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June 13, 2016

Via Francigena: Towers and Castles

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Darren Hackett @ 7:27 am

As we leave San Gimignano behind it’s towers keep coming back into view as we climb the undulating valley to the South East in bright sunshine.  We clamber up and down a couple of steep wooded valleys crossing some streams then climbing up through vineyards, the newly formed clutches of tiny grapes appearing on the vines. There are some significantly sized estates here and many of them provide attractive accommodation for visitors who wish to experience life on a working ‘farm’.  These are called Agriturismi  and we stopped at delightful one for a superb cappuccino with a friendly ginger cat.  Our next stop was the large town of Colle Val d’Elsa, the old part of town is a place missed by tourists on their way to San Gimignano and therefore is quiet and majestic, well worth a visit to feel the old atmosphere of a Tuscan town dedicated to wine and food. We stay the night here and then leave across cornfields before The Via Francigena then climbed up to a beautiful medieval village called Strove with it’s winding village streets and window boxes and then down to Abbazia di Isola, an ancient Abbey and rest stop for pilgrims so named as it is situated on an island in the poppy filled meadows.

Piazza del Campo, Siena

Piazza del Campo, Siena

 

 

Abbazia di Isola

Abbazia di Isola

It was then easy then to see ahead the white road towards the distinctive castellated crown of Monteriggioni, where we stayed the night near the Piazza in a delightfully spacious and luxurious B&B, with a fine breakfast.  This tiny but incredibly busy little place is tranquil in the evening when the tourists seep out of the southern gate to their hotels.

Monteriggioni

Monteriggioni

There was a crowd of ‘Pilgrims’ leaving the town in the morning. It felt as if we should all be wearing 15th century dress, so quiet in the morning, so perfect a place in it’s time and barely changed in it’s appearance for 600 years.

We are now on our final leg to Siena and as we left the gate at the other end of square from which we entered, we descended back into the valley, across a busy road on up the wooded hillside to a lovely small village, La Villa, with a castle…and a house that served it’s own coffee and biscuits to walkers as they passed by their property.  This was served in what looked like their lean-to garage but it was delightful and a sure sign of the welcome that people give to people all along this road.  The man and his elderly mother kept a record of the travellers that called at their little house over many years a line of walkers from the whole world down their small country lane on their journey to Rome. Another great reason to travel on foot!

The road to Monteriggioni

The Road to Monteriggioni

Through woods and marshland now for while until we climb up a tarmac road to a more suburban landscape and then, first heard by the roar of traffic and then looking out at the main Siena to Florence motorway…and beyond our goal:  the slender elegant high tower of Siena’s main square is visible to us all.  One more climb up to the main gate of the city and we are there!  Our friends were in the Piazza del Campo to greet us. We check into our hotel with prosecco on the terrace, eat well and then catch the bus home.  All this with a renewed determination to walk the whole stretch of the VF in Italy from San Bernadino to Rome in the next few years.  Watch this space and please share your thoughts and comments with us on this Blog.

 

 

 

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