Tuesday, 25 January 2022

Volterra in Black and white

We arrived in Volterra at the worst time of the day for taking photos, around mid-morning, when the sun is at its brightest, throwing everything not in its path into the deepest shadow. But I've learnt that in such circumstances the trick is to shoot in black and white. And so I did (but I promise to include a few photos in colour here and there). 
Sincerely Loree: Volterra. Italy

Sincerely Loree: Volterra. Italy

A short history of Volterra

Volterra has been settled since the Bronze-age and is believed to have been continuously inhabited since the 8th century B.C. It was an important Etruscan centre and two of its gates, Porta Diana and Porta all'Arco, date back to this time. Some defence walls from this era also survive to this day.
Sincerely Loree: Volterra. Italy

Volterra was allied to Rome in the 3rd century B.C and in the fifth century AD it became the seat of a bishop and its importance in this sphere lasted until the 12th centur,y when it captured the interest of the Republic of Florence, whose forces conquered the city. Florentine rule was not always popular and several rebellions broke out. When the Republic of Florence fell in 1530, Volterra came under the control of the Medici family and its fortunes followed those of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.
Sincerely Loree: Volterra. Italy

Sincerely Loree: Volterra. Italy

Sincerely Loree: Volterra. Italy

Volterra's Landmarks

The Roman Theatre of Volterra

The Roman theatre dates back to the 1st century BC and was excavated in the 1950s. The theatre was financed by a wealthy family from Volterra and is constructed of local limestons.

Sincerely Loree: Roman theatre, Volterra. Italy

Palazzo dei Priori

Volterra's town hall was built between 1208 and 1257 and is located in the main square, close to the cathedral. The facade is decorated with terracotta plaques representing the coats of arms of prominent Florentine families. It is the oldest town hall in Tuscany.
Sincerely Loree: Palazzo dei Priori, Volterra. Italy

Cattderale di Santa Maria Assunta

The duomo of Volterra is dedicated to the assumption of Mary. It is a Romanesque building that was built around 1120 on the site of a previous cathedral that was destroyed by an earthquake. It was expanded in the mid-13th century.
Sincerely Loree: Duomo of Volterra, Volterra. Italy

Baptistery of San Giovanni

The baptistery is an octagonal 13th century building located in front of the cathedral. Its main facade is covered in white and green marble.
Sincerely Loree: Baptistery of San Giovanni, Volterra. Italy

Sincerely Loree: Baptistery of San Giovanni, Volterra. Italy

Porta all'Arco and Porta Diana

The Porta all'Arco dates back to the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. It was originally built by the Etruscans but was incorporated into the city walls in the Middle Ages. It lies directly opposite the other Etruscan gate of Volterra, Porta Diana. Adorning Porta all'Arco are three sculpted heads. It is not known who these heads represent but it is thought that they are likely Etruscan deities.
Sincerely Loree: Porta all'Arco, Volterra. Italy

Unfortunately, we did not have time to visit Porta Diana.

What I Loved About Volterra

I could say that my favourite thing about Volterra was the panino I ate from La Panineria Al Vicolino. It was truly one of the tastiest sandwiches I have ever eaten and I would love to go back to Volterra just to scoff another one. But there were plenty of other things that I loved about this Tuscan hilltop town. 
One of them was just seeing people going about their day-to-day chores. Cars are generally prohibited from the historic centre of many Tuscan towns and it was really special seeing inhabitants going around from store to store: the butcher, the baker, the pharmacy; and stopping on the way to chat with neighbours or acquaintances. The atmosphere felt so friendly and there was never a single moment when I felt unsafe or even unwelcome.
Sincerely Loree: Volterra. Italy

Although I didn't have much time to read about it at the time of our visit, Volterra's history, as you're probably aware by now, is pretty impressive. It has been continuously inhabited since the 8th century BC and it is these layers of history that make it so fascinating. All I had to do was touch the walls of buildings and I felt like the past was right there, just within my grasp.
Sincerely Loree: Volterra. Italy

Sincerely Loree: Volterra. Italy

The historic centre of Volterra is characterised by narrow, winding streets dominated by medieval and early Renaissance architecture. Many buildings have very interesting architectural details on their facades and were clearly built with defence purposes in mind. Some of the doors we came across seemed constructed to withstand a siege. 

