Tuscany Tour Part 1

For our Friday in Florence we hired a local guide to take us on a tour of Tuscany. He showed up at our Casa at 8 am with a Mercedes van that seated six of us quite easily. Karen got to sit in the front seat where she had a little more leg room and she stayed fairly comfortable all day. Our guide’s name was Massimo and we all liked him very much. He was quite personable and very knowledgable. He offered us options all day and was happy to do whatever we wanted.

I’m breaking this post into two parts. This one will cover the first two stops: the American War Memorial and San Gimignano. The next post will cover the places that we saw during the rest of the day.

Cemetery and memorial to Americans who died in World War II in Italy
Cemetery and memorial to Americans who died in World War II in Italy

Our first stop was at this cemetery and memorial to American soldiers who died in Italy during World War II. It’s a beautiful place, and Steve (who is retired from the Air Force) especially appreciated it.
Our guide, Massimo (Max to his friends) offered to take our picture at the WWII memorial to American soldiers. Back row: Dave, Karen, Steve. Front row: Linda, Doree, Jean. Joyce was with her family and did not go on the Tuscany Tour.

Our group at the WWII memorial. Back row: Dave, Karen, Steve. Front row: Linda, Doree, Jean
Our group at the WWII memorial. Back row: Dave, Karen, Steve. Front row: Linda, Doree, Jean

entrance to San Gimignano
entrance to San Gimignano

Here Linda, Jean, and Doree are walking toward the entrance to San Gimignano. It’s a walled hill-top city from medieval times, and was the second stop on our Tuscany Tour. San Gimignano’s claim to fame is its towers. 
The only industry in San Gimignano is tourism, and they do well by it. The shops are excellent, better than many in Florence. This display caught our attention, and Karen did buy a purse here.

Leather shop in San Gimignano
Leather shop in San Gimignano

Jester in a pottery shop
Jester in a pottery shop

There are many pottery shops in San Gimignano, and the pottery is of very high quality. The shops are beautiful and well-decorated. I’d never seen a china jester before and I thought he deserved a place in my photo collection.
We got to San Gimignano at around 9:00 and the streets were pretty empty. Buses full of tourists soon arrived, however, and the town filled up quickly.

The main street in San Gimignano
The main street in San Gimignano

Building in San Gimignano
Building in San Gimignano

Buildings in San Gimignano are older and more plain than buildings in Florence. It was interesting to see the textures and styles.
The main feature of San Gimignano is its towers, erected in the 1200s and 1300s. At one time there were 72 of them, but now there are fourteen towers left.

The towers of San Gimignano
The towers of San Gimignano

pottery store in San Gimignano
pottery store in San Gimignano

A beautiful store that sells a wide range of pottery. The store has several rooms and many different styles. We liked almost everything in this store, but bought only a few small pieces here.
This back room featured pottery of solid colors – very attractive.

Back room, pottery store, San Gimignano
Back room, pottery store, San Gimignano

Another back room in the pottery shop in San Gimignano
Another back room in the pottery shop in San Gimignano

Going back even further we found these beautiful tables, bird baths, urns and other large pottery pieces.
All of the tourists seem to end up here in the main square of San Gimignano. You can see two of the famous towers in this picture.

Main piazza with towers, San Gimignano
Main piazza with towers, San Gimignano

Street with archway in San Gimignano
Street with archway in San Gimignano

Street with archway in San Gimignano
Lion insignia on the wall of San Gimignano

Lion insignia on the wall of San Gimignano
Lion insignia on the wall of San Gimignano

Public square in San Gimignano
Public square in San Gimignano

One of several piazzas in San Gimignano, this one is in front of a church. You can see two of the towers here, as well as a loggia (raised, covered platform used for a public market).
San Gimignano is most famous for its towers, built in the 1200s and 1300s. Originally for defense in war time, the towers became a sign of prestige. Apparently, bigger is better.

Tower in San Gimignano
Tower in San Gimignano

Hook on wall in San Gimignano
Hook on wall in San Gimignano

I’m not sure what this is, but it was stuck to the wall in San Gimignano.
Karen said “Take a picture of me at the well!” so here it is. I guess it’s a wishing well. It was certainly the go-to spot in San Gimignano.

Wishing well in San Gimignano piazza
Wishing well in San Gimignano piazza

The bar of a coffee shop in San Gimignano
The bar of a coffee shop in San Gimignano

To me, this is what a coffee shop ought to look like. Coffee shops, by the way, are the key to getting access to toilet facilities when away from your hotel. You sit at a table, you order a coffee, and then you say, “Where is the toilet?” And since you are now a customer, they let you use it. If you don’t use this strategy, you have to use a public WC, and they are either unbearable or unaffordable.
We sat (and paid extra for the privilege) at a table on the right, and enjoyed our cappucino. Most of the customers came in to the bar, picked up their coffee, and left. Oh, and keep in mind, don’t just order “coffee” like an American. You’ll get a thimble with espresso in it, and you won’t like it. Unless you already learned to like it before the trip.

A coffee shop in San Gimignano
A coffee shop in San Gimignano

 

Previous post

Exploring Florence

Next post

Tuscany Tour Part 2