Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Monteriggioni: Small but Mighty

Monteriggioni is small. So small that, if you're in a hurry, you can see the whole place in fifteen minutes. But I would suggest to savour this fortified town because it is quite enchanting and it one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Italy.

Sincerely Loree: Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Sincerely Loree: Monteriggioni, Tuscany

A very brief history of Monteriggioni

The hill on which Monteriggioni is located was fortified by the Siennese in 1203 with a ring-shaped wall that follows the natural contours of the land. Due to a dispute with Florence over the surrounding territory, a ware broke out between the two cities and the Siennese were victorious. In 1260 they extended the fortifications and strengthened the walls with fourteen towers. The town finally fell to Florence in 1554 and the following year Siena and all its territory was taken over by the Medici family.

Sincerely Loree: Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Monteriggioni's walls and towers

Sincerely Loree: Porta Franca, Monteriggioni, Tuscany
Monteriggioni's towers captured the imagination of Dante who, in the 14th century, compared them to horrific giants who surround the deepest pit of hell. But there's nothing hellish about Monteriggioni. 
Sincerely Loree: Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Sincerely Loree:  Monteriggioni, Tuscany


Sincerely Loree: Monteriggioni, Tuscany

It is a pretty town with mostly medieval and some Renaissance architecture and a jaw-dropping view of the surrounding Chianti region. 
Sincerely Loree: Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Sincerely Loree: Monteriggioni, Tuscany
The town hasn't changed much over the centuries and its ten-metre high city walls, that are almost circular in design, are still intact. The town has two gates: the Porta Franca (facing Rome) and the Porta di San Giovanni (facing Florence) that are connected by the main road, via  I° Maggio.
Sincerely Loree: Porta Franca, Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Sincerely Loree: Porta San Giovanni, Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Sincerely Loree: Porta San Giovanni, Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Sincerely Loree: Piazza Roma,Monteriggioni, Tuscany


Just inside Porta Franca is Piazza Roma that was used as a vegetable garden in times of siege. The Romanesque church of Santa Maria Assunta, which was built between 1213 and 1235, is located in this square.
Sincerely Loree: Church of Santa Maria Assunta, Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Sincerely Loree: Church of Santa Maria Assunta, Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Sincerely Loree: Church of Santa Maria Assunta, Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Sincerely Loree: Church of Santa Maria Assunta, Monteriggioni, Tuscany

The via Francigena

Sincerely Loree:  Monteriggioni, Tuscany
We saw signs for the via Francigena all over Tuscany and were rather intrigued to learn that it is a medieval pilgrim trail that stretches from Canterbury Cathedral (England) to Rome. Along the way it passes through France, Switzerland, northern Italy and Tuscany, winding its way through picturesque countryside and connecting many monasteries and abbeys along its route. Monteriggioni was (and still is) a major stop on this pilgrim trail. The first person to walk the via Francigena is said to have been Sigeric the Serious, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 990 AD. Since then thousands of pilgrims have followed the route which is becoming more popular with the advent of slow travel. The via Francigena measures more than 2000 km and takes over 90 days to complete.

Sincerely Loree:  Monteriggioni, Tuscany

The quirkiest shoe shop in town

Sincerely Loree:  Monteriggioni, Tuscany
There aren't too many stores in Monteriggioni but there is one particular store that shouldn't be missed. Pratesi has been making shoes since 1857 - and oh what wonderful shoes they create! I have never seen a shoe store like the one in Monteriggioni in all my life. It's not a very big space but it is crammed with such a wide variety of shoes, in so many colours and quirky styles, that it took my breath away. I didn't know where to look first. It felt like shoe heaven and I was so spoilt for choice that I didn't end up  buying anything. Have you ever been so overwhelmed with beautiful shoes that you didn't know which pair to choose and ended up walking out of the store empty handed? Well, that's what happened to me. I couldn't make a decision and, since we couldn't spend half the day, there I walked away empty handed. But, the store does have a website Pratesi Shoes and you can also find them on Etsy. The good news is that they ship their genuine leather, handmade shoes worldwide.

Sincerely Loree:  Monteriggioni, Tuscany

PRATESI

Via I° Maggio, 15, 53035 Monteriggioni SI, Italy

I hope you are enjoying my 'Tuscan Series'. Since we're not too far away from Christmas I will try to share posts that are more in tune with the season. I will resume my 'Tuscan Series' in the new year.