Sincerely Loree: Volterra. Italy

But what I find most endearing about Tuscany, and Italy in general, is the attention to detail. The architecture is just amazing and everything, from lanterns to door knockers, just seems to have been created to inspire awe. While that may seem like an exaggeration, it probably isn't. While we are familiar with a unified Italy, it wasn't always so. For many years, different republics, regions and towns were at war with each other or tried to outdo each other by commissioning beautiful buildings and works of art. So a lot of what we see today is a result of this 'competition' between them and becauase of the frequent fighting and rivalries that broke out.
Sincerely Loree: Volterra. Italy

When we visited Volterra last October, it was pretty quiet and the streets were not thronged with people, making it easier to get around without constantly bumping into crowds. The plan of the town seems to follow the contours of the hill it is built on, so it's not flat and walking around can be strenuous but invigorating.
Sincerely Loree: Volterra. Italy

Perhaps I'm stating the obvious when I say that I wish we had more time to get to know Volterra better. But maybe one day we will return. I know I am far from done with Tuscany yet.


Location: Volterra, Italy
October 2021

Monday, 17 January 2022

My year in books 2021

Just as I did in 2019 and 2020, I will be sharing some insights and fun statistics from my reading year. I will not be sharing the full list of books I read in 2021 in this post. You can find the lists and reviews here, here, here and here. So let's see how my reading fared in 2021.

My year in books 2021

  • Number of books read: 39 (1 less than the 40 I read in 2020 - but I did read some very long books last year)
  • Total number of pages read: 15 316 (up from 13 977 in 2020)
  • Average book length: 392 pages
  • Shortest book: Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel at 222 pages
  • Longest book: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon at 850 pages
Sincerely Loree: Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  • Most popular (i.e. most read): The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins (which was shelved 3 936 518 times)
  •  Least popular: Violette Szabo: The Life That I Have by Susan Ottaway (shelved 493 times)
  • Highest rated by Goodreads readers: The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell with an incredible 4.49 average
  • My average rating for 2021: 3.4 stars which was rather low but I read quite a few books that didn't quite live up to my expectations and Goodreads doesn't do half stars so it does skew the ratings somewhat
  • The first book I read: Like Water For Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
  • The last book I read: My Name Is Eva by by Suzanne Goldring
  • The book I read that has been published longest: The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim in 1922
  • The most recently published book I read: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman in September 2020
Sincerely Loree: The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osmand
  • My 5 star reads: sadly, no book I read in 2021 made the five start mark but these came the closest: Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres (4.5 stars), The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell (4.5 stars) and The Pianist by Wladislaw Szpilman (4.5 stars)
  • My favourite fiction book: Captain Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernieres  - it is so very different and so much more moving than the movie
  • My favourite non-fiction book: this was a tie between The Corfu Trilogy by Gerald Durrell and The Pianist by Wladislaw Szpilman
  • The book I enjoyed least: Lord Robert by Jean Plaidy (1.8 stars) - this was quite unusual as I generally love her books
  • Most disappointing book: Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens - there was a lot of hype around this book and it got many rave reviews but I felt it just didn't live up to its promise.
  • Best suited for a book club: Lea by Pascal Mercier, The  Gustav Sonata by Rose Tremain and The Collector by John Fowles all explore themes that can generate numerous interesting discussions
  • Number of non-fiction reads: 5
  • Month in which I read most: June (5 books)
  • Month in which I read least: July and October (2 books) but the total number of pages I read in October is much lower than in July. Strangely enough, October was also the month in which I read the least amount of books is 2020. I was starting to wonder whether something strange happens to me in October but that I remembered that last October we were in Tuscany for a week and I didn't have much time to do a lot of reading while we were there. We'll see how October 2022 fares.
Sincerely Loree: Lea by Pascal Mercier

So that sums up  my reading stats for 2021. As you can imagine, I am looking forward to reading many more books in 2022 and sharing some of them with you. I am still debating whether to do my quarterly posts outlining all the books I read during the previous 3 months or just reviewing some of the books that I enjoyed reading most. Any suggestions are very welcome as I don't want to bore you too much with my book addiction.

