This guest post comes from our contributor FP Naomi.
Italian cities are beautiful, but if you’re staying in Tuscany, be sure to get out and enjoy the countryside a bit. There is nothing like it – breathtaking views of brambly plants running wild and medieval castles sitting atop Cyprus-lined hills.
A bit less accounted for in the guidebooks, there is one day trip I can highly suggest. The journey will take you to San Galgano, ruins of a 12th century abbey, and San Gimigniano, a small medieval town full of omnipotent towers. From Siena or Florence, the drive is easily accomplished in one day.
Before You Go: No buses will take you to San Galgano. You’re going to have to have an international driver’s license. If you’re a member of AAA, a simple trip to a location and $25 will get you the license. If you don’t have AAA, you can also apply through International-License.com. Rent a car or borrow one from a friend, just keep in mind that most cars in Europe are stick shift. Only drive something you’re capable of getting around.
First Stop – San Galgano: The great thing about driving in Italy is that directions are very well spelled out on road signs. If you’re driving from Florence, take the FI-SI highway towards Siena. Get off at the exit for ‘San Lorenzo a Merse’ and continue following signs for Chuisdino/Montesiepe/Monteciano. Once you start to get close, the signs for San Galgano will appear and take you right to where you need to go.
The story behind the abbey is an enchanting one. Galgano Guidotti was born to wealth in 1148. Thirty-two years later, as a knight, he renounced war and the material world. Giving up his sword, he arrived at Montesiepi and thrust it into a stone. The stone magically split, and just the end of the sword stuck out. Galgano went on to perform further miracles, and after his death in 1181, the church declared him a saint.
Today, many believe that San Galgano could be the real King Arthur, and his sword, the real sword in the stone. There have also been speculations that the abbey is the real hiding place of the Holy Grail, and testimonies speak of a secret underground cavity that can be accessed by moving a single floor stone. The cavity is yet to be found.
The abbey began to fall in the 15th century when it was no longer in use. The final steeple and vaults fell to the ground in the late 18th century, and nobody has rebuilt since.
After touring around the ruins, find the pathway that will take you up to the chapel. Continue on past the chapel, and you will find a vineyard where you can grab some lunch and a little wine tasting before continuing on your travels.
Second Stop – San Gimignano: From San Galgano, you will see signs pointing you towards San Gimignano, about a 45 minute drive. The best part is at approximately minute 38, when you can see San Gimignano from afar. It sits atop a hill, and makes a striking view with its many towers. Once you arrive, there will be signs for parking lots (P1, P2, P3…), be sure to park your car in one that is for visitors and not residents.
From there you can wander around San Gimignano by foot. The small stone streets will make you feel like you’ve time traveled to the past. You can find little arched alleys and hidden stairs that take you to another section of the village. I highly suggest finding the main square and climbing to the top of Torre Grossa. From the top, you’ll get one of the best views in all of Tuscany. You can also check out some of the shops, my personal favorite a store selling products made with olive wood – cutting boards, salad bowls, spoons… – everything in the store is extremely beautiful. When you’re ready, grab some dinner, and then head home.
Check out Naomi’s blog Numie Abbot.
More inspiration from the BLDG 25 Blog.