Day 343: SienaJanuary 23 in Italy
Up and out around 10am after our first hotel breakfast in quite a while! Indulged a little bit and felt quite full afterwards, though it was definitely nicer than the usual muesli & yoghurt fare we have in the mornings! Only a short drive to Siena of around 20 minutes, where we parked at the front of another large and largely empty carpark.
The car parks are underneath the cliffs which the city is built on, but thankfully our car park had escalators installed so you weren't trudging up hundreds of steps! Still quite a long way up though. Siena is a much larger city than San Gimignano, a population of around 50,000 or so. Quite a few more tourists around again, though it wasn't exactly what I'd call busy.
The main feature here is the large fan-shaped square in the centre, where every year a horse race known as the Palio takes place. The jockeys ride bareback and do three laps at breakneck speed in what's not a very large area - apparently crashes are quite common, as are horses finishing riderless, and the whole thing only takes 90 seconds! Sounds exciting though.
Enjoyed the square, filmed a few things, and had a wander around the alleyways and streets to soak up the atmosphere. Schnitzel decided that today he was going to be a jerk and just kept barking at everything - kids, adults, pigeons, other dogs, wheely suitcases. Pretty much anything. Since we wanted to go inside some of the buildings and he was just being annoying, we went and put him back in the car! It was underground so no chance of him overheating or anything.
Bought a combined ticket for the cathedral and a couple of other spots. The cathedral was absolutely incredible inside, made out of striped black and white marble for an incredible effect. Lots of great paintings too, and a couple of sculptures by Michelangelo and Donatello. The library off to the side of the main church had some hymn sheets from the 12th century, and an incredible series of frescoes about the life of Pope Pius II who hailed from nearby Pienza.
Definitely glad we went inside here, though we rather skimmed the museum since it was mostly the original versions of sculptures and statues that we'd already seen the replicas of. Lastly we visited the "facade". This is a large facade wall for the cathedral, because during a particularly wealthy and prosperous period of the town's existence, the locals decided to expand the cathedral into the world's largest basilica. They got as far as building one tall facade wall to re-orient the building before the plague arrived in town, lots of people died and of course the money dried up.
It's a strange feeling being out on a narrow wall towering over the city, but it had fantastic views in both directions as you'd expect! Lots of steps to get up, but definitely worth it. Finished off our filming here, then grabbed a gelato and sat in the sun of the main piazza for a while. As late afternoon approached we went back to the car and drove home.
Ate at the hotel restaurant again (it's probably 15 minutes drive from anywhere of note and we didn't have a kitchen), but just had a pasta dish each this time - much more manageable bill!Read more