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

2021: Another wild ride

By now we've all said our goodbyes to 2021 and, for better or worse, have started a new year. Looking back at 2021 I would say it was another wild ride. Perhaps not quite as bad as its predecessor but it still blew us and buffeted us every which way. Like every other year, it had its highs and its lows but the pandemic was still very much with us and our lives had to revolve around its whims. So here's my roundup of the year we've just left.

Sincerely Loree: Waves at Ghar lapsi

2021: my year in pictures

In January we were forced into another mini-lockdown here in Malta as the numbers started to rise after the Christmas festivities. It was also the month that I turned fifty and I had taken you on a small tour of my life in Fifty years of me. Since all the restaurants were closed we celebrated my half-century very quietly and the dream I had made long ago to spend my fiftieth in Venice had to be given up.

Sincerely Loree: Moi

February and March were equally slow and quiet months. We spent most of our weekends out in the open, hiking and discovering new-to-us places like Blata tal-Melh and Irdum tal-Vigarju. These off-the-beaten track locations helped us appreciate nature and gave us a sense of freedom. In February I attended the last day of the Darkness At Noon Exhibition at The Splendid

Sincerely Loree: Blata tal-Melh

Our lockdown was lifted in April as the number of vaccinated individuals started to rise and the amount of positive cases started to dwindle. The first tourists made their way back to our shores and we were able to go out to restaurants again. The weather really started to warm up and we took our last hike as, from here on, it would get too hot to be enjoyable.

Sincerely Loree: Irdum tal-Vigarju

In late April and May I discovered a love of gardening that rather surprised me as I never had felt a keen interest in plants. But just being outside in our little garden, digging up the soil, removing weeds and planting seeds made me very happy. I didn't really know what I was doing, so some things thrived while others didn't. I've a lot to learn.

Sincerely Loree: Dahlia

In June my husband and I celebrated out 18th anniversary and we took the day off and went out for lunch in the quaint fishing village of Marsaxlokk. We found it much changed from the last time we were there a few years ago, Like many other places, modern apartment blocks have risen in place of the small houses that characterised this village which has spoiled the aesthetic somewhat. But lunch at La Capanna restaurant was very good and it felt good to be out in the sunshine. On the summer solstice we were hit by a heatwave that would last for 6 weeks. It was certainly one long, hot summer.

Sincerely Loree: Lunch at La Capanna

Due to the intense heat, we didn't do much of anything in July and August. Beach days were definitely the best days. Strangely, the weather started to turn by mid-August and, although it was still hot, the temperatures were normal for this time of year (in the low 30s rather than the high 30s to low 40s we had been experiencing).

Sincerely Loree: Golden Bay

My friend Henni and her daughter visited us in September and we spent a nice few days together, catching up and visiting some of the popular places around Malta. We also got the first rain of the season and I couldn't have been happier to see the black clouds and feel the cool rain.

Sincerely Loree: Gnejna Bay

In October, with the number of infections still very low, my husband and I decided to plan a quick trip to Tuscany. We were there during the last week of October and had a really wonderful time. Tuscany is just beautiful in autumn. I've already written about our week in Tuscany and about visits to Pienza and Monteriggioni. I have more posts planned and will share them soon if you're still interested in reading more about this region of Italy.

Sincerely Loree: Siena, Italy

November went the way most Novembers do and was pretty unmemorable. We were planning on having Thanksgiving dinner, as we do every year, but developed a leak in our water system and had to shelve our plans. But I still managed to find a number of things to be grateful for. After the plumber fixed our leak I decided it was time decorate the house for Christmas.

December is my favourite month but, last year, something just didn't seem to be right. After getting all our decorations up by the first few days of December I fell into a slump. Work was super busy and I just didn't seem to have the energy to shop or  bake, two tasks that I usually enjoy very much. Instead I kept postponing from one day to the next. The number of infections kept rising and I couldn't shake off the feeling that things were going to precipitate. 

