Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thursday is market day in San Gimignano (3 of 10)

When staying in the beautiful hotel, La Cisterna, we tried to be first into the breakfast room to sit at a table by the window as the view was enchanting. Cappuccino was delivered to your table, although the rest of the breakfast was buffet. How can I describe such billowy, soft, icing sugar bedecked, delicious croissants? Well, I can’t do them justice, especially when spread with delectable cherry jam.

It was like a scene from the picnic with Ratty and Mole in “The Wind in the Willows”. All sorts of scrumptious morsels awaited us, laid out on pristine white napery. The smiling waitress greeted us cheerfully when we arrived each day and waved us goodbye as we left.

View from the terrace of La Cisterna

Then, as it was Thursday, downstairs and just out the hotel door was the market. Like a film set, it appeared, suddenly and silently, while we were upstairs at breakfast. Beautifully set up with displays of night attire, clothing, fresh flowers and potted plants. We bought a cyclamen for our sweet hotel maid who remembered us from last year. There were vans with pashminas in every hue imaginable, squishy, buttery soft leather handbags and wallets, fresh fruit and vegetables, household goods and an array of other enticing goodies.

We had an enjoyable pasta lunch at Taverna Paradiso in Via San Giovanni. Many of the other days we spent in San Gimignano, after a long morning’s window shopping, sightseeing, or wending our way down side streets, we would pick up pizza from the pizzeria in Via San Matteo. It makes delicious pizza, “per portare via” (take away). We often dined al fresco on our terrace, while gazing out at several of the town’s remaining towers.

Afternoon siestas in the hotel room were always particularly peaceful, looking out at the views from our perch up on the second floor.

On our first afternoon in town, we walked into each handbag shop starting with my personal favorite, Le Torri on Via San Giovanni. The scent of wallets and handbags perfumed the air. There’s nothing on Earth, like the deep, rich, seductive scent – of Italian leather handbags.

The narrow streets were almost deserted by five each afternoon. I half expected to see a tumbleweed blow past. Actually, as many people don’t realize the value of staying in San Gimignano, we pretty much had it all to ourselves for the first part of the morning and in the late afternoon. We were often out sightseeing for the rest of the day.

Later on we wandered into our little restaurant called La Grilia, on Via San Matteo, just down from the pizzeria on the other side of the road. We were greeted by Ada, who still worked there. She said, “I remember you!” My sister asked after her little girl, and I asked for dishes that weren’t on the menu and received them with a smile. Afterwards, we slowly wended our way back up Via San Matteo thanking God that San Gimignano is nowhere near as steep as Cortona or Montepulciano.

Each evening, when darkness fell, the lights came on to accentuate the towers. This was one of the most special times to be in San Gimignano.

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