From ancient Etruscan and Hellebore times onwards, centurions going home to Rome, businessmen on their way there from France, and pilgrims, used to take the old road through the hamlet of Pugiano in the valley of the Riguardi river, rather than taking the autostrada which was risky and had terrible traffic jams. The enterprising Mayor of this little village, made a tidy sum selling them Gauloises & Gitanes, and offering duty-free French perfume and French-style hotels. So the route became known as “The Via Francigena” and the village grew wealthy.
Gimi was bishop of Modena and, by making a miraculous apparition on the walls of the small town, he helped the residents fight off the hordes of barbarians who were coming as day-trippers with no refinement. Later he became a martyr but no one quite remembers why, so they made him a saint and renamed the village after him.
Then the villagers all got the contagious medieval virus of building fancy tall towers to enjoy the views and they blew all the profits from their tourism industry ventures on erecting 223 towers. Everyone in Gimignano had a tower, but no-one was allowed to build higher than the mayor’s town hall tower of 1311 at 54m above ground , which still stands to this day along with 17 others.
In this one small burg: Basilica Santa Naria Assunta, Chiesa San Lorenzo Ponte, Chiesa San Bartolo, Chiesa San Agostinho, Chiesa San Al Tempio, convent of Santa Chiara and paintings by every great artist of the 1200’s & 1300’s. There were problems between the Ardinghelli Guelphs and the Salvucci Ghibellines and in 1348 the Black Death killed 8,000 people out of a population of 13,000. This brought the town down and under the domination of Firenze.
There are many wild boar in the cafes & restaurants & tourist shops & gelaterias of this area, and quite a few in the woods around Toscana. There are berries and truffles, but you need a dog or a boar to catch them. The trouble is that the boars eat the truffles and the dogs eat the berries. This part of Toscana has the best life-style in all of Italy.
The countryside is a dream panorama and Christiane says that she understands why the British aristocracy love it. This must be where Berlusconi brought Blair, wearing that ridiculous skull-covering bandana.
We are in San Paolo which is a 17 star Wellness spa hote,l with swimming pools and tennis court and some very rude and expensive treatments indeed like passionfruit & crème fraiche wrap and “lover’s dream”, which can only be done in a private room with courgettes & mint yoghurt (treatment list price 200 Euros). We had one free session and spent all afternoon in the pools, on the bubble slabs and in the Hamam showers, the Aroma Booths, and Jacuzzis and Waterfalls and Saunas and Footbaths and Ice Douches. My skin is now a smooth & silky delight to the senses.
There is not much progress with the investigation, but the herbal remedies & essences vendor who exploded on the train has been discharged from hospital and we plan to interview her. The problem is that she has now sought refuge in the San Girolamo convent which is a closed order institution – no woman ever emerges from there after being admitted. [We may need daring unorthodox tactics.] There is still a dragnet out to find us, since Lucca, but they take a caffe break around 11.00am and that’s precisely when we slip through their grasp.
The gardens and views are wonderful, just like Antonio Carlucccio and his mate promised on tele in “Two greedy Italians”.
We met two research chemists who are trying to find a pill which prevents flu in animals, but I think it dropped down the back of the sofa and now they can’t find it.
The fashion for cut-off jeans is big this year and jeans deliberately frayed at the knees are selling well; but the biggest trend of all is pre-dirtied Converse basketball pumps. They are daubed in mud and come in various colours, and command top dollar in the fashionista boutiques.
<a There is balsamic vinegar from Modena, and a T-bone steak called Fioren Tina, which looks very enticing, but Tina couldn’t possibly eat one on her own: it is so huge that it needs two serving staff to carry it in and another to slice it off the bone. Anyway, we can’t afford one. There is ragu of wild boar, which is less gamey than you might think. There is Schiacciata pudding with eggy custard and icing sugar dusting and a drop of Limoncello in the cornflour sponge, really toothsome.href=”https://markneuman.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/bridges-in-mist.jpg”>