Sincerely Loree: Valletta at Christmas

To cut a long story short, our teenager had an aching back and runny nose on Christmas eve. I didn't think too much of it but took him to do a rapid test (to be on the safe side) and it came out positive. So we had to spend the holidays locked inside and  in isolation. It wasn't fun but we were together and still tried to make the most of the festive season (and Santa was very kind and left 22 books under the Christmas tree). The year seemed to end with a whimper and we were not able to drive to a beach to say goodbye to the last sunset of 2021, as has become our tradition.

And, as of today, we are 11 days into 2022 and I tested positive last week so we had to stay in quarantine and will be 'locked up' until next week. It's hard not to feel a bit down sometimes but I know that so many people have had it so much worse. So I am doing my best not to complain. But I will admit that I really need to get out of the house now and hope we can make that happen in one more week. I hope you are all doing well and have slipped into some sort of routine now that a new year has started.

Wednesday, 29 December 2021

Books I read in 2021: Part 4

Today I'll be sharing an overview of the books that I read between October and December 2021. I read a total of nine books that were, for the most part, considerably different from each other. Unsrprisingly,  historical fiction was again the most common genre that I read but there were also a few books with a magical realism or fantastical theme. I also finished a biography about Violette Szabo, an SOE agent during WW2. As has now become my habit, I will share a little bit about each book and hope you will find a few to add to your own 'to be read' list.

The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein by Peter Ackroyd

This book is narrated from the point of view of  Victor Frankenstein, the creator of the monster, or creature as he is called in this book, that was fist made known to the world by Mary Shelley in her epic novel Frankenstein

In a deserted pottery in Limehouse, Victor carries out experiments on newly-dead corpses in the hope of resurrecting them. The result of his experiments is the creature that is famously, though erroneously, known as Frankenstein.

Sincerely Loree: The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein by Peter Ackroyd
This book was just not for me.The author brought early 19th century London to life perfectly but that's probably its only redeeming feature. The male characters (Frankenstein, Shelley and  Byron) were detestable (except for Frankenstein's young servant Fred) and the only interesting personality was the 'creature' who was forced into this world by a man intent on fulfilling the role of creator. Shunned by the rest of humankind for his grotesque appearance, the creature becomes an outcast intent on destroying the man who created him. Like the original, this book encourages the discussion of how far Man should manipulate nature to replace God but it left me cold. I suppose that once a story is told its retelling will never be quite up to par.

Genres: science fiction. horror

My rating: 2 

Leopard At The Door by Jennifer McVeigh

This story is told from the perspective of Rachel Fullsmith who returns to Kenya after spending six years in a boarding school in England. She finds the country much changed and feels like an outsider in the only place she considered home. As the story progresses we see that her sympathies clash with those of her immediate family and that her outlook is very different from that of the previous generation.

I definitely needed to read this book because it took me outside my usual comfort zone (books set in Western Europe and North America). This book about colonial Kenya and the Mau May revolts in the 1950s gave me a lot to think about, especially by considering the different perspectives and ideologies of the characters. Jennifer McVeigh was able to effortlessly transport me to a place I have never been. I could almost feel the heat of Africa rising through the soles of my feet.

⚠️ Attempted rape, violence, death of a parent, casual racism

Genres: historical fiction, Africa

My rating: 4

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

In the autumn of 1686, Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin life as the wife of the wealthy trader Johannes Brandt. Johannes is kind but distant and seeks to make up for this by giving Nella a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of an elusive miniaturist whose tiny creations soon start to mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways. 

Sincerely Loree: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

I feel rather ambivalent about this book. I didn't love it or hate it. I thought that the descriptions of late 17th century Amsterdam were well done and it is clear that the author has researched this time period well, which is always a bonus. This novel had a good sense of place, it was fast-paced and there were enough secrets and hints of mystery thrown in to keep me reading on. The first two parts of the book were intriguing and definitely drew me in. But after that it went a bit downhill as there were too many loose ends. I've learnt that there is no be a sequel so it could be that many of my questions will be answered if I decide to read it and that may change my overall opinion of the story. 

