Wednesday, June 19, 2013

San Gimignano

Cross of Malta
On our visit to San Gimignano, we took a tour of the town. I enjoy learning about the city before wandering around on our own. On our tour we learned about the pilgrims who stopped on their visit to Rome. Making a pilgrimage to Rome was important in the fourteen hundreds and San Gimignano was along the way. Many pilgrims were not wealthy but needed a place to stay and food to eat. The St. John church was located next to a hospital. This hospital was not solely for medicinal purposes; it was also a free hotel for pilgrims to give them a place to sleep and food for lunch and dinner. I am excited by the fact that people were kind enough to give poor pilgrims food and housing on their religious journeys. This hospital and other similar places were marked by the cross of Malta so pilgrims could recognize them. These pilgrims were the first tourists, similar to us but many years ago.

The most interesting part of architecture, to me, was the location of the kitchen. Kitchen fires were common so families had to protect themselves. They built their kitchen on the top floor of the tower. That way if the kitchen caught fire, only the top floor would burn and the house would not be filled with smoke. This sort of ingenuity is very interesting to me. The fact that they recognized the threat and compensated makes me appreciate their intelligence and architecture. It is easy to think that older civilizations were not as advanced as ours where in reality they have as many good ideas as we do nowadays.

We also took a tour of Castiglion Fiorentino. Both San Gimignano and Castiglion Fiorentino are made of brick and stone. You can tell which part of the city is older depending on if it was built with brick or with stone; stone indicates it was built earliest.

Both of these cities and the courtyard of Santa Chiara are decorated by Jasmine. Doors and arches are covered with jasmine vines. They have a pleasant fragrance and are beautiful, natural decorations. I love to find Jasmine because the locals use them to decorate their doorways and alleys of the city. Rather than finding a dark alley only made of stone, you find an inviting alley full of blooms and a pleasant sent. Multiple times, I have been enticed down a path by the jasmine and porches full of flowers. Jasmine is easier than roses in the fact that they don’t have to be trained. The specific jasmine found here is confederate jasmine. This species is native to China and is known as Trachelospermum jasminoides. These flower bloom in early spring and summer producing a potent but beautiful fragrance. It is a fast-growing, twining vine not requiring pruning to climb arches or doors. This plant is the decoration I have most enjoyed on this trip; it is not only visually but fragrantly appealing. It makes a great evergreen screen but can climb too high to prune. This plant prefers well drained areas and sunlight; more sun produces more flowers. Unpruned, these plants can grow to twenty feet but the benefit of pruning encourages branching and fuller plants. So it reacts well to pruning but you must be careful of the sap because it stains clothes and is rather sticky. Best of all, this jasmine is more or less pest free and drought resistant so it is able to grow in southern US. I would love to have jasmine in my home; it would remind me of this trip and be fragrant and visually pleasing.


San Gimignano

Santa Chiara

"Confederate Jasmine." - Gardening in a Minute. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2013

Shannon Murray

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