Most Viewed Stories
Memorials and new memories in the hills of Tuscany
Today it was time to say goodbye to Florence and head out to Rome. The concert last night was a huge success. S.M. de Ricci Church was beautiful, a small church with a rich history. The space was packed with people from all over the world, though most of the crowd was fromt the U.S. There was also a couple from Switzerland and a group from China. It was fun to see people popping in for a song or two, drawn in by the choir's voices from the street.
It was a lovely day driving through Tuscany, known for its rolling hills and great wines and an extra special day for one choir member in particular. Kayla Ruiz celebrated a birthday today, so our day started out with a bit of song.
We made a brief stop at the Florence American Cemetary and Memorial for WWII. Florence was one of the cities that was under German occupation in World War II and the only bridge that survived the bombings during the war was the Pontevechio, which we saw yesterday.
John Luncheon, an American superintendent who answers questions at the cemetary, stepped on the bus after we had loaded everyone on and told us some facts and stories of soldiers buried here.
One story was of a Lt. Hornshell who was flying back to base with two other planes that were damaged. His plane was good, but he had no ammunition. He was last seen flying into a German formation and the pilots of the 2 damaged planes made it home safely.
Luncheon asked the group to remember what happened and remember those that died there.
"It's good that the young people get to see this," said Yolanda, the accompianist traveling with the choir, after our visit.
Then we were traveling back in time a little further - to the 12th century to be precise. The village of San Gimignano is amazing. The village is built on a hill overlooking the countryside and according to our guide, Falvio Nicoletti,used to contain 72 towers - 14 have survived. In midle ages living on a hill was easier if you had a lot of towers to see if invaders were coming.
Building towers also became a status symbol of sorts, says Nicoletti, with each family seeking to show who was more powerful by building the tallest tower. The layout is almost exactly as it was in the 12th century. To be in a tower you need money - San Gimignano is well situated and was on the road to many different routes for both pilgrims seeking to visit church relics and trade routes. It also became popular for a spice exported worldwide - saffron.
San Gimignano is filled with courtyards and lookout points, postcard views at every turn. Musicians played in different areas of the city and butterflies were everywhere, choir member Mary Stofft running right after them using her hat as a net. We all had to try the award-winning gelato at a little shop in the city that serves flavors such as raspberry rosemary, Limoncello, blueberry lavendar and I believe mine was a grapefruit chianti. Yum!
The day wrapped up with a visit to a winery in the area and gave our driver, Guiseppe Cavaliere, time to show his skills by squeezing the huge double-decker bus through a tiny alleyway to get to the vinyard. We had a leisurely hour on the veranda enjoying the scenery before heading to the hotel for a fun dinner on yet another veranda in Rome. Until tomorrow, good afternoon to you and good night for me! Ciao!