Subject: San Miniato
Dear Sam

You asked about the town of San Miniato in Tuscany. We had a good time there, and this small town is filled with art treasures and great views. We also had a great meal. Here are my notes from September 2001:

San Miniato

San Miniato is an ancient town, sitting high atop a hill above the Val D'Elsa. Its strategic position made it the home of the Holy Roman Emperors in Tuscany, and in the 12th century it became an important Imperial fortress, protecting the crossroads of the main road from Florence to Pisa where it intersected with the Via Francigena, which was the major pilgrimage route from France to Rome.

Two of the towers of the ancient citadel remain today; one forms the present campanile of the Duomo, and the other is the Torrione or Rocca, which sits in the middle of the Prato del Duomo, an expanse of greenery that crowns San Miniato. We visited the Torrione on a blustery day and were nearly blown past the unique chimney-like structures at its top. It is easy to understand why San Miniato is the home to Italy's National Kite Flying Championships, which take place on the Sunday after Easter.

We also fondly remember the lovely young woman who sold us tickets to the tower. Her beauty and her presence on the lonely hilltop led us to romantically, if facetiously, christen her La Bella Donna delle Torre. Like so many of the people we met in San Miniato, this young woman was a gracious host who took the time to explain the town and its attractions to us. She pointed out the nearby Palazzo dei Vicari dell'Imperatore and the red brick Duomo with its justly famous Baroque interior. In the center of the town, below these august structures, the churches of San Domenic and San Francesco are also well worth a visit. The city offers a ticket that makes several churches and museums easy and economical to visit. While there, do not miss the lively facade of the Town Hall, with its brilliant exterior frescos.

San Miniato holds concerts and other events to attract visitors throughout the year. During the summer months, a theater festival is a popular draw for Italians and foreign tourists alike. Centuries ago the people of San Miniato chose St. Genesio, an actor, as their patron saint. He was martyred because he portrayed the Passion of Christ on stage. Inspired by this, and in an effort to resurrect the theater of San Miniato that was destroyed in World War II, the people of the town have turned its scenic squares into a popular venue for plays and dramatic workshops.

Open-air plays with a traditionally religious theme have been staged here each summer since 1947. The unique event is a collaboration of the Accademia di Arte Drammatica (Academy of Dramatic Art) in Rome, and important international playwrights, directors and famous Italian actors.

Information on the Truffle Show, the Kite Flying Championships, and the Theater Festival can all be had through San Miniato's tourist office.

Tourist Office Piazza del Popolo 0571 42745

As we mentioned above, we had a wonderful lunch at Il Canapone in San Miniato, where the lively atmosphere was as restorative as the delicious food. San Miniato sits so high above the confluence of the Elsa and Arno rivers that it seems to be atop the highest hill for miles around. This, of course, creates those windy conditions so necessary for kite flying, and also led us to seek the sanctuary of the warm and convivial Il Canapone. The simple restaurant was busy during a weekday lunch, serving typical Tuscan appetizers and heartier lunch dishes of pastas and soups. The local truffles are available here on a variety of dishes, including pastas, risotto, and veal. We had a lovely appetizer of mixed local salamis followed by the house specialty pasta, which was delicious. On our departure, we spent a few delightful minutes with the children of the family that owns the restaurant. They found my attempts at Italian to be quite humorous!

Il Canapone Piazza Bonaparte 5 0571 418121

Have a great trip, Debbie in Pittsburgh