2017 – Volterra – San Gimignano

Podere San Lorenzo uses the chapel for breakfasts and dinners for the guests. It is optional for us since we have an apartment, but we enjoy “going to the chapel and we’re going to get…. breakfast” (our version of the Dixie Cups song).The key to the chapel. The doors have about 5 interlocking bolts that go into either side of the door. Imagine how heavy that key would be to carry around. I bet that’s why the monks had keys strung around their waists. 

Let me tell you a little about the chapel. It was built in the 12th century. Three monks lived here at the time. This property was used as a way station for people and animals traveling between Florence in the north to Siena in the south. As you might imagine people had to travel with their animals during that time – no McDonalds or convenience stores along the way. The other buildings (our apartment) were built in the 1400s. About that time the monks left and families had moved onto the property.

San Gimignano
The agenda today included a trip to San Gimignano. It is one of our favorite cities. This picture is one I found at a winery. It is so hard to capture the beauty of the city with an iPhone – so this picture is as close as I could get.

I saw this quote and thought it appropriate: “Let your feet take you where your heart wants to go.” My heart wants to go to San Gimignano today. 

San Gimignano in the distance at the top of the hill.

The car trip to San Gimignano was so easy compared to our adventure yesterday. First of all, the street signs were correct and the GPS  worked. Hallelujah! Second, the town was only about 30 minutes from our apartment so a piece of cake. It was a leisurely drive and I was even able to get a few photos of the countryside. 

However, the locals don’t “spare the horses”, no matter how many twists and turns in the road, no one slows down. Ricardo thinks they are all trying to emulate Parnelli Jones. 

Once in town, we had to park. We were determined not to repeat our last visit here when we forgot which parking lot we left the car so we both paid attention to the lot number (I secretly wrote it down). We walk into town and realized the gate where we are supposed to meet Viviana is on the opposite side of town. No problem, we get to walk through the streets marveling at the architecture and the brilliance of the people who built it so many years ago. 

Viviana met us at the Porta San Giavanni. She started giving us the history of the town, why it was an important stop for travelers, about the influence of the church and rich, and the good and bad times over centuries that the city endured.

Ricardo spotted a wild boar in a salumeria shop. We had to stop in and buy a bit of wild boar salami and cheese for our trip – perfect snack food. They even shrink wrap the salami for taking home!

San Gimignano is known for its towers. At one time it had 70 towers. We learned that today there are very few left and there are three types of towers –  for protection, for merchants, and as a symbol of wealth. This photo is of a merchant tower with large windows on the ground floor, storage above, and living quarters above that in some. This tower has been cut down to match the height of the building.

At one point the government had to regulate the height of the towers – so no tower could be higher than the public towers because the rich Italians were trying to outdo each other by building taller and taller towers. Sounds like the Italian version of keeping up with the Jones.

We met Father Brian who is a priest from Philadelphia who came to Italy and helped in the restoration of a church. The frescos on the walls are magnificent!

This was interesting – you see that arched opening beside the large wooden doors? It is where the family would put food for the poor in the old days. I guessed it was a milk cubby and Ricardo only wishes it was a wine pick up.

After two hours of walking on extremely uneven pavement and up and down and up and down hilly streets, we were looking forward to sitting down and having lunch. We bid goodbye to Viviana and off we went.

Podere La Marronaia. When we arrived, we were greeted by one of the family and given a big welcome. We were given a tour of the vineyards and olive groves. We even peeked at the bottling of fresh white wine. Ricardo was tempted to step in and help out and only asked to be paid in wine. Lucky for me the bottlers did not understand English and even Ricardo’s Italian gestures did not get him a position on the bottling line. 

Inside the tasting room, we were escorted to a private room where we would be having a wine tasting, olive oil tasting, and lunch! Now, this is my kind of afternoon. It was a lighter meal and only took us three hours to eat – well there was the tastings and talking and such. 

We were seated on a church pew and in the same room was a church kneeler typical of what you’d find in a Catholic church. So I was wondering, do we get to eat and drink to our delight (while sitting on the pew) and then kneel down to confess our sins? I was a little apprehensive that Father Brian would appear in priest garb at this point and we’d all be in trouble! Appetizers – and tastings of their olive oil which was very good. I particularly liked the garlic and rosemary flavors. And I can’t say enough about the cannellini beans in this region. The tomato bruschetta, and chickpea and garlic bruschetta were yummy too!

Pasta next! The sauce was fresh and flavorful. Ricardo even liked it and said it was cooked enough for him – s0 he was either influenced by the wines we were tasting during the meal or he’s gotten used to the al dente cooking of pasta.  Secundi (second course, which is really the third if you count the appetizer plate) was meats and cheeses. The server encouraged us to drizzle a little honey over the cheese and eat it with a bite of grape. Oh so wonderful!
And dessert wine with almond biscotti. Perfecto!

Victoria telling us about their popular white wines which I liked a lot. She was such a good hostess and made our visit enchanting.

Ahh but it was time to go – I could barely keep my eyes open – so we headed back to our apartment. Resting back in our room we heard wine bottles clanking. They make their own wine at this agritourism too.  Ricardo has a finely tuned sense of the musical scale and swore they were hitting the key of “W” (for wine).

Checking out the grapes. San Gimignano in the background. We were told they start harvesting this field tomorrow.

7 thoughts on “2017 – Volterra – San Gimignano”

  1. Your descriptions are so fun. I like viewing the posts on iPhone because I can really zoom in on the pics. The frescos for example. Keep having fun!
  2. Oh, my....I feel like I'm with you on your vacation - your pictures and description of everything is GREAT! If you ever want to travel there again and Dick doesn't want to go (how in the world would THAT happen?), let me know and I'll go with you!!! Enjoying your posts so much! Love, Kris :)

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