25.05.2015 - 25.05.2015
We leave for Siena to day. We went out for breakfast to Regoli Pasticceria for breakfast. It was a beautiful sunny day. The city was different as business was back to normal after the weekend. We sat by a window and enjoyed the coffee and pastry. This is most enjoyable – relaxing with good coffee watching the world go by. It is also entertaining listening to the interchanges between the workers in the Café – I enjoy listening to the Italians relating to one another. There is a passion and liveliness about it. I have to confess that the coffee in Rome is some of the best I have had.
Andrew and Bill went to look for a SIM card and I went to look at an imposing church just up the road - Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (see how good I am with Italian words!) It means Church of Mary Major (it is the major Marian Church in Rome). I had to cross a few zebra crossings and you have to be careful using zebra crossings in Italy as they are often ignored by drivers. The trick is to go across with a mother pushing a pram or a priest or nun. It is some Church – if you want to find out about it look up Wikipedia. The architecture, the statues and the paintings etc. are quite overwhelming. There was some kind of service in progress in one of the naves. It was characterized by the soft gentle singing associated with Catholicism.
We had trouble getting a taxi but finally got one and went to Hertz to pick up our hire car. We were served by a very nice Italian lady and were upgraded to a Jeep (Hope would love the colour – it is bright orange). Bill took on the driving – I did not envy him. I was in great trepidation about getting out of Rome without having an accident. The Tomtom took a while to work – but after it got going we had good guidance. We took a few wrong turns but the Tomtom get us back on tract. Bill did well.
Once we got to the freeway, the driving was fine. You generally have a speed limit of 130 kmph. The scenery along the road is very enjoyable. The country side is undulating and there are many wooded areas with beautiful green trees. Italy has a wet winter and a dry summer – so there is a lot of green with the winter just having ended. Unlike Australia, villages and towns are built on the top of hills. This adds to the scenery. Quite often the scenery is dotted with villages sitting on the top of hills.
We stopped at an Autogrill food outlet on the way – it goes over the highway like a bridge – so both sides of the highway can use it. We all had risotto – it was so so.
The scenery around Siena is quite beautiful. It is very undulating – with patches of forest, wheat fields, olive groves and villages - quintessential Italian. Our accommodation is just outside the walls of Siena – named Fonti Di Pescaia. It is a little apartment with 2 bedrooms and bathroom – very roomy. We settled in and made our way to Siena. We passed through the arched gateway into the city. We walked through a maze of narrow streets- it was like going back 500 years in time. The city was thronging with tourists. I reckon if you picked up the walled city and shook it; at least 10,000 tourists would tumble out. We eventually came to Piazza del Campo – the principle public square and center of Siena. It is regarded as one of Europe’s greatest medieval squares. We bought gelato and sat in the square and enjoyed! It was a beautiful afternoon and there is a real sense of occasion in the piazza. It is lined with cafes filled with tourists enjoying the place. The town hall and a large tower (Torre del Mangia) dominate the square. You can rent a luxury apartment which sleeps four in the square for Euro 865 per night! Sandra and Rebecca might be interested!
We went then to Siena Cathedral which was nearby. A very impressive Church – one of the most impressive we have seen on the outside. This was followed by a walk through narrow streets flanked by even narrower alleyways. No doubt the houses along these streets are occupied by locals. I don’t know the prices of houses in Siena but there is an 8 room castle for sale in Siena for Euro 18 million. Anyone interested? We eventually came to the Basilica of San Domineco – a large Church that is undergoing renovation. We went into the Church but a service was in progress so we could not take photos. It does not have the luxuriant interior of other Churches but was still impressive.
We then went to the Fortezza Medicea (the Medici Fortress) which is a most interesting structure. The walls are some 30 metres high and the walls, which are rectangular in shape, are about 1,500 meters in length. We walked right round the structure on the top – great views and great photo opportunities. Interestingly the structure is filled with earth so it is like a platform which gives great views of Siena. We were disgusted to see that a carnival was in progress on top of the fortress. It almost seems like a desecration of this historic site to have such a thing on this site.
We came back to the unit before going out for dinner. We went out at about 8.30pm (still daylight) to Trattoria Fonte Giusta in Via Camollia for dinner. We sat on the street – an idyllic location. I had pizza (very filling), Andrew had a wild boar dish and Bill had a Tortilla dish. A very enjoyable occasion. The Italians do have a wonderful way of giving service in restaurants. The fact that you don’t speak Italian does not bother them – such a different attitude from Parisians. Bill went to take photos after dinner while Andrew and I went back to the apartment. When Bill came back he said the city was beautiful at night with the lighting. He also said that very well dressed couples were walking around, which gave the city quite an edge.