I’m staying in a palace. So I think I’ll make a weekend of it – well, at least stay another night. San Gimignano is a town of great beauty, and even though I’m here by accident, I could definitely do worse than stay. Besides, I’ve just discovered a very good reason not to go to Siena tomorrow.
It’s been hot today. I don’t know why 36 degrees in Italy is hotter than 36 degrees in France. Perhaps I’m older and tireder.
Anyway, the improvisatory permission of the Third Movement makes it easier to change a plan. To adapt to the weather, to the roads, to lie down on a bench after lunch.
Lunch was good today. I already had bread and cheese in the bag, and I supplemented it with something magnificently Italian, which I shouldn’t really have eaten with my fingers, and a plateful of olives.
And I lay down on the stone bench, under the sign that pointed up the hill to the Via Francigena.
I’m feeling lazy. I’ve diverted off the route several times – to look at a village, to seek out coffee, or just in the hope of a better road. These roads are definitely underfunded. They are potholed and patched, to within an inch of their lives.
And as a result, I haven’t got very far. I’m aiming in the direction of Siena, though I’m not expecting to get all the way. In some suitably attractive place, I’m going to call it a day, and just stop. It might be an interrupted cadence, but no-one’s perfect – today, anyway.
And then at tea-time – though of course you can’t get tea – I was suddenly too hot and tired. But the main town of Certaldo isn’t beautiful, and it doesn’t meet the criteria for being stoppable-in. I could of course climb the funicular railway up to Certaldo Alto, which definitely is beautiful; but I’m not sure there’s anywhere to stay up there.
We’d played some Bach, Libre and I, outside the Galileo family house in San Miniato earlier, and we wanted a place as beautiful as that, to spend the night.
The choice, it seemed, was between Monteriggioni, maybe twenty miles away, and San Gimignano, maybe ten, but 1200ft up. Oh dear. I lay down for half an hour to think about it.
And now here I am, in San Gimignano. The Palazzo Buonacorssi began life in 1200. Marzia’s family bought it in 1900. It’s not an expensive hotel, because that would require lots of bathrooms, and other unconscionable alterations to the historical structure. But it’s just the best place to stay. And just look at all the places to play in San Gimignano. Tomorrow…
Siena, meanwhile, will be transformed into a Dantian hell for the annual Palio tomorrow, the mad horse-racing through town that’s only slightly less dangerous than Pamplona’s bull-running. Dante, by the way, lived in San Gimignano.