A model to fulfill

Hamar 1962 - and San Gimignano 2010

In Tuscany this summer I rediscovered a street of the past. No, a whole city.

When I was a boy I collected model railway. At 12 my room had been filled with my bed, desk and chair for homework, and a board containing a railroad-centric city. Rising from the bed there was a narrow passage to the desk, or the opposite direction - to the door.

I had collected "1 to 87" or "H0" trains, and building kits by Faller. New to the world, just learning the terms and their meaning was an exciting journey. But they were German houses, and the trains were German trains. I enjoyed their beauty, but I had unease. I live in Norway, and the houses do look different. Except for the station, which almost passed. Actually, most passed, because I had little choice, even if I did make small buildings and details as best as I could.

In the woodworking class at school I had built an oil refinery. With yellow, plastic tubes and wooden towers, and decals from the local Esso station. Not a child's interpretation of a refinery, but the one possible for me.

But since the little world I tried to build had a mismatch problem, I turned to technicalities, crept under the table and connected a myriad of wires. Yes, the trains did stop at red light and continued in a fiery on green. Slow start for model trains hadn't even been invented. But I knew it was missing.

So, after a year or so I dismounted that world and put most of it in boxes - kept to this day. Less the refinery and other home built details, and the control desk that I was so proud of.
But my boyhood's model world I still carry with me. It was much safer than the cold war, still hot at the time. Over the years I have seen some other people's attempts to present their model of the world. But they all have failed on me. Until this summer, in San Gimignano.

My wife and I have tried to schedule some days in San Gimignano on our almost yearly visits to southern France and northern Italy. This year, in the usual hotel, usual room; there was half a bottle of local red wine and two glasses for us. We again felt welcomed to this Italian home.

This small medieval city isn't as small as it may look. The people there widen it by keeping it alive, and the summer tourists help keep the stows hot during winter. There are some disappeared and some new things every year. This summer, in the Tourist Information, I spotted a single glossy brochure, telling about an architectural model of San Gimignano around the year 1300. We found the place in a street parallel with the main street.

Where I and others had failed, these builders were able to reopen my eyes.
Eight hundred clay replicas, one of each and every building, to the scale 1/100, including some seventy San Gimignano towers. All in a beautifully restored cellar and adjacent rooms.

The light and sound that play further took me back to the age I probably would most enjoy as seen from present times. The cock was crowing as the first sound of day; the light of the full day was striking on the clay buildings and streets. If there was a mismatch I couldn't tell. I was an observer, but I was also there, some 700 years away.

This model display of a real city, and another larger scaled display with people shown in action, made me want to jump on to a "San Gimignano 1300" time travel. On a round trip.

Now I better know where to look next: a few meters from the tourist stream. I once had to leave behind, but this time I can reenter. Next time around.

If you have a model to fulfill, start by visiting San Gimignano 1300 at  www.sangimignano1300.com

See the model they made for us in 2011 inside a cabinet I made here.
Øyvind Teig, www.teigfam.net/oyvind
Disclaimer: SanGimignano1300 takes no other part in this text than simply making me want to return
(Written 27 July 2010, updated 15 May 2014)

(Update May 2014: they have moved to a very nice new location - see link below!) In May 2013 the 1/100 thirteenth-century large model layout had been moved up from the now closed off, beautiful cellar of last years - into the backyard, sitting directly in the sun for many hours per day. Its base was partly broken in pieces but it was assembled as nicely as possible. My wife and I passed by after a heavy shower, and the soft plastic they had put over it for protection contained seas of water. Probably even worse, another day with rain it was not covered. I am worried for the fate of this dream of a model city. This is a piece of art which deserves much better! Do visit it and take your share, as the entrance fee has been dropped for voluntary donations.
Here is a blog note and a YouTube movie I have put together: http://www.teigfam.net/oyvind/home/etc/069-sangimignano1300/