no matter where you go, there you are

Thursday, May 27, 2010

most of my treasured memories of travel are recollections of sitting - robert thomas allen

One week down...In 7 days I had seen Paris, Pompei, and Rome. Next up was meeting my sister, Anne, and her roommate, Lauren, in Florence. But since it was only Thursday (Thanksgiving, actually) and I wasn't meeting them until Friday morning, it meant I had a day to kill. I had spent enough time in Rome for my purposes and had seen most of what I wanted to on my budget so to Siena I went.

While in Italy I wanted to see some of the Tuscan countryside if I could, and though Siena was a city, it gave me the chance to see Tuscany while not being surrounded by cars and masses of people. And little did I know, that I would see a lot more of the area than I expected. I arrived around 10 or so if I remember correctly and according to a google search I'd done, there was baggage storage at the train station. When I asked the workers at the station about it they said they didn't have any in the station but there was storage at a Piazza Gramsci.

One thing that is important to know about Siena is that it is built amongst the hills. Therefore, my original plan of walking to the Duomo was not going to happen, especially if I had to roll my suitcase up the hills. So I go to the bus guy and as him what busses got to Piazza Gramsci. His English is VERY limited and I don't know if he ever fully understood my question. He told me all of the busses go there. The second I step out of the station there is a bus waiting to go. Going against all my instincts of checking the schedule and routes, I hop on and pray it goes to Gramsci.

We pull out and I have a general idea in the direction of the downtown area and we head in the complete opposite direction. Lo and behold we do not go to Gramsci. We drive around the outskirts of the city and it ends up being a nice bus tour of the area, but its quite frustrating that it doesn't go anywhere near where I want. When we pull back into the train station an hour later I get off and find a bus that will take me to where I want. By this point, I also never paid for that first bus ride which was really confusing so I end up buying a ticket this time as you're supposed to do before you get on.

The next bus I get on heads in the right direction, yay! NOT, since busses don't announce the stops and you have to know where you're going. I try and count the stops but as it doesn't stop at every stop that proves useless. We stop at a busy area and almost everyone gets off. I should have trusted my instincts and gotten off, especially since I could have easily gotten back on a different bus without paying again if it turned out to be the wrong place. However, right before we stopped we passed a piazza sign that wasn't Gramsci so I assumed this wasn't correct. Oh it was Gramsci I later learned.

So I ride the bus for a little longer and decide I need to get off and maybe I can figure it all out once I'm off the bus. Nope...I just start walking and end up in another more ritzy outskirts of the city (the "burbs"), which I later realize was on a completely different hill/section of the city where I wanted to be. After 30 minutes of wandering I find a bus stop and ask the woman there if this goes to Gramsci. She speaks English really well and assures me it does. YAY!!! So I get on and we head to Gramsci. She's kind enough to let me know this is the stop and I have finally arrived. I find the underground area used for bathrooms and luggage storage and its the most gosh darn expensive luggage storage ever!! BOOO!

Collecting myself, I move onto Piazza del Campo and the Duomo. From this point on, my visit to Siena got much better and I loved the layout of the city. Tight, small streets with almost no vehicles sit upon the hill and there's a lot of up and down walking. I enter the Piazza del Campo, a very famous piazza where they have a horse race once a year. The piazza is at an angle and is kind of like a shallow bowl...really neat.

I follow signs for the Duomo and it's hard to miss. The massive church sits at the peak of the hill and is a beautiful combination of stone and white and black marble. The white and black marble stripes I later learn very common among the architecture of Tuscan churches.

Inside, the massive cathedral is beautiful and is even striped inside. There are busts of all the popes, I think, along the top of the walls and the dome is painted beautifully.

There are gorgeous marble designs in the floor, particularly one of Romulus and Remus with the wolf which is the symbol of Siena. The pulpit is really spectacular; it looks like a carved marble mini carousel ride outside of BJs. But obviously not an actual carousel.

There's also a side room with a beautiful ceiling and has really really really old documents preserved.

I move onto the next part of the Duomo complex which is the Museo and it's pretty interesting. All of the artwork was religious themed but it was different than what I'd seen in Rome. The best part of this building was the tower/lookout they have. There's not too many stairs to climb since you start on the third floor and as the duomo is already on a high point of the hill, it doesn't take much height to be higher than the rest of the buildings. The lookout was wonderful and had two levels to it. To get to the upper level you walk through a teeny passageway onto the stairs.

From the top lookout you could see forever into the rolling hills of Tuscany. The farmlands and the vineyards...everything. It was gorgeous! There's also a great view of the church and of Piazza del Campo.

Because I had no other plans to see anything in particular besides the Duomo complex, I took the time to relax, clear my mind and enjoy the gorgeous, wonderful views. The wind made it a little chilly but I didn't care. I wish I could have stayed longer, but after 30-45 minutes I had to move on. The crypt and battistero were next and though interesting, there wasn't anything spectacular about either of them. I think it was this crypt that made me realize there wasn't anything special about crypts so unless it was free, I didn't need to visit anymore. The battistero on the other hand was a new feature to the ancient churches that I hadn't seen before but after just one, I was satisfied with not going to anymore. What I liked most was the innate carving and use of pink marble with the black and white on on the exterior of the battistero. Really pretty!

I still had some time before I needed to get my bag, ride back to the station and head to Florence for the night so I walked around the Piazze del Campo, got gelato, loved my gelato and walked around the shopping streets.

I visited a neat little bookstore and was shocked at how many more people were out and about after sundown than there were when I got there only a few hours before. The bus ride back to the train station is slow because of traffic, but its not bad. The train ride up to Florence gives me time to reflect about the day and I decide it definitely wasn't a total washout. I got to see the Duomo and Piazza del Campo, and I have now seen artwork by all 4 of the Ninja Turtles. I also got to see parts of Tuscany I never would have had I not gotten lost. All in all, not as bad a day as it might seem.

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