Sincerely Loree:  Monteriggioni, Tuscany

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Giving thanks

 It is Thanksgiving this week in the US and, with an American in the house, we also celebrate the day - although not quite in as big a way. But we have family over, try to cook a nice supper and give thanks for our many blessings.

Sincerely Loree: Autumn leaves

This year I thought I would be nice to give thanks publicly (sort of like giving the acceptance speech at an awards ceremony) to all the people I am grateful to have in my life and which I sometimes take for granted. So a big fat thank you from the bottom of my heart

  • to my husband for being more patient with me than I deserve and for rubbing my feet (nearly always) whenever I ask.
  • to my son who, at fifteen and around a foot taller than I am, still loves to spend time with his old mama and who has a generous and kind spirit.
  • to my parents who, to this day, go out of their way to help me in any way they can.
  • to my best friends, Sylvana, Debbie and Liliana, for all the laughs and memories that only 45 years of friendship can provide.
  • to my best friends from college, Corinne, Etienne and Jurgen for having been there through thick and thin during some of the most difficult times of my life.
  • to  my blogging and Insta buddies, especially Elizabeth (The Vintage Contessa), Debbie (View From Harmony Hills) and Gattina (Writer's Cramps) for supporting this blog for so very long and taking the time to comment on nearly all my posts.
  • to all those that stop by to read my (sometimes erratic) thoughts: your visits are always appreciated.

    Sincerely Loree: Autumn leaves
And, while I'm at it, I'm also thankful for
  • books and the authors that write them
  • vaccines and the scientists that work so tenaciously to make them
  • being able to travel again
  • our proximity to Italy and its beauty
  • Europe and its diverse cultures, languages and history
  • the sea that surrounds us and that calms all my moods
  • the fleeting beauty of these leaves*
  • life and nature and sunshine and rain
  • the promise of tomorrow.
I wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving.
Sincerely Loree: Autumn leaves

* I spent a good 45 minutes trying to capture the beauty and colours of these leaves. They were hanging on, tenuously, to the trees that grow on the slopes of the town of Montalcino. I did not have a tripod so I tried to balance my camera as best I could on the top of the metal railing that was all there was to stop me from plunging into the valley below. We don't get the fall/autumn colours here so I was really happy to have the opportunity to spend some time immortalising their beauty.

Sincerely Loree: Autumn leaves
I will be back with more adventures from Tuscany next week before I take a break to concentrate on some Christmas posts. I'll continue gushing about this gorgeous region of italy in the new year (i can't believe 2022 is almost on our door step!!)

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Pretty Pienza: A Pope's Legacy

I knew I was going to love Pienza the moment I set foot out of the car and we took the scenic walk into the old city, which was just five minutes away. 

The first thing we came across was a convent with the most beautiful view I have ever laid eyes on. It was a warm autumn day and the nuns were selling their produce in their enormous garden under a cluster of cheerful beach umbrellas. 

Sincerely Loree: Val d'Orcia from Pienza, Italy

Sincerely Loree: Val d'Orcia from Pienza, Italy

Then, a little old lady walked past with a small bunch of flowers in her hand (a la` Under The Tuscan Sun). She was headed towards the Church of Santa Caterina and I wondered whether the flowers were for a departed loved one or to place in front of the niche of a favourite saint. I hoped it was the latter. 

And just before we crossed the street to enter the historical centre, I spied the house of my dreams. And it was for sale. I think I must have sighed out loud with longing but I'm not Frances Mayes and taking such a huge leap into the unknown is not really consistent with my character. 

Sincerely Loree: My dream home, Pienza, Italy

Anyhow, I'll continue to dream but, for the moment, let's take a short stroll around Pienza.

A short history of Pienza

Pienza, or Corsignano as it was originally named, dates back to the 9th century. In 1300 parts of the village became property of the Piccolomini family. Enea Silvio Piccolomini was born in Corsignano in 1405. After a long period of Humanist studies he had a successful career as a diplomat and politician. After a short stint as Archbishop of Siena, he was elected pope in 1458. Now known as Pius II he made plans to rebuild the village of his birth as an ideal Renaissance town and named it Pienza (the town of Pius).

