I had arrived in Signa by train and through the dark tunnels on the tracks, the light of the square and above it, over the trees and the red roofs, the cluster of houses and the walls of the castle, welcomed me like a smile. With a backpack on my back, I decided to take a walk in the centre and visit the Pieve di San Giovanni and that of San Lorenzo. In the narrow streets of the medieval village, I met an old lady, bent over a stick, and asked her if it was possible to see the Blessed Giovanna, a holy-girl whose miracles had caught the attention of many devotees, the Florentines and Medici family in particular.
"Young man, do you think you can see the Blessed whenever you want?! You can only see her on Easter Monday because it’s the Festa della Beata! In San Giovanni, there are beautiful frescos, go see them!". Following her advice, I walked toward the square that lined the base of the castle. After the sun and the heat, the cool of the church and the frescoes narrating the story of the Blessed Giovanna were like drinking a glass of spring water.
Determined to find out more about this town a stone's throw from Florence, I ran into a distinguished gentleman with a straw hat at a rakish angle outside the church and asked him: "Excuse me, I'm a traveller. I like to talk to people to get to know the places I explore." "You have found the right man!" And, better yet a Touring Club guide, who told me about the Visconti siege against the castle, which failed thanks to the courage of the Signa locals. "Boy, come back in September to see the Medieval festival. It’s a show! There is the burning of the tower, the historical parade and the Palio degli Arcieri! "
And then the nice Signa guide added: "You know that Signa gave birth to the famous Florentine straw hat? The Lord created shade, but straw, or rather “grano marzuolo”, was cultivated in Signa. Visit the Museo della Paglia to understand how history really happened!" The visit to the museum was enlightening. The ingenious machines used for working the straw surprised me and the hats on display were real works of art. Some had even "crowned" the illustrious heads of Europe.
The morning’s sightseeing had impressed me, but I began to feel the heavy backpack on my shoulders like a bale of hay. The gentleman with the hat told me to visit Renai park. I went there and was greeted by the chirping of cicadas and the wind rustling through the trees. "What an oasis of greenery and unexpected peace!" It was siesta time and the water of the lake reflected the blue sky like a painting. I lay down on the grass and watched the trees bow in the breeze. "Yes, I have to get back to Signa. Only that I could stay here all day! After a nap, I will swim in the lake and take the last train back!" And while I yielded to a gentle sleep, I was warmed by the thought of returning to Signa and taking her too. And it was with that pleasant thought that I fell asleep.