As we came off of the last switchback and arrived outside the walls of the hilltown of San Gimignano we were greeted by the following sight. A packed parking lot with a steady stream of cars making seemingly endless loops looking for a spot that may have been vacated in the minute and half since their last pass through. Rather than having to enter the fray we instead took great pleasure in driving right past, for we were not day-trippers we were staying the night. What’s more, since we had a rental car I’d been able to book us into a B&B quite literally off the beaten track down a dirt farm road away from the noisy throngs.
The driveway dips downhill at a fair slant and as soon as we pulled in we saw two elderly gentlemen trying to negotiate the steep grade. They had a cart piled hight with grapes from the day’s harvest but the cart was about to win that battle. My husband threw the car into park, leapt out, and ran over, grabbing the cart just as it was beginning to roll back down the hill pulling the men with it. With his help they handily moved it up to the outbuilding, disaster averted with perfect timing.
Checking in at Ponte a Nappo I was very pleasantly surprised. Camera Margherita was spacious with a large window overlooking the swimming pool and Tuscan countryside beyond. Outside we had a full view of San Gimignano it’s 13 remaining towers standing in all their glory. I suddenly wished we’d booked in for a week rather than a night.
We walked past the stores lining the road to the gate of the town. I stopped dead in my tracks, turned around and took a few steps back. I’d smelled something. The luxuriant earthy scent of leather. I love that smell and I had to find its origin. In under a minute we were standing inside a small immaculate shop called Namsce Bazar the epicentre of the aroma and domain of master craftsman and artisan Andrea Marconi. Light streams through the windows at the rear of the shop overlooking the countryside far below including our B&B. Unique handmade leather treasures fill the shop. Belts hang neatly over leather draped saw horses, purses line shelves, small leather items like wallets are arranged tidily on tables. Off to the right is Andrea’s workspace where you can watch him pore over his latest creation his passion for his craft evident in every stitch. Andrea and his partner Antonella welcome you like family which is why we returned the next day too. We cherish our finds to this day and they will last a lifetime just like the memories we made that day.
We found the main shopping street of via San Giovanni, Piazza della Cisterna & Piazza Duomo to be packed cheek by jowl with other tourists which was overwhelming. We soon found ourselves wandering the residential streets which were quite literally right up our alley. They were in sharp contrast to where we’d just been seeing only one man as we explored the town in peace, though there wasn’t much to see.
For dinner we chose an elegant place outside the walls. At Trattoria Pizzeria “I Fossi” it was immediately evident that we’d come to the right place. The other patrons were all Italian including some Carabinieri and there wasn’t a tourist in sight.
A little drunk and in total darkness we began our descent back down the country road to the B&B. It was then we realised that our earlier cunning plan to leave the car behind had perhaps required some more forethought. A flashlight for instance would have been incredibly helpful because though it was a clear night it was so dark that you could really only see one footstep ahead. This makes it difficult to avoid things like say potholes and horse poo. Needless to say we did make it back even if we did nearly break our ankles in the process.