Friday 9th July
Yet another hot and sunny morning greeted us on waking for our last morning in Cinque Terre. Whilst it made for safe driving we wouldn’t have minded a reprieve from the searing heat. The drive out of Monterosso al Mare was as harrowing as the drive in. Our Sat Nav tried to send us down the upper section of the pebbled goat track from the other day. We were mean to her though; we took off on a tangent and made her re-think her options. Our plan for the day was to drive to the medieval town of San Gimignano (3.5hrs) for a quick visit and on to Siena (1 hr) where we were spending one night.
San Gimignano had come highly recommended as a key place to visit, even if for just viewing the 13 (out of an initial 72) towers remaining from the ancient walled town. I had been looking forward to this visit but it did not live up to my expectations at all which, I realise, was due to the relentless heat and my own personal deficiencies on the day. The rational side of my brain was telling me how lucky I was to be in such an amazing part of the world in such spectacular weather. Unfortunately though, the irrational side of my brain kicked in and took over: I was sick of the 35 + degree heat, sick of Europeans and the constant smoking whilst we was trying to eat and breathe, sick of pushy, rude tourists jostling us out of good photo vantage spots, sick of screaming, petulant children, annoyed that we had to pay to enter the San Gimignano Cathedral and even more annoyed that I had to wear ‘modesty blankets’ into said Cathedral and then be followed by a clearly bored, Italian official in case I shed my stupid, stupid blankets. BTW: this Cathedral was also made up of black and white marble in Collingwood style. San Gimignano also takes first prize for the worst ham and cheese toasted sandwich I have ever had in my entire life. I’m quite an expert in this domain; just ask Roland Rousselot. You need deep pockets to sight-see in San Gimignano. This put me off quite a bit and undermined any romantic notions that I had felt for this medieval village. Anyway, we left the area after about 3 hrs and headed to Siena.
The first part of the drive to our Siena Hotel was ok. I was getting used to the aggressive Italian driving…. which was a bit of a worry. The last few minutes though took some years off my life. Our stupid Sat Nav took us by the long route through the tiny, narrow, tourist-filled lanes of the Old Town of Siena….yes…right past the Duomo…a pedestrian only area! We had no choice but to drive on as it was impossible to turn around. The Concierge of our hotel gave a visible, involuntary body shake when Mark told him of the route that we had taken.
One very pleasant aspect of the day though was that we were upgraded to a Junior Suite in the hotel where we were staying; the Palazzo Ravizza. The charming hotel is built into the old city walls and was originally a palatial family residence. We spent the next couple of hours settling in, enjoying the luxury of our large hotel room and then trying to finalise our accommodation details for the remaining week; a rather stressful event! We finally headed downstairs for a drink in the hotel (to relieve said stress) before heading out to dinner in a local restaurant. We were home by about 9pm and all headed to bed as we were, yet again, exhausted after our day.
Sat 10th July
Mark and I headed out for an early walk to see Siena without all of the tourists. It was already quite hot at just 6.30am. The area of Siena within the old city walls is beautiful. Narrow cobbled lanes filled with tiny shops selling beautiful local food, wine and produce (pan forte is a specialty of the region). There were also numerous high end boutiques selling beautiful clothes and leather goods. The Duomo was another example of Collingwood support with yet more black and white marble. The façade of the Duomo though was the most beautiful of any Cathedral that I have ever seen though.
We ambled back to the hotel to try and rouse Tom for breakfast before checking out. We were taking a morning walking tour of Siena before driving down to Porto Santo Stefano, a Tuscan coastal town, 2 hrs further south of Siena.