A short walk through town, shops spilling out with local ceramics, cheese, wines and artefacts, brought us to the Museo Archeologico.
Most impressive were a collection of Etruscan artefacts, including an array of funerary urns and a pharmacy with the original vases containing medicinal preparations hundreds of years old. On its upper floor, we discovered a contemporary art museum exhibiting a large collection of photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson.
On another street, we were delighted to stumble upon Galleria Continua, an art gallery that opens onto an old movie house that has been preserved. The gallery was hosting an exhibition by Antony Gormley.
Unlike most eateries in town that serve traditional Tuscan dishes, at Cum Quibus the chefs presented a pick-and-mix. Spanish, French and Japanese influences were apparent; there was even a coconut curry.
The eight-course tasting menu plus several amuse-bouches climaxed early, the first course being the most memorable. Sea Salad was composed of blanched vegetables from the restaurant’s allotment – a minute carrot, a sliver of baby leek and a tiny mange tout were perched in a heavenly turbot sauce into which was swirled a red shrimp reduction.
Another highlight was a dish of compressed, pulled duck meat studded with pistachios, brushed with a Campari glaze and topped with a cherry.
Being the last to leave after a lengthy dinner, we encountered the young chefs having a cigarette on the pavement outside. We commended their culinary talent before teetering off into the warm night.
More traditional fare is served at what must be the most picturesque table in town. Le Vecchie Mura is located, as its name suggests, on the walls of the old city. Seated at the edge of a flower-filled terrace overlooking the spectacular, verdant valley as the sun set, a glass of crisp, local Vernaccia in hand, I felt transported to fantasy land.
The Tuscan menu was extensive, including ribollita (Tuscan bean soup), pici (a thick noodle served simply with pecorino), rabbit, wild boar and the favourite steak of the region, Bistecca alla Fiorentina — 1kg of T-bone. which defeated my carnivorous husband.
The next day we sat on our hotel balcony eating slices of leftover rare beef with sun-ripened tomatoes on Tuscan bread, overlooking the majestic view and counting our blessings. In San Gimignano even lunch from a doggy bag is romantic.