Tag: siena

#100! Siena, Monteriggioni and A Golden Hour Walk (06/08/2021)

#100! Siena, Monteriggioni and A Golden Hour Walk (06/08/2021)

My 100th blog!

Niamh’s sister had never been in Siena before, so after we’d been up a couple of hours, we drove to our usual go-to carpark: Parcheggio San Francesco. We got there handily enough, and queued for maybe 2 minutes before we were let in. Once there, it’s a 500 meter walk (if that) to the long series of escalators that will take you up to Piazza San Francesco, without you having to wreck yourself by climbing up hundreds of steps!

I took a few shots on the way to the Campo.

We wound our way through some streets so we could show Niamh’s sister the glory of Piazza del Campo!

We didn’t hang around long, as we were hungry by then, and left the piazza immeditately in search of a good place that locals favoured. Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos of the food, nor of any of the surroundings, but after a little research on Google Maps, I think the place we settled on was Osteria degli Svitati. We were sitting outside on a bit of a slope and the menu was hand-written – so I think it was this place. We had unpretentious pastas at good prices, and they were good!

Afterwards, we had a stroll around the shops, and bought a table-runner and bread-basket thingy in one of the craft-stores dotted around the town. The lady who owned the place had a really cute little doggy who ruled the roost! Then we visited the Duomo. It’s both beautiful and impressive, and it could have been a beast, if the Senese had not succumed to the plague. Parts of the once-planned transept are now a gigantic carpark.

Due to Covid queues, and a hot day, we decided to cut short the visit and head instead towards Monteriggioni. On the way, we stopped off at Ke Cassata, a place with Sicilian owners who make arancine (filled, deep-fried rice balls) and cannoli. I got to chat with the owner, and was able to flex my Italian a little, which was cool.

We got to Monteriggioni, and managed to get into one of the free carparking slots that had just been vacated.

It was sweltering by then, so our first stop was at the gelateria, and then on for another stroll around some of the craft and jewellery stores. I insisted on going into the branch of the Pratesi shoe store there. I grabbed myself a pair of nice salmon slip-ons, that I left over in Volterra – one less thing to pack for my return! Yay me!

We had a quick peep inside the church here, but didn’t go into any of the museums. It’s a cute place, but small. We’d visited before, and then we’d paid to climb onto the walls, but not this time.

Then back to Volterra, where I did the necessary after such a long, hot and thirsty day!

We had a lighter meal of the arancine we bought in Siena (delicious and filling!), cold cuts and yummy pecorino aged in rosemary! So good with truffle-infused honey!

The ladies were hot and exhausted after a long day out, but I still had cortisol (and beer, gelato and granita) to burn off, so I decided to go out an capture Volterra during the evening golden hour. I do this so rarely, so I really enjoyed the experience. Here, unsurprisingly, are some photos!

And that was our day. To telly-watch, then bed!

I captured a little of the day on video:

I hope you enjoyed the read and the media… leave me a comment to let me know what you think, or if you plan on visiting Volterra soon!

Siena, and Shoe Shopping in Ambra – 13/08/2020

Siena, and Shoe Shopping in Ambra – 13/08/2020

Ever since our trip to Monteriggioni last year, I’d been wanting to go to Ambra to gram some slinky shoes in the Pratesi outlet store. We decided to go there via Siena. The last couple of times we’d been there (I blogged just one) it drizzled with rain, but today it would be a great deal warmer.

I love Siena. It’s has all the charm of a typical hilltown, but on a much greater scale. It also contains, for me, the most wonderful piazza in Italy (if not Europe) – the Piazza del Campo.

We left later than usual – it usually only takes us 50-60 minutes. We drove past the O, Colle di Val d’Elsa and Monteriggioni – and onwards to our ‘go-to’ parking spot (Parking San Francesco). There was a short queue – maybe 5 minutes and we parked. It was early lunchtime when we went up the escalator and started taking pics!

We explored a slightly more modern part of the inner town, near the post office, and I remember being in decent form, health-wise… I don’t think my anxiety was bothering me that much.

We stopped off in an inexpensive cafe-style risto (Il Pulcino). I had a decent Spaghetti all’aglio, olio e peperoncino – it’s hard to screw that up – but Niamh thought her dish was passable… I think it was some sort of ravioli, but I can’t remember (sorry). Anyway, it was pretty inexpensive and frequented by locals, so give it a bash if you want to avoid tons of tourists while in the area.

After lunch, we headed to the Piazza!

As we’d skipped dessert, we stopped off at Il Camerlengo for a large lump of gelato! It was tasty – maybe a 0.9 on the Isola del Gusto scale. There seems to be a serious lack of bins on the square, so keep your eyes peeled for getting rid of unwanted trash (e.g. gelato cups).

We went to the courtyard of the Palazzo Pubblico, but didn’t buy tickets to explore any farther (see photos above).

We explored the town just a little more before heading back to the car. On the way back we stopped into a tiny Sicilian streetfood place called Cannoleria Ke Cassata. We got a couple of arancine each to take away for later, and headed to Ambra.

I regret to say that I didn’t take any shots of Ambra – we didn’t explore, but parked at the back of the outlet store and just headed inside. Niamh bought shoes and a bag, I bought a few pairs of shoes…. one of them pretty… eclectic!

Home again for a rest from the raw heat. We then hit Volterra later that evening after eating the arancine we picked up in Siena (re-heated in the oven). They were setting up the outdoor cinema in the main piazza that evening. We should have bought tickets, if only to support the endeavour, but we didn’t… maybe next year, as it’s a superb idea.

