Several things made this little town special for us. We’d expected very little, but one of the joys of following the Via is that all of the towns have by necessity a medieval past and a historic centre. The town was an important stopping point on the Via Francigena, it celebrates the little known San Quirico who was martyred in the 4th century. We stayed in a self service bed and breakfast called Dimora di Poeta, celebrating Dante’s visit to this town.
The Collegiata church here is very interesting because of the distinctive Lombard features on its exterior. We have not seen anything like this anywhere else so far. The Lombards were interesting people, known in Italy as the Longobardi (or Longbeards) they left Scandinavia in the 1st century and came to Austria to start with. They entered Italy in the 5th century and occupied most of the north and the south of the country at a time when it had been severely depopulated. Their names and and even their race (long beard was another name for Odin)indicates that their culture retained a Scandinavian flavour. It is believed that they brought no art of their own, but it is difficult to argue when you look at the knot shaped decoration and the fine knurled columns on the outside the Collegiata that this is not of Viking or Scandinavian origin. The province of Lombardy – the famous industrial northern industrial Italy carried their name.
We also met a lovely couple from York while in San Quirico, he was a retired art teacher and she had worked for a university. They have been coming to Italy for over 40 years and for the last 10 have chosen to base themselves in San Quirico, because of its unspoilt atmosphere. They have been exploring the countryside around the area and were able to tell us about the many interesting towns around. Next time we come, we plan to visit Monte Olivieto Maggiore, one of the most beautiful monasteries in Tuscany, nearby, but too far for those travelling on foot. They also found the bus system and timetables challenging as have we. More on that later.
While we were having dinner that evening we had an unexpected treat, we heard a marching band outside the restaurant and no one in the restaurant could tell us what it was all about. We went outside and were treated to an impromptu flag dance done by sbandieratori dressed in medieval costume in the square. It was apparently unplanned because although a crowd gathered, the whole thing was entirely casual. It was about 10.30 at night. Amusingly the tiny son of one of the sbandieratori was doing his own dance on the side with a little flag of his own.