Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Touring the Towns of Tuscany

Tuscany is one of those places on earth that is "as advertised." That is to say, it's a place that is a perennial tourist beacon, yet it doesn't disappoint. I don't mean to suggest that tourist beacons typically dissapoint, but I would argue that they're rarely as advertised. Something like the Tower of Pisa comes to mind as, when you arrive, you end up spending more time looking at people taking "leaning pictures" for Instagram than you do looking at the tower itself.

I think that part of it is also due to the size of the region, and the fact that its larger size cities are really quite quaint, at least when comparing them to Madrid, Naples, or Rome. One of these larger size cities, which may have ended up being my favourite city in all of Italy, was Siena.

Siena

As functional as it is picturesque, Siena has a charming, subtle confidence. We only were able to spend a handful of nights there, but I would have loved to spend more, just based on the vibe. At lunch, we were dining on incredible lunches overlooking the main square, Piazza del Campo, then night would come and we'd be in the middle of a street party as rowdy as any in Europe. It seems like there's a street party just about every other night in Italy in the summer. Alas, before I digress into a post about street parties, let me just say that Siena is a jewel, and I'd recommend it higher than almost any other Italian city. Namely, because the wine is good and reasonably priced, the food is delicious (particularly the salami and wild boar), and it's just downright pleasant.

Siena, as I was saying, is just wonderful, and it really seems like not much has changed in the last few hundred years. I can only hope that trend continues.






Yes, Siena is lovely, but one of the real highlights of Tuscany was using our Vespa to shoot around the countryside from town to town. Below I'll include a blurb and some photos for a few of the notable towns that really exemplified the glory of Tuscany.

Monteriggioni

It's small, compact, and worth a visit on the way to other towns on the Tuscan route. It was one of the Sienese fortifications which was built to keep Florence away from the heart of Siena. It was worth the coffee break and the peruse around the walls, and it won't eat up too much of your time. On a humorous note, I distinctly remember the information sign outside initially referring to Monteriggioni as the "unconquerable castle," then going later to talk about all the many times it was conquered. I should also add that, as an English major, I was please pleased with the notion that this town is actually mentioned in The Divine Comedy.





San Gimignano 

A town has stood in place here since at least the 3rd century BC, and it's a absolute must-see, but the problem is that all the other tourists also realize that as well. It's the type of Tuscan town that, unfortunately, has three parking lots outside the walls to accommodate the masses, and masses there are. But, it's still worth the glimpse, especially if you traverse your way up the tower for some unstoppable views. San Gimignano is a UNESCO heritage sight with towers, churches, and piazzas galore. I'd recommend getting food elsewhere though, as the prices reflect the tourist boom!







Castellina in Chianti 

Well there's no shortage of wine in Chianti, and I would have indulged in many more glasses had I not had to drive a Vespa home. It was a beautiful town, and though it was the most off the beaten path, the area surrounding it is simply stunning. We putted along on our Vespa with the shunning sun, and rightfully said that there was no place we'd rather be. 


I've only spoken about 3 of the towns in Tuscany, but there are just innumerable towns, and when I get back there, you can kindly expect another post of this nature. Let us consider this post one because if these photos call you now, they certainly call me back.