Toscana – The Hill Towns

 

DSC_9315Colle di Val D’Elsa

Colle, a medieval Hill Town is on the Via Francigena, and was the nearest town to our farmhouse, 10 km/6.2 miles away.   It lies pretty much in the center of Tuscany,  half way between Florence and Sienna.

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As with most of the hill towns, it was built along a ridge.

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The Old Town looked down on an old mill and interesting town square.

From the square looking back up to the Old Town.

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From the Old Town there were some beautiful vistas of the surrounding countryside.

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Colle at sunset.

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We joined the locals one weekend as they had a festival to revive Ancient Recipes.

Most Italians towns during the summer months, have some kind of festival or another.

The Mascot, with his gruel and replicas of old glazed pottery.  And, a rather shaky picture of us with delicious bruchetta and a tasty fava bean stew.

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Casole d’Elsa

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Our nearest neighbor was a charming, “off the beaten path” hill town, Casole d’Elsa.   Very clean and tidy,

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it’s focus was on art work; ceramics and sculptures in particular.

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A bronze olive tree-of-life over-looking the valley

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Sometimes the art was subtly placed

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Other times, it brightened a dingy alley-way.

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Just one main road weaved up through the town.

This shop keeper didn’t have any customers, so he went over to chat with the town folk.

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Some of the artwork brought a smile to one’s face.

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Well, as I said…….

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As we walked back down to our car, we saw this church and decided to check it out.

It turned out to be a small, beautiful crypt, with the graveyard behind the building.

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The Madonna and Child dates back to the 13th century.

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I loved the primitive style and the intimacy of the crypt.

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Radicondoli

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The town looks so impressive from afar.

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More than 60 names appeared on this memorial.

Our host, Susanna, had a recommended we try a pizzeria here.

We found a charming town whose streets were being torn up.  After walking around we discovered that they were installing Geothermal electrical lines to every building.  Quite ambitious!

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One of the few buildings that had been restored to some of its former beauty.

I was delighted to see that at long last women were gathering in the square and joining their male counterparts to discuss the world’s problems – or at the very least the problems of the village!

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It was time to eat and we had a ring side seat to watch some spectacular weather.

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I shouldn’t admit this, but I ate this all by myself!  It was a silky smooth Buffalo Mozzarella Pesto Pizza and tasted as good as looks.

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San Gimignano

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We didn’t stop the first time we tried to visit San Gimignano; there were tourists oozing out of every crevice!  On our second attempt, we made sure we were there early to find a parking place and hopefully avoid the bus loads of tourists.

DSC_0321One can see the towers of the UNESCO World Heritage Site (mentioned in the excellent link above) from quite a distance.

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I am always fascinated to see the interactions of locals.

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The Duomo, with beautiful frescos of scenes from the  Old Testament on the left and scenes from the New Testament on the right.

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I managed to get a forbidden photo.

Artists in the courtyard of the Duomo.

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And opposite the Duomo a group of citizens was forming……

they positioned themselves to observe and comment on the activities going on in the piazza.

We walked the perimeter of the city walls, overlooking beautiful valleys on every side.DSC_0337

The weather was heavy, with occasional rain.

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I questioned the fashion choices of some tourists …

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while I approved the choices of some local ladies.

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On another day, we drove along a route that had been recommended to us.

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As usual, driving along the back roads is the best way to see the country, despite the pot-hole ridden tracks.

We stopped in several little, sleepy  Hill Towns.

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DSC_1294I found this gorgeous hand-blown wine carafe sitting by a trash can and decided to take it back to Susanna to decorate her apartments.  I washed it and cleaned it for her and she was delighted to have it.

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We passed some secluded rustic villas, with beautiful well-trimmed gardens.

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We loved the puffy, cotton-ball clouds of Tuscany.

A simple figure with cross outside a church and a typical window on display.

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San Galgano Abbey or “The Church without a Roof”

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The Abbey sits in open fields.

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The Monastery is well preserved.

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Looking through the window to the monastery of Montesiepi (which has been linked to the legend of King Arthur & the Roundtable).

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After walking around the church and the steep climb to the monastery, we had a lite lunch at a nearby café.

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A wedding reception was being held in the adjacent restaurant and I was amused to see these two gallant gentlemen assisting this stylish lady along the gravel path.

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Monteriggioni

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A small village surrounded by an almost intact wall dating back to the 13th century.

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Monteriggioni is also mentioned in Danté’s Inferno.

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Next stop, Volterra.

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