vittoria san gimignano

San Gimignano, the Manhattan of the Middle Ages

San Gimignano has always lived in me, and I in it, like a memory to which you do not want to surrender, for fear of losing yourself. It is a small village of infinite beauty where time seems to have been seems to be frozen in the Middle Ages: the buildings are extraordinarily impressive, the majesty of the Duomo and its towers is almost threatening. Staying in San Gimignano is like embarking on a time machine and going back centuries in time: I can imagine myself retracing one by one the steps of the pilgrims who, following the Via Francigena, passed through this town on their way to the mighty capital, Rome.

In its chaotic tangle of small streets that, as in every self-respecting medieval village  respect, are intertwined with each other like a ball of wool, you can get lost without having the worry about finding your way back home.

san gimignano

Wandering around San Gimignano, it seems to me that anything can happen in those shady streets, flanked by ancient stone houses. Sometimes I like to stop for a few moments on the worn out steps that open up the long alley leading to my grandmother’s house, and admire the quiet daily life of the  inhabitants of the village. There are the people who walk to work, their heads lowered on a path that does not arouse in them any astonishment.

Then there are the tourists who, with their heads raised towards the facades of the lived-in Tuscan palaces, are transported forward by the enveloping scents of stewed rabbit, French fries or hot soups, which escape from the windows. Populating the town are the grandmothers chatting on the steps of Piazza del Duomo, exchanging recipes or telling each other the latest gossip, and the elderly under the loggias playing cards. Finally, there are the children, running around laughing and playing ball carefree, animated by the most sincere verve that characterizes them.

My childhood in the countryside Tuscany

I still have imprinted in my mind a collection of the most beautiful memories that describe my childhood in San Gimignano, a collection of those days in which, still a child, I used to visit to my grandmother Graziella, often alone because of the loss of her husband many years before. I walked along stone pathways, turned the darkest corners and arrived in front of a faded brown door. So I pulled down the curtain that announced the entrance to what seemed to me the entrance to my den, my safe place, and I frantically rang the bell.

If I close my eyes I can still hear his shrill voice shrill shouting “who is it?”. Immediately after lunch, when she would get tired and go to bed for half an hour, I would run to my playmate’s front door. With him I spent my youth and lived the most intense moments. Together we organized, in that alley so small as populated, a wonderful flea market. We stripped my grandmother’s house, and that of her parents, of every kind of knick-knack, but also of old games and magazines now buried in the lineup, and we would try our hand at customer hunting.

grandma's home san gimignano

In such a naive and playful way, we would bring tourists to our market and, with countless turns of phrase, we always had the upper hand. So for a snack, satisfied with the little money we had scraped together, Grandma Graziella would take us out for an ice cream, compulsorily stracciatella and nocciolone, in the traditional ice-cream shop of the village: Dondoli.

But, in spite of everything, the best part of the day lay in having fun overtaking the tourists waiting in the kilometers-long queue, squeezing between their legs. We were so small, almost invisible, that no one noticed us. We walked out of there triumphant, ready to splurge on a satisfying chocolate ice cream.

All this is living in the country: living in San Gimignano is living in slowness, idleness, time spent in the sun and simplicity. time spent in the sun and simplicity. Everything begins with a slice of bread and tomato, seasoned with oil and salt, every day is lightheartedness and love.

dondoli san gimignano

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