I’m Irish and I’ve lived in Ireland all my life and I can’t think of anywhere else in the world I’d rather spend the rest of my days — despite the weather, the politicians, the cute hoorism, the naked nepotism at every turn and a hundred or more other things that irritate me and cause my blood pressure to go stratospheric! We’ve got a great little country and our food is second to none. We sometimes though lose the run of ourselves when waxing lyrical about some castle or quaint village and start describing them in world-beating terms. Trust me, in the grand scheme of things, we would have to go a long, long, long way to better the historical monuments, churches and well-preserved mediaeval villages of some place like Italy — and in particular, the Tuscany region. Ever wonder how (or indeed when) people in what is now referred to as modern day Italy* stopped speaking Latin and started speaking Italian? There doesn’t appear to be any common denominator between the two — either in terms of vocabulary, let alone sound. True, modern day Italian is a romance language just like Spanish, Portuguese and Romanian but at least all those other languages evolved in geographically distant lands from Rome and with completely different cultures. It turns out that before Italy became Italy as we now know it*, it was just a collection of warring city states like Venice, Pisa, Lucca and Siena to name but a few and they all paid tribute in varying degrees to Rome as that was where the Pope resided. One of the most powerful of these city states was the city of Florence which amassed great wealth due to its enterprising merchant families such as the Medicis who effectively invented modern banking and who also controlled the textile industry amongst others. It was thus the dominating presence of the Florentine dialect that evolved to become the Italian language that we know and love today!
Such great wealth begat great patronage and as a result, the modern traveller gets to enjoy the rich heritage that these early proto-Italians left behind them in their art, architecture, cities, towns and villages. Villages such as the insanely quaint and picture postcard perfect Monteriggioni, a picture of whose small village square adorns this weeks article. Located just over an hours’ drive from Florence and less than 30 minutes from the equally beautiful and historic city of Siena, this tiny (resident population is just 42 souls) village is completely surrounded by a multi-turreted defensive wall which contains just two arched entrances — one at the front, and one at the back) by which the modern world can intrude on their daily reality. Words alone can’t describe how enchanting this little bit of living history is but it is very real and you can get the chance to experience it for yourself if you make the time and take the effort to get over there!
You can fly directly into Florence via London City Airport by using CityJet who provide and excellent and value for money service, several times a week.
*Giuseppe Garibaldi united the disparate states of Italy into one country in 1861