Days seventy three & four: Monteriggioni to Siena

Leaving Monteriggioni was easy as it was a beautiful morning and there was no breakfast on offer to delay us. Even the cafes were closed. And as a bonus we got to see the first rays of the sun touch the town as we climbed the adjacent hill.

A new day dawns on Monteriggioni

Much of the day was another pleasant amble through farmland and forests, with numerous castles and impressive farm houses thrown in periodically. We paused at an obelisk erected to honour the Lord who undertook the building of a tunnel to drain a large area of swampland. The entrance to the tunnel still exists and I got the distinct impression one could still walk through it, but without some artificial lighting I wasn’t prepared to venture too far, and the other end would not have been on our route.

We did have a pleasant surprise in between castles in that a home was running a pelligrini refreshment stop. Given that we were breakfast free, it was a welcome coffee and snacks break, especially as it was a

Siena is a large town, on a large hill, with large suburbs. Not a great combo. We had booked a small apartment for our rest day which required some back alley navigation. It came as a surprise later in the day when we emerged onto a main thoroughfare to encounter s sea of people.

Off the beaten track, not.

We did find a way to out manoeuvre the crowds: we headed to the Cathedral where guided tours are not permitted, and being mid afternoon, most of those having it at the top of h5he visit lists had already checked it off. And it is a stunning building, both inside and out. Many churches are worth a quick glance or longer to study the art. The Siena Cathedral has the art, design, structure and magnificent marble mosaic floors, and the Piccolomini Library has stunning frescoes and some wonderful old books on display.

For our rest day, we used our tried and true strategy of sightseeing when and where the masses were not. We toured in and around the old city using the streets and alleys frequented by the locals. We happened on the street market, where dozens of specially designed vans open up to display their wares. It was mostly clothes, but the food and hardware sections were enticing, and we found ourselves enjoying roasted pork paninis from one of the meat trucks at 10 a.m. We meandered homeward via the supermarket, which was fortuitous as not long after we got home there was a sustained thunderstorm. Later in the day we enjoyed a pre-dinner drink at one of the many bars that line the Campo – not part of our usual routine but a pleasant way to celebrate our 27th Anniversary – and I also got to reconnect with P from Holland, whose company I had enjoyed walking down the Aosta valley with a few hundred kms ago.

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