we had to climb one of them. We climbed the adjacent Torre Grossa to the top. This is a working bell tower, so we didn't linger long, since we didn't want to experience the bell ringing from up in the tower. The top of the tower afforded spectacular views of both San Gimignano and the surrounding Tuscan hills and valleys.
Next, we walked to the other end of town, and visited their museum of modern art and one other museum. (We had bought a museum pass that gives you admission to all the museums, so we had to take advantage of it!) The museum of modern art had a small exhibit which showcased a particular painting and the artists sketches that led up to the final work. It was quite interesting.
After stopping for an espresso we exited the walled city to wait for our return bus. (Exporing San Gimignano took about four hours in total.)
After about half an hour, the bus back to Siena picked us up and we returned to Siena. Once in Siena, we explored the walls of the Fortress outside the walled city, and walked back into town.
It was early enough that we were able to visit the Duomo, one of the most spectacular churches that we have seen. The floors are covered with marble panels depicting various figures from mythology and stories from the bible. The pulpit was also carved by Pisano, and was very similar to the one in the Duomo in Pisa. The sides of the church were adorned with marvelous sculptures.
On one side of the church is the Libreria Piccolomini, a small room with brilliant frescoes adorning the walls. Definitely worth seeing. (I was able to take a few pictures without flash that are pale versions of the original.)
We were too late to go into Palazzo Pubblico, so we walked down to a restaurant we had seen last night and had dinner. It was a wonderful dinner of pasta, fatto in casa. A nice capper to the day. After dinner we had a nice gelato, and strolled through town some more before returning to the hotel.