Friday, May 1, 2015

Swooning 0ver Siena

We loved Siena. It had the most medieval feel we've come across in Italy, and we partiularly liked the twisty, winding streets.

We knew absolutely nothing about it before we went there, it was simply meant to be our substitute for Florence, a new place to see in Italy during the days before our cruise. We took the train in and, for only the second time on this trip, we took a taxi. (The first time was an evening in London, after we'd walked ourselves into the ground.)

Our first inkling that this town was a bit different was when the taxi driver told us that he wouldn't be able to deliver us right to the door of our hotel, because it was on a road too narrow for cars. Since he said we would still be very close, we were more intrigued than bothered.

The second thing to grab our attention came right after that, the actual ride to the hotel. Our driver zipped up and down hills, taking blind curves at a confidently speedy pace. By the time we reached our destination, we knew we'd be taking a taxi back to the train station, as well. We didn't want to even start trying to figure out that route on buses.

The hotel was charmingly ancient, and our room was large with some authentic old pieces of furniture that we loved. 

There was a ceiling fan and a big window which let in the sounds of church bells, as well as the loud Italian voices of a family communicating at high volume from early hours in the morning. Not much of a view, but we kind of liked it.

The bathroom down the hall was every bit as old fashioned, with the pull string for the toilet that I'm pretty sure wasn't put there just for effect. Anyone insisting on ensuite bathrooms is missing out on some great bargains. Our room was $40 a night, and we throughly enjoyed our stay.

After dumping our bags, we discovered the main square of the town by pure dumb luck. Just looking down tiny side streets for what seemed to be the likeliest place to grab some lunch, we went just two tiny blocks before stumbling upon this unusual shell shaped square. 

The restaurant we chose faced this obviously important building, so we wandered over after lunch to find that it was the civic museum. The poster had a photo of something which looked interesting, so we went ahead and got tickets.

The admission price of 9 Euros was more than we were used to paying, everything in Europe has been amazingly cheap. And it didn't take very long to make our way through it, there weren't all that many rooms. But what was in there was well worth the price of a ticket. This place had both the beautiful and the unusual.

Is this a wolf the child is suckling on? A very literal interpretation of "raised by wolves"?

We've seen so very many painted ceilings that are really eye-catching. But this place was just non-stop imagery.

Our favorite, though, was this part that was closed off with elaborate wrought iron. 

The benches were gorgeous...

...each with its own  picture.

We were in Sienna for three nights, so we had a couple of full days there. But while we did a whole lot of walking, we didnt actually do a whole lot of traditional sightseeing. There was a big church and Baptistry, but they were up a bunch of stairs I didn't feel like climbing, so I let Martha go up to check them out while I tried to figure out a route to our next destination. 

The GPS on our phones often has a difficult time orienting when we are on tiny streets between tall stone buildings. And this is made worse in Siena because they actually continue their buildings across the streets, so that you are constantly passing under stone arches. As a result, we have to walk a ways in each direction until we confirm that we are indeed following the line of blue dots on Google Maps.

Not that this means we will easily reach our destination after that. In Europe, Google Maps only gets

you close. Once it says you have reached your destination, you have to look at the street you are on, to make sure it is the ocrrect one, then look at the numbers on the building to find the one you need. It is usually within a couple of blocks. Close, but no cigar.

The next day, we did a littlle shopping, because we were mailing stuff out that afternoon and wanted to finish with our souvenirs. We don't mind doing things like this, because it usually takes us away from the tourist areas and into the normal business neighborhoods. In Siena, they are as ancient as the rest of the town.

I like the way the narrow, twisting streets lead into wider, more open squares before you start feeling


We went for lunch at a place with a really great outdoor dining area. It was one of the few places with
an excellent traditional Italian dish. Martha's lasagna was delicious. I don't remember what I had, becuase it was as forgettable and disappointing as most of the other food I've had in Italy. Still, it was a pleasant experience because of the location and the people.

And at least it was cheap. The place we went for dinner had excellent reviews, and expensive items on the menu. We even ordered an expensive bottle of champagne, because we were celebrating a successful sale of some family property.

But while the champagne was good, and the appetizers were excellent, the entrees and dessert barely qualified as mediocre. Well, most of that expensive dinner was the champagne, so we won't complain.

We aren't complaining in any case. Because Siena is defininitely one of the highlights of our trip. 

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