Sincerely Loree: Main gate, Pienza, Italy

Pienza's landmarks

The most important sights of Pienza are all located on its  main square, Piazza Pio II. These are the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta with its Germanic-inspired tower, Palazzo Piccolomini, Palazzo Comunale and Palazzo Vescovile. The latter was built by the notorious Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia who later became Pope Alexander VI and it now houses the Diocesan Museum.

Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta

Sincerely Loree: Cattedrale di Santa  Maria Assunta, Pienza, Italy

Palazzo Piccolomini
Sincerely Loree: Palazzo Piccolomini, Pienza, Italy

Palazzo Comunale
Sincerely Loree: Palazzo Comunale, Pienza, Italy

Palazzo Vescovile (Borgia Palace) - in the foreground
Sincerely Loree: Palazzo Vescovile, Pienza, Italy

Pienza's claims to fame

In 1996 Pienza was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it represents the first application of the Renaissance Humanist concept of urban design and it played a major role in subsequent urban development in Italy and beyond.

Sincerely Loree: Pienza, Italy

Pienza is also famous for its pecorino cheese and a festival is held in the town every first Sunday of September to celebrate this world-famous cheese that I happen to love so much. There are several shops selling Pecorino cheese in  Pienza and I was sorely tempted to buy a whole round of it but decided that even I might have some difficulty eating all that cheese.

Sincerely Loree: Shop selling pecorino, Pienza, Italy
Sincerely Loree: Shop selling pecorino, Pienza, Italy

This pretty town was chosen by director Franco Zeffirelli  to film the hauntingly beautiful 1968 version of Romeo and Juliet, starring a very young Olivia Hussey as Juliet and Leonard Whiting as Romeo. If you've seen the movie you might recognise the well below (Pozzo dei Cani).

Sincerely Loree: Pozzo dei Cani, Pienza, Italy

What I loved about Pienza

Pienza ia very compact and it doesn't take very long to see the whole town (unless you're prone to stopping every 5 seconds to take photos). Like most hilltop towns in Tuscany, Pienza's streets are narrow and winding, flanked on both sides by pretty, well-kept buildings that are 2 or 3 storeys high. 

Sincerely Loree: Pienza, Italy

In contrast to some other places we visited, Pienza is relatively flat, making walking easier as there are no steep hills to navigate. A number of its streets lead towards the walls from where the magnificent colours of the Val d'Orcia assault your senses like a fireworks display on the 4th of July. It's the type of view that I could have stared at for hours on end but which I eventually had to leave to continue exploring this pretty town.

Sincerely Loree: Pienza, Italy

Sincerely Loree: Pienza, Italy

Sincerely Loree: Pienza, Italy

Since the buildings in Pienza are not very high the whole town feels light and airy as it doesn't seem to be weighed down by too much stone. Many houses are very prettily decorated with pots of flowers and, although there were some visitors (like us) roaming around, the place was not crowded at all.  It also has some very romantically named streets like Via dell'Amore (Love Street) and Via del Bacio (Kiss Street) that I thought was really sweet and made me wonder whether the residents live some type of enchanted life.

Sincerely Loree: Pienza, Italy

Sincerely Loree: Pienza, Italy

Sincerely Loree: Pienza, Italy

Sincerely Loree: Pienza, Italy

I really felt at home in Pienza (although I rarely feel out of place in Italy) and would have loved to spend more time there even though we saw most of the town in the time that we had. Being there just felt right somehow and I know that I've placed it on my list of places to revisit. 

Sincerely Loree: Pienza, Italy

Sincerely Loree: Pienza, Italy

It is probably difficult to describe Pienza's attraction to someone who is looking for flamboyant architecture or world-known attractions but what I love most about it is its simplicity coupled with gorgeous Renaissance architecture, charming dwellings, its proximity to wide open spaces and the surrounding landscape of the Val d'Orcia that is more stunning than anything I could ever have imagined.

Sincerely Loree: Pienza,  Italy Sincerely Loree: Pienza,  Italy Sincerely Loree: Pienza,  Italy

Sincerely Loree: Pienza,  Italy Sincerely Loree: Pienza,  Italy Sincerely Loree: Pienza,  Italy
Sincerely Loree: Pienza,  Italy Sincerely Loree: Pienza,  Italy Sincerely Loree: Pienza,  Italy

Location: Pienza, Italy
October 2021

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