This is a continuation of my series of posts documenting our time in Italy. We were based in Siena for a couple of days and decided to do a day trip to San Gimignano on the second day. San Gimignano with its tower filled walled town looked very pretty in the photos and was on the to do list of the better half. ( So obviously it can’t be ignored!)
I had researched all the bus schedules to San G and back from Siena as there are only a few buses daily and we didn’t want to be stranded in the pocket sized town for longer than necessary. (Still some sightseeing was left in Siena!) We got up early only to hear the sound of heavy rainfall pelting the cobbled streets. Hoping that it would reduce by the time we had our delicious breakfast at the Antica Residenza Cicogna. Unfortunately, we had no such luck. It continued to pour heavily, thankfully we had invested in good rain gear before leaving for Italy. ( Decathlon Rain Jackets, Over trousers & waterproof shoes – All highly recommended.) We just wore our gear, put on the rain cover of my Camera bag (Lowepro – Also very good) and walked into the downpour.
As we reached the St Catherine Church it got so heavy that we actually had to take sanctuary in the church! The morning services were going on so we sat discreetly at the back of the church trying to not look like tourists. As the service drew to a close the rains abated a bit and we left the church having experienced a church service in Italy!
We got to the bus stop thankfully in time for our bus to San Gimignano. We bought the biglietti (tickets) at the underground biglietteria and boarded the bus. Our rain wear was wet externally so I was wondering whether to sit on the seats or not, till the locals decided for us by plonking into the seats fully wet. We gladly followed them and realised that the rainwear dried almost in no time in the heated buses. Till now I had not dared to take out my camera in the rain.
As the bus sped down the smooth roads spraying water all over the cars driving near to it, we had resigned to the fate that we would have a very wet day trip to San Gimignano (Its better than not going to San G at all!) The skies continued to be dark grey and foreboding all the way. We reached San Gimignano right on time and I took out my camera from the bag with a silent prayer on my lips.(It stayed inside my waterproof jacket though!)
San Gimignano is a small walled town in Tuscany famous for its 17 Medieval towers that give its skyline a different look. As we walked through the gates the rain turned into a drizzle and the sun started peeking out between the clouds and I was able to actually start using my SLR.
It was a cold rainy day, but when you have the winner of the worlds best gelato competition in front of you the weather doesn’t matter. We just had to see what all the fuss was about. So we went inside the Gelateria Dondoli and chose two flavours ( Coconut for the better half and pecan for me). I like gelato anyway but the consistency of this one was really good, worth all the plaudits in my opinion.
As we savoured the gelato we saw that people were crowding up at the mouth of the next Piazza. As we went closer we saw that a movie crew had chosen this unfortunate day to shoot a scene in San Gimignano. So they blocked the Church square as soon as it stopped raining but by the time they started shooting it turned grey & started to drizzle again and they had to stop. This happened many times so it went from interesting to funny to irritating in no time.
As the rain got heavier again we decided to take the opportunity to see the Cathedral which is rather plain when compared to the ones we had seen so far. Photography was not allowed inside the church so we decided to take the free audio guide included with the entry fee and revise our old and new testament knowledge till it stopped raining. Then we went behind the church to the small civic museum just for the view from the top of the stairs. ( No art for now!)
San Gimignano has no blockbuster sights to speak of. It’s the town itself which is very pretty and photogenic. Today unfortunately we had more of grey skies then blue but it still looks beautiful. We took random photographs of the tower lined narrow streets in the intervals when it stopped raining.
One of the biggest advantages of the pouring rain was that there were very few tourists. On a usual sunny day the narrow streets of San Gimignano are overwhelmed with tourists making taking good portraits very difficult. So as you see, there is a silver lining to every cloud! ( Pun intended)
As we walked to the far end of the town we reached a garden with a small tower which was accessible to the public and I took the opportunity to take a photo of the San G skyline ( Featured image). Right on cue it started pouring again, and we had to rush for cover to put the camera in. It was like the Mumbai rains had followed us to Italy!
We waited for it to reduce to a drizzle before we started our walk on the perimeter of the town. The hill top location gave excellent panoramic views of the town & the Tuscan landscape beyond. My waterproof Moto G 3 took over the responsibility of my SLR till it stopped raining. But it did its job as the next two photos show.
As we neared the end of our time in San Gimignano a patch of cloudless sky came overhead and we rushed like crazy people to the panorama point to see the town with a blue sky for background (just like the tourist brochures!) & take a few photos before the grey skies took over again. We did manage to get a few photos before the grey skies returned.
Finally satisfied with the morning sightseeing, we decided to find a good restaurant to have a warm lunch on this cold dreary day. It was again the Rick Steves guide to the rescue, without it we would never have found the Trattoria Chiribiri. It is a small family run restaurant in one of the backlands near the entry gate of San Gimignano. We entered the warm and cosy premises and proceeded to have one of the tastiest meals we had in Italy. The better half had what she says was the best Gnocchi we had and I had Carpaccio drenched in melted Gorgonzola with freshly baked bread. It was the best part of our time in San Gimignano without a doubt!
After that heavenly meal we proceeded out of San Gimignano after buying our return tickets at a Tabacchi ( Tobacco shop). We didn’t want to miss that bus as the next one was only after 1.5 hours and there was a lot left to see in Siena (my dear Siena!) So after taking one final photo of the walls of San Gimignano we boarded the bus back to Siena.
San Gimignano was memorable as much for the amount it rained as it was for its unique skyline. We had managed to see all of the town in spite of the best efforts of the weather Gods. We returned to Siena satisfied with our rainy morning day trip ready to see the rest of the wonderful cathedral complex. But that is topic for another post, another time.