Day 9 (Fri, May 11): Free Day in Siena
Today was scheduled as a free day, and a group of us decided to use it for a trip to Siena. Our group included Joyce and Dick Hall, Brooks and Lind McCaniel, Howard Meeks, Sue Degan and Joan Rearich. The dining staff opened up early for us so we could leave the hotel by 8:00.
While we were waiting on the graffiti-covered train platform, we were approached by the beautiful woman who warned us about gypsies and pickpockets in Florence (their begging is an annoyance, but it can be a coverup for outright theft). It turned out she is a professional tour guide named Carolina who lives is Montecatini and was on her way to Florence for a translating job. When we arrived in Florence, Carolina led us to where we could see our bus station and we said goodbye.
The map shows our route. The red line is a the train segment, the one we took earlier into Florence. The blue line is the bus trip, on the "Siena Rapida" (express) which was very comfortable. The ride to Siena was beautiful. Lovely hills, farms, a spectacular view of Monteriggioni, a walled town on a hilltop.
We found our way, as a group, to the magnificent Campo (town square, home of the famous Palio horse race - video ), then went our separate ways. Howard, Karen and I had lunch at Ristorante Il Campo, Il Campo, 50/51, 53100 Siena (SI) - indicated by the yellow marker on the map - one of a phalanx of caffés and restaurants surrounding and looking down on the Campo. Karen and I had pasta. Howard had a plate of mixed sausages which, he said, if they wouldn't kill him were pretty good. We learned that he is a retired Anglican bishop who recently lost his wife. Nice man.
Then we were joined by Joan and Sue and went to see the Duomo - indicated by the purple marker on the map - which involved walking up a very steep slope. Siena is hilly. We did find a more gradual path back down. The duomo is truly wonderful. We really enjoyed the use of black and white marble in the pillars, layered like the fancy licorice candy some of my Dutch students once gave me. Pisano's pulpit is held up by lions, each with something different in its mouth.