Monday, October 13, 2014

One day in Siena

We're in Siena today, which is by far the shortest leg of our trip at only a one-night stop on our way to Rome. We caught the first bus out of Greve around 8 this morning (much easier to walk down the driveway with our packs than up!). We find it pretty funny that Florence and Siena have such a rivalry going back to the Middle Ages that they don't even run buses down the small highway that connects the two cities. It's a lot like Huskies and Cougars at home - you have to pick a side!

Anyway, we took a bus from Greve to another small town called Radda, then caught a bus from Radda to Siena. We were pretty concerned about the Radda to Siena leg, since the turnaround was tight and we needed to find a tobacco (tabacchi) shop and purchase bus tickets in a town we'd never been to before during the layover. But it worked out fine, and even when we got turned around and were waiting on the wrong side of the street for the bus, the driver was kind enough to wait for us to run across the street with our packs to get on. The next bus was a good 6 hours later, so we were grateful! The bus ride was crazy though - picture a Greyhound bus driving down basically one-lane twisty turny roads with oncoming traffic and a driver with one hand on the wheel and constantly changing radio stations with the other because he loses reception from one hill town to the next!

Thanks to our early start, we got to Siena at about 10 in the morning. We dropped our stuff at the hotel, and got some paninos (sandwiches) and cappuccinos on Il Palio (the town piazza where they have the horse races) since we'd missed breakfast. 

After refueling we headed out to see the sights. We started with the Civic Museum and city tower, both of which were neat experiences! The civic museum was about the prettiest government building I've ever seen, with frescoes, paintings, and lots of intricate woodwork, and the 300+ steps of the city tower earn you fantastic views of the city and surrounding countryside. The tiny spaces and steep stairs are pretty reminiscent of Florence's Duomo stair climb!

Il Palio

Doing the stair climb - Siena's city tower

Stairs, and more stairs!

View from the top

Siena's Duomo is visible on the left

He only whined a little!

I love the workouts!

Siena selfie!

Looking down on Il Palio

Some parts of the city tower stair climb were so tiny!

Pretty woodwork in the civic museum

Damon on Il Palio

Then we headed over to the Siena's Duomo, the city's most dramatic church. Neither of us realized ahead of time just how fabulous this church was, by far the prettiest and oldest (1200s-1300s) of the big churches we've seen thus far. We were really blown away by it and spent a long time taking it all in.

Siena's Duomo

Intricate marble in the Duomo

Lunch at a really cute sandwich shop

Siena had some really pretty storefronts - it was fun to look around town

Of course he found the pizza!

So very Italian!

After that I led us to a place I'd read about in the Rick Steves guidebook, a state-run wine tasting room designed to promote the local wines. It's located in the walls of an old fortress and is both gorgeous and spacious inside. They had a selection of wines by the half glass or full glass, and we had fun sampling different wines and comparing notes with another traveler we met from Long Beach.

The fortress walls the wine tasting was located in

Entrance to the enoteca

Very cool space

We had a great time tasting wine here!

In the evening we went out to dinner at a very cute restaurant also recommended by Rick Steves. We stopped by there earlier in the afternoon while walking around and managed to snag one of the last tables for dinner! They were featuring black truffles and we had the most delicious cheesy pasta with black truffles - it was exquisite! Our table happened to be right next to this tiny wine cave that went way back into the walls of the restaurant. At the end of our meal, the waiter told us that they had a really awesome wine cellar in the basement and asked us if we wanted to go down and check it out. They let us head down and poke around down there and take pictures. It was really neat - all of the wine bottles were covered with so much dust like they'd been there for decades!

At dinner, with the wine cave behind me

Wine cave!

Delicious truffles & cheesy pasta

In the restaurant's wine cellar - so cool they let us check it out!

Dusty bottles of wine

Ending our time in Siena with a scotch (Damon) and a Vin Santo and cookie (Laura) on the Palio

Overall we've really liked Siena. It has a low-key atmosphere and is a good size, with enough interesting things to see without being overwhelming. We had fun looking at all of the neighborhood flags (there are 17 neighborhoods, all with their own animal logo that take turns competing against each other in the Palio horse races each year). They are all about their neighborhood pride, but Damon and I agreed that if we were born into the snail or caterpillar neighborhoods we might have to move to the cheetah, lion, or fox hood!

Tomorrow we take a morning bus to Rome, and hit the ground running with a tour of the Colosseum in the afternoon. Luckily we already scouted out a coffee shop and bakery around the corner from the hotel that will be open early so our day should get off to a good start!

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