(photo by Miheal Grmek)
Located in the Tuscan region of Italy, San Gimignano is a small, medieval (largely built in the 14th and 15th centuries), walled town. It is perched timelessly on a perfect little Tuscan hill and features a perfect little skyline of medieval stone towers, built due to a perfect little pissing contest between the local merchant families. In an attempt to outdo each other, the towers rose higher and higher, up to a height of nearly 70 meters (200 feet). At its peak, 72 towers graced the skyline. Today, fourteen remain. Tuscany was the world’s Manhattan 700 years ago and San Gimignano is the best place to experience its past heights.
I’d seen a picture of San Gimignano is one of my urban planning textbooks when I was a freshman in college. It was the “Skylines” chapter of The … Read More »
European colonialism has at one point affected most of the world geographically. Entering the 21st Century, developing countries are still dealing with the affects of colonization. While stunting the development and involving centuries of exploitation, it is undeniable that many of the world’s most beautiful cities are European colonial, today blending traditional European urbanity with local culture and food. Today’s colonial cities are some of the most fascinating to visit.
In the early 1800s, China continued to dismiss trade with Britain, assuming that the China, or The Middle Kingdom, was more advanced and needed nothing else from outside. Growing frustrated, the British introduced opium and instigated the Opium Wars, defeating China militarily and opening up the coast and waterways for foreign trade. Foreign powers moved in and kept China fragmented until the Communist Party took power in the late 1940s. However, … Read More »
Few places on Earth meet all of a traveler’s expectations. In my imagination, Ireland was colored by impossible greens, canopied in rainbows and peppered with clouds of tiny white sheep and gray, crumbling castles. Could it all be true?
I picked up my rental car at Hertz in Dublin City Centre. My requested Bentley had not yet arrived, so I settled on a little Opel. Disappointments aside, I had a nice talk with the guy working at the Hertz:
“Never ask for directions when you’re outside of Dublin” was his first piece of advice. I was intrigued. “You’ll be seen as shrewd. Instead, say to someone: ‘Good afternoon! Have you ever been to Castle Donovan? ‘ or ‘Would there happen to be a castle near here worth having a look at…?’”.
I knew I was going to like the Irish countryside before I even got the keys. … Read More »
Way back in 2003, when a young Nelly was still making hits (Hot in Herre was barely a year old and slamming the speakers in the Hersonissos clubs), Bill and I spent a long summer on the island of Crete in Greece. We were there with faculty from our university (the University of Cincinnati’s DAAP program) as part of team to define, and provide solutions for, a fast-growing coastal municipality of 10,000 called Hersonissos.
Civilization on the island of Crete had prospered for thousands of years in a climate of blue skies, pristine beaches and time-honored olive groves. The traditional towns and villages had withstood centuries of colonialization and more recent changes in economic modes. When we arrived with the team of planners, the island was facing a new challenge – the onslaught of 10 million rowdy European tourists flocking to … Read More »
Back in college I visited Sienna, Italy during a car trip through Tuscany and got much more than I expected.
Underwhelmed by the touristic atmosphere of Florence, I opted to rent a litte VW Golf (expensive for a 21 year old, at 90 Euros with insurance) to explore Tuscany and its famous hillside towns of San Giminiagno and Sienna, along with the wine region of Chianti.
I had no idea I’d be accidentally stumbling upon Tuscany’s biggest event, the biannual Il Palio horse race. Before I’d even arrived in the main square of Piazza del Campo, I could see the other spectators dressed up to represent their district of town walking through the side streets in the direction of the center. Passionate viewers were already crying and becoming emotional. Celebrities were arriving in limos and paparazzi were snapping away. I still had … Read More »