Tuscany has an abundance of small villages and towns, each as picturesque as the next. Since I started my six-week course at Saena Iulia language school in Siena, I’ve been lucky enough to discover a few of these places thanks to wonderful day trips each week that the school organizes.
These places are small and rich in history. Our first stop was Monteriggioni, a castle that was once a medieval fort for Siena to protect itself from Florence. Yes, Florence and Siena had a few problems with each other back in the day and I bet you could find some people today that think there are still some “issues” to be resolved.
When we were inside, looking out onto the countryside, we could see the towers of San Gimingnano in the distance. The system of warning each other about invading armies, or the like, was with signals on top of these towers. When we passed the castle later at night, with the lights shining from below, the whole structure looked like a big crown.
Our second stop was in a town called Colle Val d’Elsa. It was stuck on a hillside, made of stone streets and walkways, with a fantastic panorama. The usual. What wasn’t “the usual” was walking into the Duomo and hearing the pipe organ being tuned. When’s the last time you met a pipe organ restorer?
His name was Riccardo and he’s been restoring organs for 40 years, all over Italy. He said he chose restoration work after finishing college and didn’t want to do anything else. The first organ he worked on was in a nearby Tuscan town called Pescia, in a church from the 8th century.
I watched as he tuned these small pipes that were inside the organ. He pulled them out, one by one, and had several hundred to get through.
Our third stop was in Certaldo. We took an incline up to the top of the town, to the center. The streets were pretty quiet and there were a few simple Christmas decorations, including a beautifully-lit tree and two Nativity scenes that were missing the baby Jesus. There was a sign posted at one of the scenes, telling the thieves they hoped that what goes around comes around, in a manner of speaking.
Even though it was already dark, looking out onto the town from atop Certaldo was still quite a view. Walking down a steep stone walk in the dark was also a bit of an experience, but we persevered.
Chalk up another lovely day in lovely towns in Tuscany. I belong in Italy.