Ruth: After a long and tough day of climbing we made it to San Gimignano. Each day we normally plan our route and choose between the Euro Velo 5, the Via Francigena or the route suggested by my map app pocket earth. Today we did a bit of everything from rough single track mountain biking to long steep climbs on the the wrong road. We ended up climbing much higher than necessary; in our defence it looked flat on the map.
San Gimignano is a UNESCO world heritage site for it’s well preserved medieval core containing 14 of the original 72 house towers. It sits on a hill and is surrounded by the classic Tuscan vistas. It is also, according to my sister Sheila, the most touristy town in Tuscany and I believe it. We are fortunate to be staying in the San Girolamo monastery/ retirement home/ daycare, located within the medieval city walls. This insulates us somewhat from the hoards, although it is listed in the Lonely Planet guide, so they take non-pilgrims as well. Work hours must be different here because the daycare operates until eight o’clock in the evening.
The tower houses of Tuscan towns had little to do with fortification and much to do with testosterone. Imagine the supper conversations in the wealthy homes in San Gimignano, when the wife suggests it’s time for new armour for junior, and and her husband replies, “but I want a big one!” In the days before Maseratis and Ferraris, rich men showed off their wealth by building ever taller houses. In this town the tallest were over 50 meters.
To enjoy the town my testosterone poisoned travelling partner, oh, and husband, had to climb up to the tallest point of land so he could gaze wistfully at the legacy of greater men.