San Gimignano gender towers
The small town of San Gimignano in Tuscany is not called the “Manhattan of the Middle Ages” for nothing. Because even from a distance you can see the so-called gender towers rising into the sky, which have decisively shaped the cityscape since the Middle Ages.
The origin of these imposing buildings, which mostly have a square base, can be found in the feuds of the rich Italian aristocratic families in the 12th and 13th centuries. At that time, the respective clans often fought each other to the bone and therefore needed houses that could also serve as fortifications in the event of an attack. A real race for the tallest and strongest tower arose between the family clans, because the higher the tower, the higher the reputation of the family. So the towers got bigger and bigger over time, so that the residents could hardly see the sun.
The best preserved family towers in Europe
Today only 14 of the 72 towers in San Gimignano are still preserved, but you can still guess what it must have looked like at the height of the building. The reason for this is the impoverishment of the city after the Middle Ages, which from then on was of little interest to the region and therefore spared major renovations and the historic town center has largely been preserved. While in other Italian and European cities, the towers were either completely demolished or cut to smaller sizes in the course of redevelopment measures.
That is why a trip to San Gimignano is worthwhile
A trip to San Gimignano is worthwhile for its unique medieval flair alone, which takes the visitor back to the middle of the bloody feuds of the Italian Middle Ages, in which Shakespeare’s masterpiece Romeo and Juliet also takes place. The cultural and historical value of the buildings and the historic old town can also be measured by the fact that UNESCO declared the gender towers a World Heritage Site in 1990.
North-east of the coast of Sicily one finds an archipelago that consists of seven islands. These seven islands are known as the Aeolian Islands. The islands are of volcanic origin and belong to a volcanic chain that extends from Vesuvius to Mount Etna. Due to the extraordinary beauty and uniqueness, which the atoll owes to the destructive and at the same time creative forces of the volcanoes, it has been allowed to carry the designation “UNESCO World Natural Heritage” since 1997.
From Alicudo to Vulcano
Alicudi, Filicudi, Panarea, Lipari, Stromboli, Salina and Vulcano are the seven Aeolian Islands. Each of these islands has its own charms. Alicudi is arguably the quietest of the seven Aeolian Islands. The island has only about 100 inhabitants who earn their living mainly from growing wine, capers or fishing. There are no roads on the island and electricity and telephones have only been around since 1990. Nevertheless, the island is a popular destination for holidaymakers looking for peace and nature.
The island of Vulcano is the third largest Aeolian island. In many places on the island you can not only see the steam rising from the ground, you can also perceive the sulphurous smell of the active mountain in many places. The rock “Il Faraglinone di Levante”, whose surface shimmers in many colors, is particularly worth seeing.
On the island of Stromboli there is also the biggest attraction for tourists with the volcano of the same name. The volcano is constantly active and small eruptions can be observed here with reliable regularity.
The main island of Lipari
Lipari is the main island of the Aeolian Islands with around 10,000 inhabitants. The cityscape is particularly shaped by the imposing castle complex, which was built by the Spanish in the 16th century. The cathedral from the 15th century and the archaeological museum are also absolutely worth seeing. The capital of the Aeolian Islands is surrounded by idyllic bays and beautiful beaches.
The Sistine Chapel is part of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican and the place where the cardinals gather when the papal election takes place. Around four million visitors come to the chapel every year to see the world-famous wall and ceiling paintings. When visiting Rome, a visit to the Sistine Chapel north of St. Peter’s Basilica is a must.
Sanctuary of the Church and testimony to the Renaissance
Solemnly consecrated in 1483, the chapel owes its name to Pope Sixtus IV, who was Bishop of Rome at the time of its construction. Several important Renaissance painters had created murals and sculptures inside the chapel within three years, depicting scenes from the life of Christ and portraits of the Popes. At the beginning of the 16th century, the Italian painter and sculptor Michelangelo Buonarroti received the order for the huge ceiling painting. The most famous section of the fresco, which shows “the creation of Adam”, has been reproduced countless times and has now become an integral part of popular culture.
The altarpiece, which Michelangelo completed in 1541 at the age of 66, achieved particular fame. Unlike most of his colleagues at the time, Michelangelo probably made the huge fresco without the help of an assistant and painted all of the 390 figures himself. The mural shows the “Last Judgment” and also contains a self-portrait of the artist: Michelangelo added himself to the figure of the martyr Bartholomew with peeled skin. Many contemporaries found the nakedness of many figures provocative and obscene. Shortly before Michelangelo’s death, the painter Daniele da Volterra was commissioned to paint over the areas that were considered immoral, which earned him the derisive nickname “Trouser Painter”.