Weekend in Tuscany on the occasion of the feast of St. Martin
Winter is coming, but the desire for a weekend out of the city never goes away. This month we’re taking you to Tuscany, an area of Italy best known throughout the world for the richness of its beauty, products and traditions. Now is the perfect time to visit because it coincides with a festival that dates back to ancient times: the feast of St. Martin.
Traditionally, during St. Martin’s Summer, as the festival is also called, the casks of vino novello wine are opened for the first tasting. The wine is served with chestnuts, cured meats, and autumnal products typical of the area.
In short, it’s a delicious reason to get to know the towns and the countryside of one of Italy’s most captivating regions.
Let’s take the day to enjoy their artistic beauty, then savour their culinary delights during the evening.
San Gimignano and its towers
In the morning, we set off without a care from Florence, to travel a short distance through breathtaking scenery before arriving at our destination: San Gimignano and its historic towers.
After around an hour’s drive, we find the walled town of San Gimignano, which is nestled amongst the famous hills of the Chianti region and Val d’Orcia.
Built in the late medieval period as a staging post on the Via Francigena, throughout history the town has been strategically important, and its beautiful architecture has been perfectly conserved.
A focal point of the conflict between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, San Gimignano is now known the world over as “the Medieval New York City”.
This bold parallel derives from one of the city’s main attractions. San Gimignano is famous for its 13 imposing towers, which once numbered 72, that bring to mind the skyline in Manhattan.
Piazza della Cisterna
We’ll park our car – still well charged from the beginning of our trip – and head for the heart of the city, right to the summit of the hill where we find the Piazza della Cisterna.
Any trip to San Gimignano must include a stop at its beautiful triangular piazza, which takes its name from the underground cistern, or reservoir, once used by its inhabitants. On top of the cistern is a well, which still has grooves caused by the ropes used to draw up the water.
Facing one another on the piazza are two towers, Torre del Diavolo and Torre degli Ardighelli, famous for having been cut in half as a result of a ban, imposed in 1255, which made it illegal for any tower to be taller than the Municipal Palace.
At the time they were built, the height of the towers was a source of pride among the city’s wealthy families, who used to build bridges connecting the towers to act as exclusive escape routes, if needed. Some of the town’s towers can still be visited today.
We continue our walk around San Gimignano, among medieval arches and palazzos, completely immersed in its atmosphere, when we notice that it’s almost lunchtime.
After a quick stop for a traditional snack of crostini, cured meats and Tuscan pecorino cheese, we’ll get going again.
Before returning to the car and setting off towards our next destination, we’ll round off our visit to this charming town with a stop at the Rocca di Montestaffoli fortress. It’s said that you can see some of Tuscany’s most beautiful scenery from here.
Our trip continues with a visit to Siena, a city noted for its beauty and its medieval reconstructions, the most famous of which is the Palio horserace.
Our B&B is located right in the centre of the city, in a pedestrian area criss-crossed with alleyways that accommodate monumental palazzos, souvenir shops and traditional trattorias.
We’ll charge the car at Be Charge’s charging point on Piazzale Rosselli 25, only a 10-minute walk from the city centre, and leave it parked overnight in one of the area’s car parks. Now we can concentrate on the weekend’s second objective: tasting the area’s produce, accompanied by a good glass of vino novello wine.
This specially matured wine has ancient origins – it was incredibly popular with the Romans – and has continued to acquire considerable prestige over the centuries. It used to be drunk at this time of year only because it was impossible to conserve and mature it for long periods. Today, vino novello, with its red fruit fragrances, boasts an ample charm and enjoys success in various areas of Italy and France.
So, we bring our first day to a close by taking a walk to our accommodation, where we’ll have dinner before turning in for the night.
The Castle at Monteriggioni
Once our car is charged again, the next stage of our trip into the heart of medieval Italy takes us to Monteriggioni.
After travelling through 15km of landscape-painting countryside, again following the old Via Francigena, we see the old town of Monteriggioni on the summit of a hill.
We approach silently, as only an electric car can allow us to do, drawing closer to walls surrounding a hill studded with olive groves and vineyards.
Having parked the car, we travel across the little town until we get to its main attraction: Monteriggioni Castle.
Built in the 1200s by the Republic of Siena, the Castle has almost always had a defensive function, and today its architectural beauty is exceptionally well-preserved.
Once in this famous town, our advice is to enjoy the atmosphere of a bygone time and take advantage of the opportunity to take photos of the view: surely one of the peninsula’s most captivating sights.
At this point, our trip comes to a close, a weekend rich in beauty and genuine flavours.
After a trip of around 60km and fully charged for the week ahead, we’re back home again.