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May 30, 2016

Via Francigena – Haunts of Ancient Peace. San Minato to San Gimignano

A pilgrim signBeside the garden walls,We walk in haunts of ancient peace.
At night we rest and go to sleepAmong the Olive Groves and Flowers
In haunts of ancient peace.
The love and light we seek,
The words we do not need to speak,
Here in this wondrous way we keep
These haunts of ancient peace.

Lyrics by Van Morrison

We began Day 4 from San Miniato early on a beautiful morning.  Leaving behind the town (after coffee and pastries….necessary fuel) for our longest stage of the journey; a hefty 24 kilometres in very warm weather.  However, it is strange that the very best and most varied of the scenery between Lucca and Siena should be reserved for this most isolated of stretches to Gambassi Terme.  The ease of travel was due very much to the distractions of rolling meadows, glittering arcades of tree-lined woodland and the lengths of poppy-lined gravel track among shimmering grasses.  Here and there a glimpse back to the buildings of the town of San Miniato that we had just left.  Here and there a small cemetery or chapel to take water and food, to listen to the noises of birds, and to ease our hot feet.  I wish we had taken voice recordings as well as pictures on this trip, because what appeared to be quietness was in fact a fantastic range of sounds both natural and mechanical along the way, the low hum of a tractor mingled with the simple chorus of the birds.

Pieve, a country church

Pieve, a Country Church

Moving on to GambassiThere was  an ever changing scenery, mainly walking upon high ground until a last long climb up to Gambassi Terme which required a lot of ice-cream to sooth and cool the skin and body on a long but invigorating day.

Covent of Santa Maria daCellole

Covent of Santa Maria at Pancole

Small church now a sumptuous house

Small Church Now a Sumptuous House

On and up the following day after a splendid breakfast took us through farmland and on up to high ground where we passed an fabulous agriturismo property, then on past a small church converted into a highly desirable Tuscan residence and then to the imposing Santuario di Pancole and the Convent of Santa Maria, a white church and a shrine to a young girl cured of her deafness by the appearance of the Virgin Mary. These are the memories of this stretch of the Via Francigena, the images and sounds of peace, of ancient shrines and chapels, of convents and monasteries.  Such an old road where the Pope once walked to meet his gift from Switzerland of guards to protect his Palaces in 1506, a road of pilgrimage and pleasure.

Approaching San Gimignano

Approaching San Gimignano

As we approached San Gimignano we walked through a wonderful monastery, with a simple but gorgeous Romaneque church, the Pieve di Cellole, that echoed with reverent and soulful silence.  The atmosphere was accompanied by the slow, constant and rhythmic drip of water into the font.  It was a place that begged you not to leave and if you did that one day you will return and you soul healed by what was present, human and spiritual there.  This place was the Monastero di Bose, and led to the busy main road into San Gimignano and the throng of tourists and also gentle the splatter of rain.  Taking a beer and a sandwich on the road up the hill.

Next Stage: San Gimignano to Monteridggione coming soon.

The Monastery at Bose

The Monastery of Bose

December 23, 2014

The Shortest Days & Christmas Presepi

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Darren Hackett @ 5:17 pm

We at Casa Verde would like to wish all our readers, friends, visitors and customers a very Happy Christmas and New Year.
Presepe of Bread San Miniato

There is in Italy, at this time of year, the great tradition of building presepi or nativity scenes in many religious and public spaces. Here in the photograph opposite, a bakery has made this one with their own bread. In San Miniato, coincidentally, twinned with Bethlehem, there is a whole festival dedicated this week to artistic versions of the presepi made with all sorts of materials including old garden tools, sweets, metalwork etc.

The quiet town of San Miniato in the province of Empoli is the Northern-most town in the Chianti region. It is strung out along a low narrow ridge overlooking the Arno valley for more than a mile.  It’s main street is part of the Via Francigena, the road from Canterbury through France to Rome. San Miniato was fought over fiercely in July 1944 between the German and American troops, leaving the town very badly damaged, it is hard to believe that it has ever changed for over eight centuries.

The town is home to the November truffle festival and famous for it’s white truffles.  One of these sold in the US recently for around 50,000 dollars!!!!

Precepe San Miniato

Precepe San Miniato

Everything is gentle and slow, time to sit in the Cathedral square watching the mist billow in and out of the towers.  The church tower in typical red-brick splendor, it’s gothic clock beautifully; but oddly placed to one side of it’s square construction.  The giant medieval watch-tower on top of the hill placed as if in solitude in a pretty, well-kept park.

We visited San Miniato on the shortest day,  the 21st of December. One of those glorious winter days when the warm, strong sun creates such a soft light among the mists that rise from the river valley below.  There is little of the Christmas bustle and business that seems to be happening elsewhere.

 

Ipad  Photos 2014 097

San Miniato

 

In the main square stands a beautifully curved edifice known as the Palazzo del Seminario. It’s facade painted and decorated elaborately and distinctively.  On the ground floor there a many doors with steps that look as if they could have been shops and stalls.  This is the main market square for San Miniato; on various days full of food stalls or antiques.

Market Square at San Miniato

The architecture always reminds us that such is the glory and quality of Tuscan architecture that every comune or local council, has had to somehow find a way to create distinctive style or look that is unique to it’s buildings.  After wandering around more of the presepi we enjoyed our favourite winter treat at one of our local cafes……a delicious hot chocolate topped with whipped fresh cream.  Boun Natale a tutti!!!.

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