The subtle charm of Siena and San Gimignano, Italy

| October 18, 2009
san gimignano


While in Florence, Italy, we took a day trip to the Tuscan hill towns of Siena and San Gimignano. Not wanting to rent a car and attempt to get out of Florence in one piece, we elected to take a tour bus to both destinations. We stopped in Siena first after a 90-minute bus ride, passing San Gimignano along the way. Once we arrived in each of the towns, Donna and I broke off off the tour to explore the areas on our own. The shot above, which I decided to have some fun with in Photoshop, is of a quiet side street in San Gimignano. To sound remotely Italian, you pronounce the town’s name “San JiminYAno” with an emphasis on the “YA”. I had a hard time looking at the name and saying it right until I thought of the “GN” as a “Y” as in lasaGNa. I envisioned myself stepping out of the door above, walking down the street for my morning cappuccino, and then meandering the streets for one of a thousand perfect plein air locations. After visiting San Gimignano, Donna and I agreed that we would look for a quiet town like this, possibly in the south of France, to visit for a minimum of four days on our next vacation. She will read and I will paint.

san gimignano countryside

The Italian countryside near San Gimignano

The towns are charming and quiet but the 180 degree views from the hilltops are breathtaking. The shot above is off a high terrace in San Gimignano. The thing I find most fascinating about the Tuscan landscape is the how the natural areas and manicured farms harmoniously coexist and blend into an amazing quilt of beauty. I could have stared at it for days. You can find hidden treasures in just about every frame, all with their own beauty that contribute to the whole.

I edited the image above considerably to try and capture my state of mind upon stepping off of the bus in Siena. It was mid morning and glow from above through the trees and leaves created an amazing visual impression. The intertwined silhouette of the trunks and branches caught my eye first, followed by the light effect of the sun reflecting off of the leaves. The reflected light on the trunks is wonderful and I especially like how the trees become warmer as they move toward the back of the grove. I think there is a painting to be made in there somewhere!

siena italy

A grove of trees outside Siena, Italy

tuscany italy

180 degrees of beauty in Tuscany, Italy

Trying to find a spot to take a picture of the surrounding landscape can be tricky from inside a walled town. Donna and I walked our pants off in Siena trying to find a good spot to shoot the Tuscan landscape in the right light. During our pursuit, we enjoyed walking through neighborhood streets away from the more touristy areas. For lunch, we stopped in a deserted cafe on a quiet street for a couple of pieces of truly unique pizza on flatbreads. We eventually found the location above, which accentuates the breadth of the view blanketed in a rich but unobtrusive atmosphere. The Duomo in Siena, pictured below, is very well preserved and sparkling clean unlike the Duomo in Florence, which is burdened with the pollution of everyday city life. The cathedral is a beautifully articulate and large structure. I had to put my ultrawide lens on my camera to get the church in the frame.

siena italy duomo

Siena’s Duomo

Below is another take on the photo at the top of the post. All the laundry hanging out of the window happened to be pink so I though I would pop the color through the sepia to see what happens. I also warmed up the light at the end of the street. Endless possibilities!

So, the moral if this post? Make sure while visiting Florence, you take some time to visit these small hilltop towns. You will experience a different side of Italy, free from dodging mopeds and city noise. Siena and San Gimignano made me want to go back to Italy. The thought of relaxing and pursuing creative interests for several days atop the Tuscan landscape seemed like a natural combination full of potential.



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Category: Italy, Photography, Travel