FLY DRIVE TO ITALY

City of Pisa

City of Pisa and it’s leaning tower from the main street of Pisa “not normally seen from this angle”

It’s 14/05/2016 our taxi to Huddersfield and train to Manchester are booked Aircraft “Jet 2” leaves at 8-30am BST scheduled to arrive at Pisa international airport at 11-30am EST at this point all went well plane landed on time and our lounge was easy to locate “easy part over” now we had to find the car hire people a bus ride away on the perimeters of the airport, we sorted that part quite quickly then came the real problems, our mobile phone refused to provide “Sat Navigation” despite having agreed the extra cost we my have incurred along the way with our service provider (Vodafone), who I must say, after the event denied all knowledge of the event and charged us accordingly.
However we hired a tom tom SatNav from the car hire people and of we went on our way at which time my wife Irene had the panics driving on the right, I must admit though, it was a little scary for the first couple of days getting accustomed to changing gear was a minor problem since we have driven automatics for many years and the changing of gears resulted in thumping the inside of the drivers door to get to the gear lever, which of course was on the other side and caused plenty of discomfort in my left hand in the panic, caused by forgetting to change down or up whichever was required, this of course is done automatically in my car. All this of coarse is happening as we traveled and my co-driver was getting more fearsome as the driving went on, and only really felt safe when walking, despite retaining the ability to tell me what to do and how to do it everything pertaining to the driving and travel with the exception of turning the steering wheel, much like a back seat driver sat in the front, again though I have to admit the second set of eyes were a bonus they got us out of a lot of near misses and we had not reached our hotel “Semifonti” yet, that was to take a further hour or so of ear ache from the co-driver.
When we finally arrived at the Hotel our first impressions were not good, it was situated on an industrial site and whilst the staff were excellent and were the rooms and the food which is perhaps as well because there was nowhere else for miles around to eat and driving my co-driver to a restaurant in the dark was a no no so we were pretty much stuck with our lot at night despite the staff speaking very little English, and why should they I speak very little if any Italian it was disappointing not to be able to use the swimming pool area, it was like a building site and the pool was used for the old building rubble. We had 10 days to cope with it so we needed to get on with it, after all it was Tuscany and it’s lifestyle we had come to see and not the hotel disappointing as it was, on a good note though that made great coffee.

LANDSCAPE

landscape of the surroundings of San Gimignano the medieval village in the background.

SAN GIMIGNANO

San Gimignano is a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany, north-central Italy. Known as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture, unique in the preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses, which, with its hilltop setting and encircling walls form “an unforgettable skyline”. Within the walls, the well-preserved buildings include notable examples of both Romanesque and Gothic architecture.city of Siena the principal towns are Poggibonsi, Colle di Val d’Elsa, Montepulciano.

Sunday 15/05/2016 we made arrangements to visit “San Gimignano” a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany, north-central Italy. Known as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture, unique in the preservation of about a dozen of its tower houses, which, with its hilltop setting and encircling walls form “an unforgettable skyline”. Within the walls, the well-preserved buildings include notable examples of both Romanesque and Gothic architecture, with outstanding examples of secular buildings as well as churches. The Palazzo Comunale, the Collegiate Church and Church of Sant’ Agostino contain frescos, including cycles dating from the 14th and 15th centuries. The “Historic Centre of San Gimignano” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town also is known for the saffron, the Golden Ham and its white wine, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, produced from the ancient variety of Verna PROVINCE OF SIENA Population (31 May 2009)  Total270,333 The Province of Siena (Italian: Provincia di Siena) is a province in the Tuscany region of Italy. Its capital is the city of Siena. Geography The province is divided into seven historical areas: 1. Alta Val d’Elsa 2. Chianti senese 3. The urban area of (Monteriggioni and Siena) 4. Val di Merse 5. Crete senesi Val d’Arbia 6. Val di Chiana senese 7. Val d’Orcia and Amiata The area is a hilly one: in the north is Colline del Chianti; Monte Amiata is the highest point at 1,738 metres (5,702 ft); and in the south is Monte Cetona. To the west are the Colline Metallifere (“Metallic Hills”), whilst the Val di Chiana lies to east. Historically, the province corresponds to the former Republic of Siena. The chief occupations are agricultural (wheat, grapes and fruit) and silk culture. The wine known as Chianti is produced here as well as in other parts of Tuscany: the Chianti Colli Senesi, however, is limited to this province. Apart from the city of Siena the principal towns are Poggibonsi, Colle di Val d’Elsa, Montepulciano. partway there we somehow made a wrong turn, as you do, My fault of course, and ended up in the Vineyard area of Tuscany which, as a photographer and one of the main reasons we went to Italy in the first place suited me down to the ground and we were able to capture some great images and the great weather was an advantage, the scenery of Tuscany is unbelievable “a travel photographers paradise” what’s more we were still on track for our destination at San Gimignano a medieval walled village high on top of a hill and, although we had taken the long way round still arrived at 1-00pm and ready for lunch. this village is a very popular tourist destination and provides seven car parks all of which were full with no entry into the inner walls of the of the village in a motor car, since we were only seven kilometres from our base we decided to leave and return Monday when it would be less busy with tourists and so we left to see the less popular place of “Certaldo” which is part of the circular tour from our base.