Genres: fiction, mystery, fantasy

My rating: 3.1

The Secret  Life Of  Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

Lily Owens has grown up believing she accidentally killed her mother. Her father is abusive and she only has one friend: Rosaleen, a black servant with a sharp exterior and tender heart. In the Sixties in South Carolina, segregation was still practised and racial tensions explode one hot summer afternoon. Rosaleen is arrested and beaten and Lily helps her to flee from jail. Now fugitives from justice they find sanctuary in the home of the Boatwright sisters who are beekeepers but also so much more.

This book is a wholesome, if rather slow, read. I would have liked it more if I could have identified a bit better with Lily Owens. But I'm not fond of liars, even in fiction. And Lily is a pathological liar alsmot until the end.

August Boatwright definitely kept the book going for me and, in spite of her faults, I was glad that there was a happy ending for Lily. I enjoyed all the facts about the bees and have decided that everyone needs someone like August Boatwright in their lives. The Secret Life Of Bees borders on fantasy in many places, which is fine for me, but other readers may find they have to suspend their disbelief to make the story work.

Genres: coming of age, fiction

My rating: 3

Violette Szabo: The Life That I Have by Susan Ottaway

A comprehensive, if sometimes dry, biography of SOE agent Violette Szabo. Susan Ottaway clearly did a lot of research to write this book about one of WW2's most famous heroines and, in doing so, has shed new light on aspects of Violette's life and work that may not be so well known. She has also righted some myths surrounding Violette that have persisted for decades. However, there were times when the author kept going off at a tangent, describing events and people that had little to no connection to Violette, and this somewhat marred my enjoyment of this book.

Sincerely Loree: Violette Szabo: The Life That I Have by Susan Ottaway

Violette Szabo (born Violette Bushell) was a British-French Special Operations Executive (SOE) agent during the Second World War. On her second mission into occupied France, Szabo was captured by the German army, interrogated, tortured and deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany, where she was executed on 05 February 1945 at the age of 23. She was posthumously aware the George Cross, the Croix de Guerre and the Médaille de la Résistance.

Genres: non-fiction, biography, WW2

My rating: 3

In The Company Of The Courtesan by Sarah Dunant

Bucino Teodoldi, a dwarf, and his mistress, the beautiful courtesan Fiammetta Bianchini, escape the sack of Rome in 1527 and settle in Venice. With very little money and no friends, except for the enigmatic healer known as la Draga, they must use their wits to establish themselves in this city on the water.

This story is narrated by Bucino and, unfortunately, there are pages and pages when we are inside his head. Bucino is not just a pimp but a philosopher and, although I initially found him endearing, in the end it was all a bit too much. I was very much intrigued by Fiammetta and she made the story come alive but the author chose to focus on Bucino leaving Fiammetta very much in the background and I think the plot suffered because of this because she seemed like a highly interesting character. For example, I would have loved to learn more about the dynamics between Fiammetta and La Draga and the friendship that developed between them but we only ever get to see the healer through Bucino's eyes and his opinion is often not very kind. I enjoyed the first two parts of this book but the third veered off into a totally unexpected direction that I am not sure worked very well.

Genres: historical fiction, Italy

My rating: 3

The Collector by John Fowles

Frederick Clegg collects butterflies and takes photographs. He is reclusive and is obsessed with young art student Miranda. Frederick abducts Miranda and locks her up in his cellar, hoping she will eventually grow to love him. Miranda does try to understand him and even feels compassion for him but, inevitably, things do not end well.

Sincerely Loree: The Collector by John Fowles

There's a lot to say about this book but I'll try to keep it brief. It's dark and shocking and definitely not your average read. But there's a lot to think about and much to discuss. It made me feel uncomfortable and claustrophobic, which is probably what the author was aiming for, and Frederick Clegg is perfectly portrayed as utterly despicable. We're inside his head for more than half of the book so it's not a pleasant read. But it's definitely an interesting one - although not for the faint-hearted.

