We woke up to sunshine this morning and a wonderful view of the misty clouds and fields from our bathroom window. I was so pleased as today was promised (by the guidebook) to be one of the most beautiful stretches of the entire route.
Chris and I had a room (called Forrest Gump) in an annex which had a shared kitchen with the room next door. In the morning we had been left a croissant each in our Forrest Gump labelled basket together with a plate of sandwiches, a bottle of sweet peach juice and yogurts on our labelled shelf in the fridge.
After breakfast we called the owner and he met the 6 of us at the property where we paid for our rooms in cash.
Gambassi Terme is a pretty small town even in the rain but it looked even more attractive in the sunshine so we took the opportunity to have a quick look around before starting the day of walking.
As a hilltop village we could see far reaching views across the Tuscany countryside from Gambassi Terme.
After such a wet previous day we were in high spirits this morning as we set off in the sun looking forward to walking through the promised beautiful countryside.
We came across a wine tasting shop where we were encouraged in by the owner who offered to stamp our pilgrim passports. There was a range of pilgrim merchandise as well as bottles of wine for sale but with our limited capacity to carry much we sadly had to decline. And it was too early in the morning to participate in any wine tasting!
Continuing on our way…
This stretch was stunning… we walked along a ridge through cypress trees with spectacular views on either side, in between the trees.
As we approached a tiny place called Pancole we came across a shrine which is dedicated to Mary, Mother of Divine Providence. It is said that in 1668 an apparition of the Madonna appeared and miraculously healed a poor dumb girl by giving her voice back again and providing her with fine bread, oil and barrels of wine!
We stopped at the adjacent Santuario Maria for a break and a snack. The group of 10 Australians turned up just after us and the French couple were also there!
Thunderstorms had been forecast for today but as I checked my weather app from time to time they thankfully kept moving to later in the morning and then into the afternoon. Looking across to our destiny, San Gimignano didn’t look too promising however…
Through a clearing in the trees we could see San Gimignano which was about 3 km away.
The weather still remained dry as we passed a monastery. But not for long…
Suddenly along the road into San Gimignano we felt a few huge drops of rain and we quickly put our waterproofs on. Thankfully we were caught the edge and missed the worst of it.
The rain had stopped by the time we reached the gate of San Gimignano and we hadn’t got too wet.
It was lunchtime when we arrived in San Gimignano so the first thing we did was to find a lovely restaurant… a bit more classy than yesterday’s lunch of leftover pizza in the dirty rat infested scruffy deserted barn…
After lunch we set of to explore… San Gimignano is on the tourist trail with day trippers arriving from places such as Florence or Lucca so was busy…
We made our way to the medieval historic centre with its 13th century towers. The town was established before the 10th century with its strategic location on the top of a hill and was an important trade route between European and Middle Eastern markets.
The towers were originally built between the 11th and 13th centuries by noble families and upper middle-class merchants as symbols of wealth and power.
Another day another tower…
Unable to resist the opportunity for another spectacular view from the highest point of San Gimignano, 5 of us climbed the 218 steps to the top of Torre Grossa, the highest of the family of towers.
San Gimignano has several masterpieces of Italian art and at the foot of the tower was a small exhibition:
Above left is ‘Cassone’ by 15th century artist Pier Francesco Fiorentino and above right is ‘Madonna and Child’, circa 1460-70.
At around 4 pm we made our way to tonight’s accommodation… staying in a monastery!
Having found a website I had booked 3 ensuite rooms by email in the Monastero San Gimignano. They sent me a helpful email during the morning with instructions to arrive between 3:30 – 5:30 pm when the sisters will be able to answer the door and let us in.
Sister Maddalena greeted us but couldn’t speak any English – thankfully Roza helped out by conversing with her in Italian! Sister Maddalena showed us to our rooms which were similar to hostel rooms. Our spacious room had two single beds and a bunk bed and one of the best showers of the trip!
We also had an amazing view from our room!
Later we met the others in a lovely open air bar in the historic centre for a pre-dinner glass of wine.
And that evening enjoyed a meal in a small restaurant as recommended by Sister Maddalena (and understood by Roza). Here we had traditional Tuscan food and organic local wine sitting at a table down in the cellar!
That evening, reflecting on another fabulous day, I had a comfortable nights’ sleep in the monastery complete with its cute floral pillow case and bedding.