CERTALDO ALTOThe centre of the walled town of Certaldo with the ubiquitous church and restaurants

CERTALDO ALTO

One of the many back streets and alleys of Certaldo

certaldo-alta_017.jpg

A back road of Certaldo and a view of San Gimignano in the distance with it’s tall buildings clearly visible

CERTALDO ALTO

Certaldo is a town and comune of Tuscany, Italy, in the province of Florence, in the middle of Valdelsa. It is about 35 kilometres (22 mi) southwest of the Florence Duomo. It is 50 minutes by rail and 35 minutes by car southwest of Florence, and it is 25 minutes by rail north of Siena. It was the home of the family of Giovanni Boccaccio, the poet of “Vita di Dante,” and the author of the “Decamerone”. He died here at his home and was buried here in 1375. Geography The town of Certaldo is divided into upper and lower parts. The lower part is called Certaldo Basso, whilst the medieval upper part is called Certaldo Alto. Certaldo Alto has limited vehicular access, for use by residents only. Visitors can park outside the walls or in the lower part and go to Certaldo Alto by the Certaldo funicular.

Certaldo is a quaint and picturesque medieval town and typical of all the medieval towns and villages of Italy in the medieval period of which we’ve seen many over the years and this year is special to us as it’s our 50ᵗʰ wedding anniversary year and we intend enjoying it whilst we can. It was at this point while site seeing and making photographs, Irene was complaining about her left foot causing her some pain, and on inspection we realised she had been stung or bitten during our time taking photographs in and around the vine fields and it looked very nasty indeed, the pharmacist in Poggibonsi the nearest town to our hotel implied it could be a snake bite or large insect bite.

Allotment building

A beautiful rustic allotment building in the Chianti wine district of Tuscany where we were photographing the landscape.

Monday 16 May 2016, We decided to try again to get into San Gimignano, we left our hotel at 10-00am to drive the 7 kilometre and on arrival had no problem parking in a purpose built parking lot right outside the gates of the town for €15-00 for the whole day, this town was of the same period as the others we hade seen but much larger and far grander clearly one of the ruling towns of its day for the whole area, Spectacular entrance arch into the walled area with massive street areas and equal massive buildings with butchers, fashion boutiques, cafés, restaurants and the ubiquitous churches with grand domes the whole place was packed with tourists and yet we easily got a parking place, I hate to think what it must have been like on our first visit when we couldn’t get a parking spot anywhere. This whole place was and is enchanting but so tiring getting about up and down the towns streets and alleys

SAN GIMIGNANO

The medieval gateway into the hill town of San Gimignano, the images below are scenes within the walled town.

Has can be seen from the images it’s a great metropolis of high-rise towers the result of the wealth trying to outdo each other to prove their wealth and position in the town, I think it’s something of a trend that will continue throughout the world for ever, people playing a game of oneupmanship and so long as they are alright they won’t really care. The next few days were critical for Irene and I spent time helping her to recover from the ordeal of the snake bite with the help of a young Australian Doctor who was the team Doctor for an Italian bike racing team all staying in the hotel and a great help he was to us too, at no extra financial cost. The rest of this holiday blog will follow at a later date.

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