A Stroll in Siena

A Stroll in Siena

After a shortish walk yesterday, we finally got our act together and left for Siena around 10:30.  What we’ve found very useful is to aim for this car park.  It is about 100m away from a series of escalators that takes you straight to the heart of the old town.  It’s called Parcheggio San Francesco, but it’s not labelled as such in Google Maps, for some reason.

We got there around 11:45 and assumed that we might have to queue for a parking spot, but no – there there 20-odd still remaining.  Off we went up the 5 or 6 sets of escalators.

The thing is, Siena is essentially a Super Hilltown – much larger than most you’ll come across – certainly the largest in Tuscany.  Its medieval centre is at least twice the size of Volterra’s (except it’s population is far higher).  It’s famous red-bricked buildings has given the name to a colour artists are familiar with: Burnt Siena.  

Although it has fewer attractions for the ‘gotta-catchem-all’ tourist than Florence, I think it is a far more charming place, with hodge-podge streets and hidden arched alleyways, unlike Florence, which generally has wider roads and feels a little more open.  Siena is also less infested with humans than Florence, which is a good thing, in my book.  It’s still busy, mind you!

We started off by wending our way to the older parts, taking snaps.  Note again, that we didn’t really enter any of the attractions, as we’d just been there in April this year, and had a more thorough explore last year, again in April.

Then we entered the Piazza del Campo.  To me, this is the loveliest square in Italy.  Oh, there are others more famous, and possibly grander (St. Peter’s Square, St. Mark’s Square, Piazza Navona), but the Campo is the warmest.  It’s unusual, in that it’s in the shape of the shell, and it slopes a little.  Around its centre is a border of darker tiles, upon which, twice a year, sand is placed, so horses can race around it 3 times for the honour of their contrada in a race called the Palio.The contrade, or districts, of which Siena has 17, are represented by their flag and animal statue.  In one of the photos in the gallery below the cathedral section, you can see the statue of flag of one of them: pantera (panther).

I’m loathe to give advice which impacts the business of others, but I would advise that, sure, have a drink in one of the many establishments around the piazza, but do try to look to eat elsewhere.  There are a stack of restaurants off the beaten path which offer better value.

Yes, you can climb up that tower – I’ve never actually done that – will have to remedy that on another visit.

We had another explore and documented that.

We walked past the cathedral, and had to papp that too.  Originally, it was designed to be larger than the one in Florence – measuring dicks was very important to city-states like Florence and Siena back in the day.  In fact, you can actually see how large the building was supposed to be in one of the photos below.  It is a side shot of the cathedral, with parked cars and pillars of layered marble.  That entire carpark was supposed to be just one of the transepts!  But two things happened: they ran out of money (being a perpetually warring city-state is expensive business) and people (during the construction, around two-thirds of Siena’s population was obliterated by the plague).

The frontage is still pretty spectacular, as you can see.  There is a ticket office nearby, which enables you to purchase a ticket to visit several related attractions (the cathedral, the crypts and the ability to climb up to the roofs of the extended transepts for a great view of the city).  There may be entrances to galleries you can buy there too, I can’t remember.  Anyway, if it’s your first time in Siena, purchasing these tickets is a must.

We were hungry, and (apologies to those who want to see nothing but Italian food in the blog) were still on our oriental kick, so we went to New Shanghai, and took some pics on the way.

The food was ok… generally we have found that in Italy, Chinese restaurants are about on-par with average takeaways here.  Japanese restaurants are reputed to be better.

With bellies bursting, we headed back to the car, taking more snaps, and then went home.

When we got home, we headed immediately to the Cathedral square, as we suspected that it was going to open for the first time in at least 18 months – we had never been inside, as it was under restoration.  There were crowds gathered, not least priests and nuns from different orders.  I went into the baptistry to see if there was a timetable, and found one.  There was to be a procession from another church to the cathedral with the bust of St. Linus.  It said 17:00, but we were unsure if that was departure or arrival time.  We decided to was departure, and so went to a bar to get a drink and wait.

Upon arriving back, we were disappointed to see that we’d missed the actual opening of the doors.  There were people here and there in medieval finery and wearing uniforms of office.  There was to be a mass held, so we thought we’d pop in for a look, and maybe we’d stay through to the blessing of the new altar.  But the place just filled up, and began to get uncomfortably warm.  On top of that, we’d just come from Siena, and so were ill-equipped to go without bio-breaks (I think I put that as delicately as I possibly could!).  So, we decided to head out, somewhat embarrassingly, against the influx of officials and more medieval folk.

We had an icecream instead at L’Incontro!  We’ll go back today or tomorrow to have a proper explore of the cathedral, but I got a couple of shots.  The roof, as gorgeous as it is, somehow reminds me of Windows 3.1 wallpaper!   Anyone else old enough to remember those patterns?

There were additional pennants hung up for the occasion, and also (presumably coincidentally) new (and strange) art installations in the main square.

We did nothing else for the day, except screenwatch, and vainly throw socks at trolling, roof-bound mosquitos.

I got up and had took a short walk through the gloom this morning.  There was some islands amidst lakes of cloud, and I’m sure I could have gotten some amazing shots with a decent camera and an optical zoom lens.

Our furniture still hasn’t arrived yet, so we’re giving them one further half-day to contact our representative, or this afternoon we’ll travel directly to the store in Navacchio to shout at the store manager a while.  We’d obviously rather not have to do this: the drive is dull, and neither of us like confrontation, but it’s been 8 weeks since we ordered the damn stuff!