My first taste of Tuscany came in the autumn of 1998 when Susan and I travelled to Pistoia to spend a week with members of an evangelical church. Pistoia lent its name to the pistol which it started manufacturing in the 16th century. A day spent wandering around the hills surrounding Pistoia and another day spent visiting Florence, whetted our appetites for a return visit to Florence in February 1999.
Before arriving in Florence, we had seen San Gimignano featured on a holiday television programme, so after spending a few days exploring Florence, we decided to jump on a local bus to this small Tuscan hilltop town famous for its 13 towers. I’ll always remember my first glimpse of those towers from the window of the bus which have been likened to a mini Manhattan skyline.
I recall doing a small watercolour in the piazza which you can see in the book “Landscapes in Watercolour” by Theodora Philcox. After sampling some local red wine and wild boar salami we looked out from the town walls to enjoy la bella vista. The painting of Italy above is just a tiny section of the view which we enjoyed that memorable day, yet somehow it typifies the essence of the Tuscan landscape, rolling hills disappearing into the distance punctuated by cypress trees and white washed farm buildings.