Tuesday 18 February.
It was a full English breakfast this morning, well more or less. We started with cereal, fruit and yoghurt; next scrambled eggs and bacon; bread rolls and jam and croissants; the coffee was help yourself and we could have as many cups as we wanted. It may have been an expensive place but the breakfast made up for it.
When we left at 7:30 am there was a lot of blue sky about but behind us it was dark and black. We were hoping that was from the rain that had passed and we were in for a good day. Unfortunately it was the other way and we had only been walking for about 15 minutes when the rain started. We stopped and put on our rain jackets just as it began to get heavy. By this time we had come off the busy SP5 and were heading up a steep climb and into the the walled town through Porta Nord. The town wasn't very large and we were soon through and exiting by the Porta Sud. There wasn't much to the town other than the nine towers and the surrounding walls which create the attractive picture like a coronet perched on the hill that can be seen from a distance in all directions. There is a walk round the top of the walls with reportedly excellent views, usually €3 but free to pilgrims on the VF. We didn't have time for an extensive tour and also the rain was lashing down. I was snapping away with the camera and frightened that I would get it wet and damage it.
Once we left the town it was out into the country and off-road. The rain had now eased and the sun was trying to break through but the ground was wet with a lot of puddles about. It was mixture of wide gravel tracks and narrow rutted rocky paths through the trees.
We past two castles along the way, I don't know whether they were the original Medieval ones or more modern replicas, Castello della Chiocciola and Castello de Ville both looked well preserved. Shortly after this we came to a division in the paths, both were official routes leading into Siena, we took the one that was 3 km shorter. Once we cleared the woods it took us over a large open piece of land, Pian del Lago, which was a military training area but Cicerone said it was a recognised place where people went dog walking. We saw a number of army trucks parked but nobody bothered us.
On the other side of the plain we reached the road, SP101. It pointed the way to Siena and the distance 3km. This was surprising as I thought it should have been closer to 6km. There was a long climb initially and at the top of the hill we sat with our backs to a gate by the side of the road and I started to make tea. A few moments previously the sky was looking bright but now it started to rain again. We made do with a 5 minute rest then set off again. We reached a small community with a few a shops which I took to be just on the outskirts of the city, the sign said Siena 1.6 km, just a mile in 'old money'. I don't know where they take their measurements from or what the distance referred to, was it to the start of Siena region or district but we found ourselves now on a very busy road in the middle of nowhere. We carried on and could see buildings and houses in the valley but some distance away. Soon we came to a roundabout and it pointed us to Siena centre. It was still a very long way and on streets without pavements. By the time we passed through the walls of the old town by the Porta Camollia it was closer to the 6 km I thought we had to do.
We still weren't finished, our hotel was at the other end of the old town. It was another half an hour along the narrow ancient street with fascinating buildings. It didn't look too touristy and the shops were discretely placed and spaced out blending in with the architecture. Our hotel, Paradiso, was on the main street and for a change was found without any difficulty. It was another first class establishment, our room wasn't ready so he upgraded us to a bigger one, at no extra cost. It was big, en suite with a double bed. There were facilities for making tea and coffee in the room with an electric kettle and there was a communal kitchen for making yourself a meal. The first thing was to have a cup of coffee, we had been walking nearly 5 hours with only the 5 minute break and we were gasping for a drink. Afterwards Moira made lunch in the kitchen, she had bought a packet of soup going through the town and we had it with fresh bread.
It was raining again outside, it had been on and off all morning. We relaxed in the room and listened to the radio, the Internet was good, until 3 pm when we went out for a stroll. The weather had improved considerably, not a cloud in the clear blue sky, there's hopes for tomorrow. The first thing we did was to check out a mini-market that the man at the hotel directed us to for something to cook for dinner. We found it with the help of a street plan and it was near our hotel and convenient to stock up after sightseeing. The man had also marked on the map places of interest to visit, out first stop was the Cathedral. It was close-by in the Piazza del Duomo and as soon as we turned the corner into the square it was struck us and it was awesome. A intricately carved front, a large tower and a domed roof. When we entered a security guard wanted a ticket and told us where to get them, at the other end of the piazza. Tickets were various prices depending if you wanted to visit everything in the city, all of the Cathedral or if you just wanted to walk in the main part of the church that was free. We took the free option and were issued with tickets which gained us entrance. Inside was as magnificent as outside, the columns were of black and white marble and the aisles had inlaid mosaics at intervals roped off to stop you walking on them. The walls had large paintings by some of the famous Italian artists and the windows high up were of beautiful stained glass. The domed roof was another outstanding feature with statues built in around the circumference. This was one of the top Cathedrals that we have visited.
Next we headed to the Piazza Il Campo, the large circular piazza that is the centre point of the old town and dominated by the Torre del Mangia at the museum. There was a painting in one of the shops there of the huge crowds watching a horse race round the piazza and seemingly this still takes place. From there we walked out of the old town through the Piazza Matteotti to the Medici Fortress. The only thing that was left were the walls and there was a walkway all the way round, it was also a popular route for joggers. It was really beautiful, we got views of the countryside ahead of us and the hills in the distance that we must cross in a few days time before the final long descent into Rome. In the other direction there was the skyline of the old town with the tower and dome of the Cathedral at one end and the Torre del Mangia at the other. When we left the fortress we headed back via Madre Teressa di Calcutta Piazza and another lovely church. It was through narrow back streets with wonderful shops, one had a man busy weaving on an old loom and others hidden down arched alleyways. We emerged at the steps leading up to the Cathedral to complete a very nice tour of the town.
Moira did the shopping at the mini-market while I went back to the room and had a shower. For dinner she managed to get some meat which she stewed with potatoes and carrots. This was the second day we had meat and it was really delicious. While Moira was cooking one of the other guests complained about the smell and asked her to put on the fan in the kitchen, he was fortunate that we weren't having curry tonight. After I washed up we sat and listened to the radio. I must have fallen asleep as the next thing I knew it was 9 pm and time for bed. The heating was working well and it was too hot. We had managed to dry all our wet stuff but now to get to sleep Moira had to open the window.