We arrived in San Gimignano after a brief stop in Siena. San Gimignano has been showing up more in my Facebook, internet search and Google news feeds lately. Whether it’s being discovered, or more is being written about it, or the pandemic is in a new phase and people are traveling more, or I knew we were coming here so I was noticing it more, or the ghost of Steve Jobs or the pervasiveness of Mark Zuckerberg is dominating my location and search-based internet experience; whatever the root cause: add San Gimignano to your list of places to visit if you come to Tuscany. But wait, what’s with the birds? Hang on, I’ll get to that.
San Gimignano is a hilltop Tuscan medieval walled village in the heart of Tuscany. Surrounded by rolling miles of vineyards, olive groves and mountains on its horizons this area was first settled by the Etruscans in the 3rd century BC but whose current gothic and Romanesque buildings date back to the 13th and 14th centuries. It is known as “the city of fine towers”, some of which you can climb for better views of the aforementioned countryside and town below with its terra cotta roofed buildings.
When you stroll through the Porta San Giovanni you are transported back in time. Walk up Via San Giovanni to the the main square of the Piazza della Cisterna and it’s neighboring Piazza Delle Erbe. Wander past galleries, restaurants, gift shops and stores selling fresh cured Tuscan meats or local wines, sample some gelato, sit and relax. Explore some side streets and turn a corner to catch a view which comes upon you, unexpectedly, as a surprise gift for making that turn. You’ll be in good company and that’s just what we did.
For once, we visited no museum. Stepped foot in no church. Climbed no tower. We just chilled, enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere and pace and gorgeous late April weather. There’s plenty to see just walking around without paying a dime. And that’s what San Gimignano is seemingly built for… just chilling.
But the birds?
Our Airbnb apartment was steps from the main town square with a rooftop deck high enough to still hear the muffled voices of tourists on the square, or locals chatting on the street below, or the sounds of a small marching band which appeared up the alley and marched into the square to celebrate May Day, or the gleeful shouts of over-gelatoed kids calling out; but they were drowned out by another set of sounds: the birds.
In the evening, as the sun goes down, they dance and play and argue about who had a better day. In the morning, they are anxious and excited to start a new day and do it all over again. They chat and chirp and dive bomb and play. They rest on antennas and roof lines or satellite dishes. They nest in the nooks and crannies of the 13th century buildings of old town. And they emit joy. And as the sun goes down again, they repeat their routine, playing and dive bombing, chasing each other through the fading light until dark consumes light and they settle in to rest. Rest up to do it all over again tomorrow.