Siena

We are not that far away from Siena and we plan to visit today, it is a nice straight road to get there:) and no hills until we arrive.  Just as we start coming into town I look up information on parking and there is a recommendation for the Santa Caterina station. This is recommended because it allows for a quick ascent into the old city by ….. escalator!! We do just that as we feel we should not miss out on this experience. A quick recalculate on our Copilot and we are set.

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Siena is a large , vibrant old city, sitting high on a hill with views over the surrounding area. Most towns are hilly like this, for defense reasons. Siena hosts a most incredible Duomo, that even for us with all that we have seen takes our breath away.

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It has multiple inlaid marble floor pieces that are in fantastic shape and I feel like I would like a memory of all of them. Multiple altars and incredible frescos decorate the vaulted ceilings.

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We particularly enjoy the library where ancient texts are on display behind protective glass casings. To imagine the years monks spent painting every letter and ornament on those pages makes me feel transported briefly into those times. Things certainly moved at a much slower pace in those days.

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Lining the central nave of the Duomo are carved heads of all the previous popes, they look down with austere and somewhat frightening looks, making sure their flocks are suitably guided to behave.

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The Duomo also houses a large Baptistry. The reason baptistries were so important was that until you were baptized you could not enter the church. The baptism would absolve initial sins.

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After all that visiting it is time for lunch, André has already scoped the place and guides us to an intimate Osteria which is pretty full and the owner cases us up and looks like he might decline us entry but then he is maybe a little won over with my request for a table for three in Italian 🙂 Yes, this is a winner of a place with a very friendly waiter!!

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First we order an entree to share with their homemade walnut bread served with local honey and mustard which is served on a wooden spoon to be had with two types of pecorino cheese one young and one at least 2 years mature. We launch ourselves at this forgetting to take a photo 🙂 very yummy.

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I try again with the local chickpea soup and this time there is no comparison in quality and taste. André and Tanya both go with the local specialty pasta called pici with two very different sauces, both delicious.

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Siena is the home of the Palio di Siena which is a bareback horse race run twice a year in July and August, 10 horses and riders wearing the colours for the city  districts or contrades.

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We are obviously a bit early for this but we go to the Grand Piazza where it is run, three laps of the piazza and all done in about 90 secs. It attracts huge crowds as we see in some posters around town. Where we are standing is packed with people and the race is run on the perimeter with specially laid turf on the ground.

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It also explains the presence of large metal rings sunk into the walls which we thought looked like horse tethering rings.

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It is 4.30 in the afternoon and we feel it is late enough to visit San Gimignano, highly recommended on the tourist trail but extremely busy as a result of this.  We say farewell to the very pretty Siena and get going.

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San Gimignano does not disappoint and in fact it is pretty quiet with humans. We are surprised by the number of great delicatessens and as we visit and explore, we stock up for an antipasto kind of night with a bottle of the local specialty wine called Vernaccia di San Gimignano. This town, you may remember is the home of the best gelato and we sample that. For us good but not stellar and we certainly have had creamier flavours before.

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We now have a good supply of pecorino, a fresh variety, with tartufo ( truffle) and cured in walnut leaves , as well as a good selection of antipasti. Dinner will be fun.

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Tanya befriends a pussycatto on the ramparts and gets her Italian wildlife fix. This particular pussycatto finally responding to Tanya’s Whispered sweet nothings.

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We explore the little streets and come across some lovely nooks. As the golden light sets in, it is time to take just a few shots of the surrounding hills.

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