Genres: thriller, fiction, horror (psychological)

My rating: 3.6

Dark Aemelia by Sally O'Reilly

Aemelia Bassano, the daughter of a Venetian musician, is a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I. She had a love of  poetry and learning and develops into a beautiful woman with a sharp mind and quick tongue. Aemelia becomes the mistress of Lord Hunsdon until her path crosses that of the impetuous young playwright William Shakespeare and they begin a passionate but ill-fated affair,

I enjoyed this book that was inspired by Shakespeare's 'Dark Lady'. It is a fantastical tale in which magic, the supernatural and superstition abound and the narrative manages to intertwine the lives of Aemelia and Will with the bard's notorious Scottish Play. Aemelia Bassano Lanyer is an intriguing figure. Maybe she comes across as a little bit crazy at times but I genuinely cared about her.

The whole story is based on supposition as there is no historical evidence to suggest that Aemilia was, in fact, Shakespeare's ' Dark Lady' but I never look for facts in a work of fiction. I thought that this novel was entertaining and that it really brought to life early 17th century London. The squalor and disease leap off the pages, as does the low esteem in which women were held. It was heartbreaking to realise what few rights women had and how they were pretty much the property of their fathers or husbands. Aemelia did not fit into this mould very well and chafed against it but was close to helpless to do anything to change it. Dark Aemelia is an unusual book that will probably not appeal to everyone due to some of its subject matter.

Genres: historical fiction, fantasy, supernatural, romance

My rating: 4

My  Name Is Eva by Suzanne Goldring

Evelyn Taylor-Clarke, now in her 90s, lives in a care home and pretends to have dementia to cover up some past actions that are about to catch up with her. I found the whole premise that the novel is based on to be very flimsy. The story leaps back and forth through multiple timelines but we only ever get to see Evelyn's point of view through a series of flashbacks and various letters to her dead husband, Hugh.

Sincerely Loree: My Name Is Eva by Suzanne Goldring

Young Evelyn seems pleasant, if rather naive, but her actions later on in life are extremely questionable. Older Evelyn, with her constant insistence on how she is outwitting everyone, eventually becomes rather tiresome. Throughout the book I could do nothing to suspend my disbelief in the plot. Unfortunately, I didn't really care for Evelyn and just felt sorry for her as it did not seem like she had a very fulfilling life: no friends and no family, except for a niece she disliked, and all because she wanted to exact revenge on Stephen Robinson, the man who she felt was responsible (without any actual proof) for the death of her husband during WW2. Undeniably, Robinson was a nasty piece of work but I thought that her actions only put Evelyn in the same league as him.

I suppose I wanted Evelyn to be a heroine but all I got was a caricature of a person that I couldn't connect with. There are many people who have enjoyed this book and my opinion seems to be in the minority. Maybe this book was just not for me.

Genres: historical fiction, WW2

My rating: 2.2 

With that I've summed up the list of books that I read during 2021. They were a diverse kettle of fish with The Collector and Dark Aemelia standing out in the fiction category due to their subject matter. I now have 22 books already waiting for me to dig my teeth into in 2022 (what a coincidence, 22 in 22). In the meantime, I am passing the time reading a couple of books from the Narnia Chronicles since I think that this time of the year is made for easy reading, especially when you're stuck in quarantine like we are. 

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all the readers of this blog a very happy new year. May we all pull together to defeat this microbe that has been wreaking havoc with our lives since 2020. Wishing you all health and joy. I will be back with more to say in 2022 and I hope you will be here to read it.


Thursday, 23 December 2021

Merry Christmas, Everyone

I didn't mean to be so absent from the blog throughout December. Indeed I had several posts planned. In my head, at least. But then, life happened. Things got stressful at work and, in spite of having the tree up by the 1st of December, I didn't get my act properly together until this week. So the blog went on the back-burner. I now have a week off and will hopefully post something. Or I might wait until the new year. 

How are you all holding up? I've taken my booster shot but the numbers are exploding here. Trying to take each day at a time and praying we will all be safe.

I'll leave it at that for today. Wishing you all a very merry and blessed Christmas. 

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


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
About Loree
I am Lorna, or Loree (as my best friends call me) and I am the author of Sincerely, Loree. You may get to know me better here:

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