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Our Visit to Beautiful Tuscany, San Gimignano, and Siena
While in Florence we decided to visit Tuscany and the towns of San Gimignano and Siena. Many people rent a car to ride around in Tuscany but we didn’t feel comfortable navigating Italian roads. They are much narrower than we are used to in the United States. So we booked a bus tour of Tuscany and it was one of our most fun days in Italy. One thing we learned about Italians is they are very punctual. The first day we tried to catch the bus we got there around 10 minutes before the bus was supposed to leave and the tour operator had already gone to her office with that day’s passengers and no one knew where it was. It seems when they say 9 a.m. in Italy, they mean the bus leaves at 9 and you are supposed to be in line 15 minutes early! So we missed our chance that day by 5 minutes. Wow! Italians are super punctual, who knew? But it turned out okay, because the next day we did get on the tour and our group was just the best!
First of all, our driver and tour operator were fantastic! Funny, informative, warm, delightful! Our choice of tour operators was My Tour and you can find them on Facebook, here. Second, our group was just great! We met another couple, from Serbia, and had an absolute blast hanging out with them on the whole tour. The camaraderie of travelers was very evident that day. We all agreed the tour was wonderful. Our first stop that day was at San Gimignano. What a medieval dream! I found out later that many movies have been filmed there and I can see why. I thought it would be really fun to live there up on that hill inside the walls. Our Serbian friends were already thinking of doing so!
This is the center square of the city. That’s my husband checking the well in the center. All the little shops there are quaint and darling. We shopped for 2 hours and had hot chocolate. Italian hot chocolate is my favorite in the whole world. It’s very thick, more like chocolate pudding!
Here’s another photo of the central square. The strings are Christmas lights. We were there in December.
Here’s a photo of the Tuscan hills taken from San Gimignano.
We stopped to have coffee in another village in Tuscany. This is the central square.
We loved Siena! It’s just as beautiful as Florence and easier to navigate. The reason we decided to go there was that we have very dear friends who got married there, and wanted to see where they tied the knot. We were so glad we decided to go.
This is a tower in Siena, part of the Cathedral. The dark bands are green marble and the white ones are creamy white marble. Just stunning.
Here’s the front of Siena Cathedral. Officially it’s the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption and was consecrated in 1215 A.D. ! I just can’t get over how old the churches in Europe are. As we turned a corner to see the cathedral my breath left! I just could not believe the beauty of it with all the hand carving and the bands of green, pink, and white marble. Then to our delight we found out we could go inside for free! Photos can’t really do it justice, but here are some I took. It was sunset so the top was bathed in a golden light.
This the top of the center of the cathedral, up close. The Angel at the top is Michael, the Archangel.
Here’s a shot showing the detail of the top of it, showing Mary in Heaven being greeted by her Son, and Angels celebrating her arrival. That was all hand painted!
The inside was absolutely gorgeous too. Here is a detail of one of the Stations of the Cross. These are all hand carved marble!
This is one of my favorite photos I took in Italy. This was taken with no flash, as no one is allowed to use flash photography inside the cathedral. The light is just from the sunset light showing through the window.
Even the ceiling is decorated in stunning detail! That is gold leaf! Remember this church was built in the 12th century and consecrated in 1215! Supposedly this was the dark ages and no one was doing anything of significance. Looking at that architecture, I hardly believe that! I just love the golden cherubs and the golden stars.
The whole cathedral was stunning in every way. It was the highlight of Siena for me. But the city is full of charm and very good food and wonderful shops and a great vibe! I highly recommend visiting there if you go to Italy!
I took all my photos with a Canon Powershot and could not be happier. If you want a small, easy to use, point and shoot camera, this is the one for you.
All Photos, © Heather Burns, 2015. Please do not copy.