Tag Archives: Manhattan

San Gimignano

Alan Reed

San Gimignano, Afternoon Sunlight

Susan and I first visited San Gimignano in February 1999. We were staying in Florence for several days and having seen San Gimignano featured on a holiday programme, we decided to go there for the day. A local bus took us to nearby Poggibonsi then after a short wait, another bus to our destination, the medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano.

From a distance it looks like a mini Manhattan with its 14 towers gracing the Tuscan skyline. Apparently it did boast 72 towers, built by the Patrician families who controlled the town. The bigger the tower, the greater your wealth! I remember painting a watercolour by the well in Piazza della Cisterna whilst Susan went off to buy some wild boar salami for an al fresco lunch. Even though it was February, it was bright, warm and sunny, ideal conditions for painting “en plein air”.

After lunch I spent the afternoon wandering about gathering further reference to do a studio painting to add to my Italian Collection of Limited Edition Prints. As the sun began to set and we made our way to the bus I noticed that the stonework began to turn a beautifully warm pink with hints of orange. I logged the colours in my mind and decided that this would be mood and atmosphere I would aim to capture.

The studio painting of San Gimignano which was reproduced as a limited edition print was an immediate success. I still sell copies of it online and from our gallery in Ponteland. More recently I’ve painted a portrait version of a similar view which is also available as a limited edition print.

You can see a short video on YouTube of the original watercolour “San Gimignano, Afternoon sunlight” which can also be seen at my Studio & Gallery.



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My first taste of Tuscany came in the autumn of 1998 when Susan and I travelled to Pistoia to spend a week with members of an evangelical church. Pistoia lent its name to the pistol which it started manufacturing in the 16th century. A day spent wandering around the hills surrounding Pistoia and another day spent visiting Florence, whetted our appetites for a return visit to Florence in February 1999.

Before arriving in Florence, we had seen San Gimignano featured on a holiday television programme, so after spending a few days exploring Florence, we decided to jump on a local bus to this small Tuscan hilltop town famous for its 13 towers. I’ll always remember my first glimpse of those towers from the window of the bus which have been likened to a mini Manhattan skyline.

I recall doing a small watercolour in the piazza which you can see in the book “Landscapes in Watercolour” by Theodora Philcox. After sampling some local red wine and wild boar salami we looked out from the town walls to enjoy la bella vista. The painting of Italy above is just a tiny section of the view which we enjoyed that memorable day, yet somehow it typifies the essence of the Tuscan landscape, rolling hills disappearing into the distance punctuated by cypress trees and white washed farm buildings.

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