Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1997: Farm Stay in Tuscany - Tenuta di Spannocchia
By fivediggs from Italy, Spring 2012
Page 6 of 7: Monteriggioni & San Gimignano
Museum 1300 - San Gimignano
Both trips to Monteriggioni and San Gimignano are fun, short outings perfect for traveling with young children.
When we left Spannocchia for Monteriggioni, the sun was shining and unfortunately by the time we arrived it was pouring rain. We were unprepared for the weather and had forgotten our rain coats and umbrellas back at the house. We learned quickly to always come prepared for rain. The weather was variable and we couldn't find any forecasts that gave us an accurate prediction of what was to come. The city was still stunning regardless of the weather though. It is a small medieval walled village set upon a hill. Had the weather cooperated, we would have climbed to the top of the walls for a view of the countryside and village.
We walked through the main entrance of the walls, and immediately entered Piazza Roma. We ate at Bar Il Feudo in the Piazza and had a wonderful Tuscan meal. The children ate Picci pasta with pesto and my husband had al cinghiale (with wild boar). Picci is a thick hand rolled pasta that is long like spaghetti and is common in this region of Tuscany. We purchased some from the grocery store to cook at home and the cooking time was 20 minutes! It makes for a hearty bowl of pasta but you must try it while you are visiting.
Had the rain let up, we probably would have stayed longer and just relaxed in Piazza Roma. We did take a short walk around and explored some of the shops. The Romanesque church Santa Maria Assunta in the main square is definitely worth a visit too.
My husband had never been to San Gimignano and we decided it would be a perfect place to take the children. It has an awful reputation for being touristy - which it is - but you can not deny the striking beauty of the city and its sky-scape. The drive from Spannocchia took about an hour and we drove through Colle di Val d'Elsa and stopped for lunch at Officina della Cucina Popolare. The restaurant was recommended to us at Spannocchia and it seemed like a good excuse to explore another small town. It took us a while to find it because it is located in the city Alto (tall) not Bass (low). You must continue to follow the signs to centro up the hill above the main Piazzas in the low city. All the pasta is homemade and I don't think any of us left a drop on our plates. The Etruscan pasta with onions and capocollo was delicious. My eldest son was tired of pasta and devoured a secondi of mixed sausages. The quality of food is top notch - a great find for foodies.
When we arrived at San Gimignano, it was a sunny, gorgeous day and the city was mobbed with tourists and buses. We parked near Via Bagnaia and walked to the Sant'Agostino church where they happened to have antique carts on display that were used during funeral processions. We had listened to a podcast on the Plague or Pesta on our drive there so the boys were mesmerized by them. We headed from there to the main square to see Palazzo Communale and the Torre Grosso. It was quite congested in this area and the nearby Piazza Cisterna so we decided to go immediately to the Museum 1300 instead of climb the steps to the top of the tower.
The Museum 1300 is quite new and is a great place to visit if you have young children. It is not on a main street and fortunately was not crowded when we were there. The museum includes a miniature replica of the city during the medieval times before many of its towers were destroyed. Admission includes a guide that provides lots of information about the city prior to the plague. For an additional €12, we purchased a Treasure hunt book. We followed the map through the city and had to answer riddles to complete a puzzle. The kids loved trying to identify the towers and some of the riddles were not easy! We did not make it through the whole book because the crowds were making it difficult to navigate through the city as a family. We still felt as though we learned a lot and had a better sense for the layout of San Gimingnano. We concluded our visit by picking up a bottle of the local white wine - Vernaccia at a small wine shop.
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