Sigeric the Serious: Via Francigena, Sce Gemiane (San Gimignano) , Circa 990 AD

San Gimignano, situated in the center of Tuscany,  served as an important relay point for pilgrims travelling to or from Rome on the Via Francigena. At some point in time, there were around 72 towers in San Gimignano. The families who controlled the town built them as a symbol of their wealth and power. The higher the tower, the higher the prestige of the family, until the city government was forced to set a limit by law: no tower could be higher than the Torre Grossa, the cityhall. San Gimignano is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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Scale model of what San Gimignano would have looked like in 1300

The growth of San Gimignano stopped suddenly in 1348 when the black death hit the region, and which killed almost 1/3 of Europe’s population. The Black Death arrived by sea in October 1347 when 12 Genoese ships docked at the Sicilian port of Messina after a long journey through the Black Sea. The people who gathered on the docks to greet the ships were met with a horrifying surprise: Most of the sailors aboard the ships were dead, and those who were still alive were gravely ill. They were overcome with fever, unable to keep food down and delirious from pain. Strangest of all, they were covered in mysterious black boils that oozed blood and pus and gave their illness its name: the “Black Death.” (history.com/topics/black-death)

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Inspired by the Black Death : The Triumph of Death, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder, painted 1562, Museo del Prado, Madrid

Gimignano is also  known to be the hometown of Pinocchio. Carved by a woodcarver named Geppetto, he was created as a wooden puppet but dreamed of becoming a real boy. Pinocchio was invented by Carlo Collodi in 1880 when he wrote “Le avventure di Pinocchio”. Collodi died in Florence 10 years later, unaware of the fame and popularity that awaited his work.

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