Weekend in Tuscany, May 25-29

We spent the long weekend in May in Siena. We flew out of Aberdeen at 6am friday morning and by late afternoon we were on a bus from Rome to Siena. Laurie met us at the bus stop and, after dropping our bags off at the hotel, we had a lovely dinner in the big Piazza, which has a tower and lots of sparrows and is lined with restaurants.  The menu had really bad english translations of their options – I don’t remember what I had for a main, but the starter was something like “black cabbage thrown on the furnace” (and it was delicious). Afterwards we got some gelato and walked by the Duomo. Magnifico!

On Saturday, we did Siena. In the morning we visited the home of St Catherine. Her home has been decorated in gorgeous Frescoes depicting scenes from her completely fascinating life story. We also went into St Catherine’s basilica, which has a couple of rather gruesome relics — her finger and her head — mounted in cases, and is otherwise quite a plain but airy space. The basilica was an interesting contrast to the Duomo, which we visited next. The outside is amazing enough, but the inside is just crazy. The most amazing thing is probably the floor, which is an enormous marble mosaic, sectioned off with different artists contributing different scenes and images from history and the bible.  But everything else was mindblowing as well, with amazing frescoed chapels, statues by Michelangelo and Bernini, paintings by Donatello, amazing guilded walls and dazzling ceilings, and on and on. We also went into the Duomo museum and up to the tower to take in the view. In the evening we went to a piano concert (Mozart and Schubert – not very Italian, but nice anyway!) and then had dinner (again, I can’t remember what exactly, but pasta and/or pizza is a safe bet).

Sunday was an epic day. We walked a long way out of the center of Siena to get to the train station, where we caught a train to Asciano, a tiny village of which we walked from one end to the other in about 10 minutes. The plan was to visit a monastery which was about 11km away. Being Sunday, there were no buses running and no taxis in the village, and the bike shop was closed for the day. So we walked there. My 6-months-pregnant feet are about a full size bigger than they should be, so my shoes felt too small, and it was about 28C, which is about 10 degrees hotter than it ever gets in Scotland, so I had a few cranky moments, but we made it, and had a picnic lunch outside under the umbrella trees. The monastery was gorgeous – more lovely frescoes and lovely rooms, a big library and stunning chapel, and actual monks roaming around in white robes. Then we got back on the road and walked another 10.5 km to the next village, Buonconvento. Given that was a little sore and a bit whiny after the first 11km, you can imagine what pleasant company I was after the next 10km – sorry Laurie and Brad!! But they took good care of me. We caught a bus back from Buonconvento back to Siena, where I went straight to bed.

On monday we spent a bit more time in Siena, visiting a few more churches and neighborhoods, and then caught a bus to Montipulciano, a lovely hilltop town in a famous wine-producing region. The town is stunning, with amazing steep and narrow streets ending with views over the tuscan countryside. Brad tried some of the famous Montipulciano wine and declared it delicious, while I tried not to be a little jealous (it wasn’t that hard, because I was eating amazing spinach flan and other yummy things). Then we had to run to catch our respective buses – Laurie back to Siena, and us to another small town with a train station, and then a train to Rome.

We arrived in Rome and checked into our hotel, which was a few blocks from the main station, and found some dinner – I had some awesome eggplant parmesan followed by the best tiramisu ever. In the morning we did a major blitz of roman sites – we walked through the colosseum, the roman forum, and the pantheon, and we walked by the monument to Victor Emmanuel II and the Trevi fountain. Then we caught a train to the airport, and the flight home again; Sore feet, some minor sunburns, and a lot of gelato later!