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Siena & San Gimignano & Volterra

SIENA

From Celle the drive takes about 2 hours.

During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries it flourished as one of the major cities of Europe, growing rich from banking and the wool trade. The fourteenth century saw a great amount of building; the Duomo, Palazzo Pubblico and the Campo were all begun then, but in 1348 the Black Death struck and this, together with subsequent political upheaval, saw the beginning of a drastic downturn in Siena’s fortunes.

CORSA DEL PALIO

The ‘Wildest Horserace in the world’ the race of the  silk banner” is a 90 second bare backed horserace with no equal in the world. The race began in the 13th century. The only official prize for the winning of the Il Palio is a hand-painted silk banner (the Palio) bearing a portrait of the Virgin Mary.

The culmination of months of preparation and four days of festivities, each race lasts only 90 seconds as the horses complete three 330-metre circuits of the roughly semi-circular Piazza del Campo.

The brilliant colour, pageantry and drama of the medieval procession and horse race have thrilled spectators in Siena’s Piazza del Campo for centuries.  This event is held on 2 July (commemorating the Visitation and the purely local feast day of St Mary of Providence) and 15 August (honoring Siena’s parton, Saint Mary) preceded by a lavish parade in Renaissance costume.

The city became little more than a rural market centre, and, as with San Gimignano, it was the growth of tourism that saw a return to wealth and prominence. Indeed, it was exactly this marked decline that accounts for the incredible state of mediaeval preservation that Siena exhibits today.

VOLTERRA

If you have time to see only one hill town while you’re in Tuscany, Volterra seems to be voted as being a favorite. Most folk make a bee line for San Gimignano which is only 12 miles away from Volterra.   Because of this, San Gimignano has become very popular with tourists surging through cramped streets.

Volterra is a precious town situated in the province of Pisa. The Etruscan name of the town, was one of the twelve main towns that belonged to the Etruscan confederation; at the end of the IVth century BC, the 7300 meters long fortificating walls were definitely built up for protecting not only the urban center, but also the surrounding fountains, cultivated fields and pastures from the foreign invasions. It has a lot on history!

A lot of Volterra glass products are hand painted and very colourful. They also make very stylish glass jewellery.

The restaurant ‘La Carabaccia’ is run by 3 sisters. (next to the Torture museum) It has been recommended to us by the Richards who have been coming to stay with us for some years. They also recommend the Jewellery shop called Vetruim, further up from the restaurant on the right. The icecream in the restaurant is the best they have EVER tasted and is served in glass pots.

SAN GIMIGNANO

Probably the most famous small town in Italy, and there are few places that evoke the atmosphere of mediaeval Tuscany so powerfully. Only fifteen of the original seventy-two towers survive – towers that represented wealth and influence more than defence and security – the higher the tower, the richer your family.