After our morning in San Gimignano, it was off to spend the afternoon in Siena! Siena, was also an important city in this area of Italy that was eventually conquered by the Florentines, but unlike San Gimignano, Siena remained a center of banking, thus it has always been a somewhat important part of the region, even if there were times when the money ran out in Siena, which is why you’ll find a piazza that appears to lead nowhere from the Cathedral. They didn’t finish building the cathedral they had planned. Still, even if it isn’t the largest Doumo in the world, as they had planned, it’s still very impressive.
After our long day in Rome, we had another long day of touring, but this time we were in port at Livorno, and busing off to Tuscany. We chose a two-part tour, where we would spend the morning in San Gimignano, and the afternoon in Siena.
San Gimignano is an interesting place to visit, mostly because of what it wasn’t. During Medieval times and up into the 14th century, it was a stop on the way to the Vatican. It was well known for it’s medieval towers, which were built as a way for the wealthy family to flaunt their wealth. The higher the tower, the more wealth, and of course, the more you could see other families who might be trying to attack you. Eventually it got so out of control that the rulers of the city finally set a rule that no one could have a tower higher than the one at the Palazzo Communale, the community building. That situation remained in effect basically until the plague came to town, and the rest of Europe, at which point the city fell under the rule of Florence and lost any of it’s importance. In fact, it didn’t really have any strategic importance at all after that. Thus, the city is a great example of a walled medieval city, which still has over a dozen towers viewable from quite a ways away, because no one ever tried to conquer it, or rebuild it. It still has over a dozen of the medieval towers, and the city center is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
What to say about Rome? Before this trip, I had never been there. Opinions on visiting Rome vary greatly, from “too crowded”, to “amazing”. The one thing everyone agreed on, though, was that you have to see it for yourself. As someone who has always been interested in history, of course I was excited to see it and to wander around some of the oldest structures that I have ever seen in person.
We arrived in Palermo to the news that there would be a general strike in the city that day. No expectation that it would interfere too much with any of our plans but, you just never know. Truthfully, Palermo has a big city feel, lots of hustle and bustle. When you throw in a general strike to the mix, well it feels very chaotic. Very unlike the peaceful streets of Erice, or the peaceful feel of Tuscany that we would experience later in the trip. In retrospect though, it may have been a good warmup for Rome. 😉
After a day of sailing, which included a very relaxing day of checking out the ship, eating way too much, and attending high tea, our next port of call was in Sicily. We pulled into Trapani on Thursday morning to a party cloudy day. Our morning was filled with a scheduled excursion out beyond Trapani though, to the mountain town of Erice. Erice fascinated me because of both it’s mountain views and the way in which this little town has seemingly been preserved for centuries, all the while still functioning as a home to locals.
I knew Erice would satisfy my desire to see the old ways of life in Sicily, but I wasn’t so sure about how it would be for photography. Turns out, I needn’t have worried. There was plenty to see up there.