Lovely Siena

Trip Start Aug 16, 2009
Trip End Sep 30, 2009

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Where I stayed
Ostello Santa Monica (Florence)

Flag of Italy  , Tuscany,
Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Today I took a day trip to Siena. It was a 75 minute bus ride, where we took the autostrada (i.e. highway) most of the way. It was a double-decker bus and I managed to get on top right in the front. So I had a great view because there were big windows all across the front and sides. What I found most interesting was that when there were exits coming up on the autostrada, not only were there normal signs, but they also had the name of the town painted on the highway, along with a big white arrow pointing to the right. It was really cool.

When we arrived in Siena I went straight to see their Duomo, my fifth in Italy. Walking through the city was extremely picturesque. A lot of the buildings were made of red bricks, hence the crayola crayon color of "burnt Siena," which is named after this city.

When I arrived at the Duomo the outside was very interesting and similar to Florence's Duomo. But at the time it paled in comparison. Inside, however, it was the most amazing church interior I’ve seen. There were horizontal black & white stripes on all the columns and there were some amazing marble frescos covering the floor. The best part was the Piccolino Library, which had a series of 10 frescos showing scenes from the life of a pope that was from Siena. The color of the frescos was amazingly bright and the whole room was spectacular.

After seeing the Duomo I walked over to Il Campo, the main square of the town. Rick Steves claims it’s the most beautiful in Italy and I can’t disagree. There was a bell tower on the square that I wanted to climb, but the line appeared very long and I knew they only let 25 people go up at a time. So I went to the Civic Museum next door. A girl I’d met at the hostel in Florence had told me about some interesting frescos there. The museum was in the old town hall and in the room where they used to hold the town council, there were two frescos on opposite sides of the room. One showed the effects of good government, with all the town people happy and the countryside well tended. The other side showed the effects of bad government, ruled by council members with devil horns. The people were sick and the countryside was in bad repair. It was very interesting. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures, though, so I can’t show you what they looked like.

When I exited the Civic Museum the line for the bell tower was still really long. So I decided to have lunch at a restaurant on the square. I usually just get gelato for lunch, but Rick Steves said that having a meal on the square was worth it. So I went to one of Rick’s recommended restaurants and got a table right in front, with a great view. I got a penne pasta with sausage, but it wasn’t quite to my tastes. But it was great just sitting at there and admiring the view.

When I was done eating I decided I was going to go wait in line for the bell tower, no matter how long it took. It was the only thing left that I wanted to do in Siena so I didn’t really have a choice. And when I got there I was happy to see there were only two people ahead of me in line. But this time I also noticed that there was a sign at the entrance telling us to “stop” and only go up the stairs when the green “avante” light came on. So it ended up being a bad thing that there were only two people in front of me, because that meant they had just let people go up the tower. And we ended up waiting about 40 minutes before we got to go up. But the climb up was really fun. There was no elevator so I had to walk up the steps There were 300 according to Rick Steves, but 400 according to the sign. Either way, they were very steep steps.

When I got to the top, the view of Sienna was amazing. I could see the whole city below me, with red brick buildings and red tile roofs. We were only allowed to stay at the top for 15 minutes so I stayed as long as I could before going back down. Then I walked back to the bus stop and caught the bus back to Florence.

After I got back to Florence I went out to dinner with two girls that I met at the hostel. Anna, who was the one who had recommended the Civic Museum, had actually left the hostel that morning. But she had been staying there because she got a job at the European Institute in Florence, and she had stayed there until she found a permanent place to stay. I’m not sure exactly what she was doing at the Institute, but her field of study was immigration law. Oh, she was originally from Finland but had lived in Florence several years ago.

The other girl was Marisia, who was from Toronto, Cananda, but had been going to school in Paris for the past year. She was doing some travelling over the summer before starting a year of school in London.

The dinner was very fun, we went to a restaurant near the Duomo called Ristorante Paoli. We sat inside, which was exquisitely decorated with wooden arches and frescos. For the first time I actually didn’t get pasta at a restaurant in Italy. We all got a different meat dish and then shared with each other. I got a pork dish, which wasn’t very good. But the other girls got veal and steak, both of which were amazing.

After dinner we walked over to the Duomo because it was my last chance to see it at night. And it was breathtaking, as always. Then Marisia and I said goodbye to Anna before walking back to the hostel and going to bed. We were actually the only two people in an 8-person room, with our own private bathroom. So that was pretty awesome.

Well, tomorrow is my last day in Florence before taking the train to Venice in the evening. I’m a little disappointed, though, I checked the forecast today for the cities I’ll be in for the next week. And it looks like it’s going to rain the whole time, except for tomorrow. Hopefully it won’t be that bad, but I may find myself wishing for the heat!

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