Thursday, May 28, 2009

San Gimignano

One of the more famous hill towns in Tuscany is San Gimignano (pronounced Jim-in-YAWN-oe). It is a well preserved medieval town that at one time had 72 towers belonging to wealthy families trying to impress their friends. Today it only has 15. We stayed atan agritourismo, a farm that produces typical Tuscan products but also provides beds to tourists. Agritourismos usually offer farm-type activities like poo shovelling and other forms of manual labor. Just kidding, they offer activities like horseback riding and grape picking.
San Gimignano was made wealthy by it's silk production in the middle ages and today the shops in town have 800 year-old silk looms in the corner that still are used. The town has only 2 piazzas, Piazza Duomo, where the church that once was a cathedral but is not anymore is, and Piazza Cisterna,the Square of the Cistern. The old cistern is still set up in the middle of the square, surrounded by restaurants, souvenir shops, and gelato stands.
We stayed at Il Vecchio Maneggio, which means "The Old Riding School." Our hostess, Tiziana, was a blast. At dinner, she would walk around the table with her wooden spoon saying in a very Italian way "You no say when you finished, only I say when you finished!" and "You only want a little bread? Bad guest." Her and her husband have worked the farm for several decades and have the whole thing down to an art. The farm employess about 15 people and it produces olive oil, honey, wine, and saffron. The farm produces approximately 10,000 bottles of wine per year.
Il Vecchio Maneggio has a lovely pool which overlooks the picturesque Tuscan hills and valleys. From the pool it is possible to see the towersof San Gimignano which, to us, look very similar to those of Seattle from a distance. The town was very similar to Siena and Lucca, but the countryside around was more beautiful than we had imagined.
The red-faced Germans that were staying at Il Vecchio Maneggio with us were shocked that we weren't guzzling the wine down at dinner like they were. They were floored to find out that we don't drink, not even "ein bier?!" Between swigs of wine they explained that they weren't alcoholics and Daniel responded, "No, you're German."
Our last morning in San Gimignano was spent riding horses through vineyards in the sun. It was explained to us that the horse Laura wasriding was ornary and enjoyed eating more than she disliked being kicked. Laura was instructed that when the horse stopped to eat, which would be often,she was to yank the reins in the opposite direction and give the horse a good swift kick to the rear. 5 minutes into the ride, the horse was stopped at the side of the trail lazily chewing on some flowers and Laura was pulling with all her might on the reins and jumping up and down with her feet flailing all around trying to get Luna moving again. It was a sight to see. However, by the end of the ride, Laura had her horse under control and Luna was agreeable.
Our next stop on the itinerary... Venice.

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