Saturday, September 22nd

If this is Tuesday it must be Belgium

Or if this is Saturday it must be Siena (and we haven`t been to Belgium yet!).  Siena is about an hour drive and as we arrived we tried to find the parking lot near Porta Ovile that Helen had told us to use.  However as we started to drive down a very narrow old street full of tourists we thought perhaps we had made a wrong turn.  We managed to find our way out of that area and to the parking garage near Porto San Francesco.  No tourists were harmed in our search for parking.

After a ride up five, count them 5, escalators and a short walk we arrived at Piazza San Francesco in front of a beautiful old church.  We walked along narrow little streets that looked just like the set of an opera or play, complete with the buildings that form arches right over the street, two or three stories up.  Can this truly be real or have we just walked onto a Hollywood set?  The streets are lined with shops and it seems every block has its gelato shop.  Eventually we arrive at Piazza del Campo or Il Campo as it is often called.

At the tourist information center we purchase a placemat-sized map of Siena which is a little more convenient size than the large map we have or the small one inside our guide book.  Frommers describes Il Campo as the most beautiful piazza in all of Italy and I can understand why.  The piazza is roughly semi-circled shaped with a wide flat base.  At the base is the building with the tower that is pictured in anything to do with Siena – the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia.

Torre del Mangia … Siena

Radiating out and upwards from the base are pie-shaped sections of herring-boned patterned brick.  Circling the piazza is a large number of restaurants.

Lunch at Il Campo

We found a table at the little restaurant next to the tourist information center, ordered some anti-pasta and drinks, and settled in to watch the world go by.  It was very relaxing just to sit and enjoy our light lunch.

Eventually we made our way to the Piazza del Duomo in front of the church.  The duomo is incredibly beautiful and covered with very intricate carvings.  We sat for a while just to drink in the view before wandering off down some more streets.  Eventually we completed something of a big circle through Siena and arrived back at the Piazza San Francesco.  Susan found a comfortable bench and I went off to buy some gelato from a nearby shop.  It was nice just to sit for a while and enjoy our gelato.

Relaxing in Gaiole

On the want back from Siena we stopped at Gaiole for a glass of wine in the restaurant in the square.  It was a nice way to break up the trip.  After leaving Gaiole I missed the turn-off to the “shortcut” and as we were then going to drive right past Cavriglia we decided to stop at the Co-op for some groceries.  It’s always good to have a Plan B!  We were even home in time to enjoy some wine before dinner.

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