Siena; Stairs, Sights and Stupid Pigeons

The rolling green of the Tuscan hills called our names, early on Tuesday morning.

After spending so long exploring Florence, we decided it was time to take a trip out of town and up into the rolling green of the Tuscan Hills. Little did I realize that the rolling was not limited to the hills themselves but also to the double deck bus we travelled in to Siena.

Bus? I know, but as unusual as it may seem; it is far easier to reach Siena from Florence by bus. Generally speaking it is normally easier and faster to reach nearby Italian towns by train, but Siena is one of the exceptions. The Siena train station is 1.5km away from the centre of town with a rather tiring uphill walk. The bus on the other hand takes you straight to the edge of town, about a five to ten minute walk from the Palazzo Pubblico.

So for a little history, Siena is a medieval fortress town set on one of the hills in Tuscany. The warm reds, ochre yellows and terracotta orange bricks of the wall surrounding the town, beckon you in, promising safety within the walls. As a walled city, Siena boasts several towers, which would have acted as look out points during times of war.

Palazzo Pubblico
Palazzo Pubblico
Overlooking the Duomo
Overlooking the Duomo
The maze of narrow cobbled streets weave, intertwining at random moments and revealing steps that lead you down into Piazza and Palazzo Pubblico.

 The brick covered centre of the main square descends gently down to meet the church, museum and tower complex. I cannot help but wonder why it is not grass, it would break up the seemingly endless brick and stone buildings, walkways and archways.

 We made our way through the sea of bodies basking like seals in the Tuscan sun, down to the base of the Torre del Mangia. Upon recommendation from several websites, we bravely decided to climb to the top. The tower is 88 metres high and extends above all the other buildings, giving you an unobstructed view out over Tuscany. Only 25 people are allowed per viewing and these happen once every half an hour. The entry cost is 8Euro per person and well worth it for the view out over Tuscany. Admittedly, the view was the only thing that kept me going as I ascended the narrow steep stairs that spiraled upwards.

At the top of the tower
At the top of the tower
Craig at the top
Craig at the top

 The view from the top, as pictured, is stunning. You can see why Tuscany and Umbria are called the “Green Jewels of Italy”. Studded throughout the countryside are little brick fortresses perched precariously on top of green hills, like something out of a fairy tale. It is easy to fall in love with this place.

 Craig bravely hiked to the very top part of the tower, up neck-breakingly narrow wooden stairs. My fear of heights stopped me at the first viewing platform where I happily overlooked the town and tiny matchstick people going about their daily business.

The view of Siena
The view of Siena
 Once we had climbed carefully back down again, we sat outside the museum entrance. Unfortunately, a pigeon decided that a pigeon-hater like Craig would love excrement all over his shoulder. With a roar of “I hate Pigeons!” and a disdainful tirade, Craig marched up to the fountains to clean off his shoulder and back. A small giggle escaped me as I thought of the irony of the situation.

 But stifle it quickly as I looked at Craig’s angry face.

 Food was in order and we made our way up to a café outside the main square. Delicious hot olive oil coated bread and a selection of cheese and deli meats was on the menu. Satisfied we headed back to Florence for our final evening and a quick trip to see the Statue of David.

 Tomorrow, Perugia and Umbria.

Ginga musings out.

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