San Gimignano & Siena – A walk through history for the best of tuscany

There will be mornings when you get up with the urge to simply indulge. Walk through the cobbled historic lanes of Italy, shop at a slowest possible pace, step into beautiful vineyards to savour some world class wines and bite into freshly made, award-winning gelatos all day long. And that’s living life “king’s size”!

We went on a gourmet trail through San Gimignano and Siena, the most gorgeous Italian destinations that treasure the magical beauty of medieval history by proudly portraying the splendours of a wondrous past. These places easily make it to the ‘must-see’ list for the discerning traveller, with an irresistible urge to indulge.

Shopping through centuries old walls

An ancient beauty

According to fascinating legends, this uniquely beautiful town has its history dated back to 63 B.C. and the first mention is stated to have appeared in the documentation during 929. With such an incredible history, this place seem to have emerged as a result of a two young brothers who built castles here after they escaped from Rome as they were implicated in a conspiracy.   

Carved lanes between the towers…

San Gimignano, declared as a world heritage site by UNESCO is a city of beautiful towers. As you walk through the beautiful lanes carved between the towers as many as 14, the story unfolds to enlighten you as they are once symbols of power and wealth of their inhabitants. It’s a perfect scene for beautiful vistas, numerous streets and piazzas, centuries old walls with unaltered sight of medieval magic.

Lookin’ out…in leisure

With around 8000 inhabitants now, this Commune lives on agriculture and wine production. Every bit of the complex history about this awesome town is sure to awe every traveller. And if you are more of an ‘inquisitive’ kind like me, San Gimignano is the place for some amazing medieval ambiance that is treasured for centuries.

For the world’s best gelato!

Remember this indulgence, halt only to sniff in the aroma of fine wines from breath-taking vineyards and for a regular dose of salami, gourmet cheeses and a mind-boggling selection of bruschettas.

World’s best gelato
…indulgence

And the most exciting part of the ‘urge’…the hunt for the best and the original gelato in the land of gelatos! Gelateria di Piazza is one place that can’t be missed for its marvellous creations. A favourite among celebrities across the globe, each flavour here is unique and is crafted in the original gelato-making tradition. From cream drizzled with saffron and pine nuts to pink grapefruit, raspberry and rosemary to blackberries and lavender…the list is enticing and endless. No wonder the boards on these outlets claim winners of the Gelato Ice Cream World Championships!

Medieval Magic

Think of a most beautiful medieval city, a world famous (Palio run) horse race around the spectacular piazza and the very place you enjoyed watching in the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace, it is Siena. With rich and interesting Roman history, Siena sits pretty over three hills and right at the heart of city is Piazza del Campo that is marked by the red tower, Torre del Mangia. Quite interestingly, we get to see the tower from different angles depending upon where you are walking from towards the Campo. 

Piazza del Campo…as it rains
…a view on a rainy day

As a testament to some brilliant Romanesque architecture with influences from French Gothic and Classical styles, the Siena Cathedral (Duomo of Siena) stands tall with all its glory. With a most fascinating facade, this Cathedral built in 12th century is a beautiful example of sienese workmanship. The pillars with angels, the alter and the grand dome with a gilded lantern like a golden sun shining in, this structure epitomises what we witness inside the Cathedral. Overall, the fascinating facade, the bell tower that is strikingly captivating and the incredible interiors makes Siena Cathedral a ‘must visit’ when you are on a day trip to Siena.    

a 12th century masterpiece 

Siena and San Gimignano…without a doubt is where every traveller walks into history, gets to taste some world’s best gelato and soak in the beauty of these quaint destinations.

5000 years and it still ROCKS!

An early start to an awesome calmness

Right after breakfast, I walked to the nearest Tube station to catch a train to Victoria Coach Station, exactly as the tour brochure at my hotel in London’s Earl’s Court had recommended. Boarding a mini tour bus at Victoria Station, I was excitedly on my way to a half-day tour of Stonehenge. The image of Stonehenge was a familiar one, as many computers come preloaded with it as a desktop wallpaper, but I knew very little else about the ancient place.

I needn’t have worried though as the bus driver’s introductory talk was packed with all the interesting information. “It was so saddening when I heard one man say that it is just a pile of big stones,” the driver said with genuine hurt in his voice, expressing dismay at visitors who have no sense of history. After all, what appears to be the remains of incomplete, but ‘thoughtfully arranged big rocks’ at Stonehenge is nearly 3,500 years old, making it one of the most important prehistoric monuments in Britain.

Driving through calmness

Picture perfect

The first thing that strikes you when you arrive at Stonehenge is the surrounding perfect English countryside — beautiful, lush green fields interspersed with delightfully yellow strips of rapeseed; a perfectly laid highway that runs more like an artist’s brush, making one long stroke from end to end.

An approach through yellow & green

Vehicles, especially long trucks loaded with new cars, suddenly appear up the curve and disappear below, before reappearing at the next curve and finally disappearing out of sight.

Cool country side – Wiltshire

Lending a picture-perfect touch was a flock of well-grown fluffy sheep grazing on the hillsides. It was especially delightful to watch them drink together from neatly arranged water troughs.

A typical english countryside

Prehistoric labour of love

Each visitor is provided an audio guide, with a pre-recorded voice narrating the history of the place. The best part about this arrangement is that you can always pause and rewind to the sections you may have missed at first hearing.

A storyline in rocks

The structure we see today is believed to have come up in three stages — an earth bank and a ditch came up in the first stage; the second stage is the dramatic part in which gigantic bluestones were dragged on rollers and sledges over a 240-mile track, all the way from Preseli Mountains to Amesbury. The third stage, set around 2000 BC, saw the arrival of Sarsen stones; after 1500 BC, the bluestones were rearranged to appear as we see them today. This truly is an awe-inspiring history in stones.

Interesting history in formation
Uniquely arranged
Solitary stand
A walk around…

Popular heritage site

Mystic rocks…narrating interesting history

Located a little more than an hour away from London, in the English county of Wiltshire, the World Heritage Site of Stonehenge is a popular tourist attraction. The site is also revered as a place of pilgrimage for neo-druids and others who follow pagan or neo-pagan beliefs; in June it turns into a popular venue for those celebrating the Summer Solstice.

A must visit when in London.

Picture – irk99