San Gimignano

San Gimignano is famous for its towers. Apparently in its heyday there were over 100 towers, built originally for security but eventually simply to show off the wealth of the families who owned them. Towers sounded cool to me, so yesterday we made the 1 and a half hour drive to see them. It was market day in the town, so the piazzas were crowded with vans selling cheap T-shirts, tablecloths, and the ubiquitous Ferrari beach towels. This may seem quaint, but it’s actually rather a pain the third or fourth time you encounter it, the merchandise isn’t very interesting, and it makes it more difficult to see the sights. But here’s one shot I managed to take over the top of the awnings.

I hadn’t really planned on climbing any of the towers, but with the market in town, it was quite clear that the only way to see anything was going to be above. Since we’d already climbed up three different cathedrals on this trip, no one in the family was very excited about the idea of climbing yet another spiral staircase. Fortunately, bribing material was close at hand:

You’d never guess that this little geleteria, tucked alongside one of the two main piazzas in town, was actually a member of Italy’s WORLD CHAMPION gelato team in 2006. That is, unless you happened to read one of the three signs in the entry way proclaiming that fact, or noted the large-print announcement emblazoned on each gelato cup. Needless to say, after finishing the gelato, the Mungers were significantly less grumpy about the prospect of climbing a 175-foot medieval tower:

I’d say this photo pretty well captures each member of the family’s attitude about the pending ordeal. Nora, skeptical but willing to be convinced; Jim, wishing he was locked in a dark room with a video game; Greta, cautiously optimistic.

In fact the staircase up the tower was a modern one, so it wasn’t a difficult climb at all. The view from the top was simply astonishing:

While the kids still harbored enough residual grumpiness to refuse my offers to take their picture, Greta was by now quite impressed with the views:

I even managed to get this interesting photo down the side of the tower. It was refreshing to get to a viewpoint like this and not be caged in the way we had been at Notre Dame and the Eiffel tower.

Today will be our last day in the Tuscan countryside. In fact, by the time I actually manage to post this, we will have left our beautiful country house and will be headed back to full-time touristing. It’s been a good experience, this forced three weeks of relaxation, only occasionally punctuated by a trip into a town to see some sights. We’ll have two more weeks of serious travel, and then we’ll return home to processed foods, microwave ovens, and air conditioning.

But I don’t have time to think about that yet–first, there’s Prague, Vienna, and a week-long tour of the Greek mainland. I can’t wait!

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