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Beautiful Siena...

My intention to write my trip, "in progress", did not happen mainly because I didn’t have access to a real computer and it was a challenge to keep up the writing on my small phone.

Anyway, I returned home a couple of weeks ago so I will continue my trip report where I left off.

Please note: This is quite a lengthy report, so pour yourself a nice cup of coffee...

I left Lucca on a Saturday morning, the day of the Rolling Stones Concert. While waiting for my train, a train arrived from Florence and I’d never seen such a large multitude of passengers getting off one train! I think most of the passengers were Rolling Stones fans!

On the train from Florence to Siena, I met a young woman who sat across from me at the end of the carriage. She was traveling with an enormous suitcase which she had to leave in the space between the cars. We didn’t talk to each other till about half way through the journey. I learned that she was traveling from Russia and will be studying in Siena for a semester. She spoke English beautifully. She explained that in her country, English is taught to all students from the time they start school. She also mentioned that she was already tired of her huge suitcase and wished she had not packed so much. Once we arrived to Siena’s station, we shared a couple of elevators to the ground floor then waited together at the taxi queue. I thought we could share a taxi up to the city, but she indicated that the university was farther away from the city center. So we each took a separate taxi and bid each other farewell. The taxi driver was a pleasant man and the ride up to the city only took a few minutes. As we approached my accommodation, I was surprised how the driver had to maneuver through the crowded streets. He told me that Siena is always crowded during the day with tourists who only visit for a few hours.

When I arrived to Antica Residenza Cicogna B&B, the owner, Elisa, was waiting for me. She is a very friendly and helpful young woman who manages this beautiful place, which has been in her family for the past two centuries.
My room, on the second floor, was great! It had a nice king sized four-poster bed, it's beautifully decorated with frescoed walls and ceiling, and there's a remodeled bathroom with a shower (that doesn’t flood the whole floor!)
When I opened my window, I was completely mesmerized by the crowds down below. I couldn’t imagine how crowded it must get during the busy season!
After unpacking some of my clothes, I walked to the nearby Conad City market to buy something to eat since it was too late (2:30PM) to find an open restaurant. I ended up buying some water, pear juice, prosciutto, roasted eggplant, olives, sweet cherry tomatoes, sweet green grapes (my favorite), and a freshly baked roll, which was still warm.
When I was almost done eating my picnic feast, in the Tea Room, I met a young couple from California (holding a RS Italy book), and we had a nice conversation about our travels. After my delicious lunch, I ventured out to experience this beautiful city.

I walked along Via Banchi di Sopra, one of the main streets lined with shops, to Piazza del Campo. This is the main piazza of the city and it’s a popular spot for tourists and locals alike because of the beautiful buildings, the clock tower, the many restaurants and souvenir shops. After taking a few photos of the piazza, I walked toward Piazza del Duomo and admired the beautiful architecture of the baptistery and the cathedral.

I decided to go to bed early that night because I was tired from my long travel day.

Continued...

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The following morning (Sunday), I was rudely awakened at around 1AM by a multitude of people around the corner from my b&b, where there’s a small bar. Elisa, my b&b host, had mentioned that there were ear plugs in the room in case I needed them; they didn't help much but I finally fell asleep. At 6:30AM, I was woken up by the noise from the trash/recycling truck emptying a bunch of glass bottles.
Since I could not go back to sleep, I decided to get up and explore the quiet peaceful streets of Siena before the crowds arrived. This was the perfect time to take wonderful photos of this beautiful city!
I then attended the 8AM mass at the cathedral, which was a very special experience in itself. After mass, I returned to my b&b for a delicious, hearty breakfast.

After breakfast, I walked back to Piazza del Duomo and visited the Santa Maria della Scala Museum (once a hospital) which was free that day. I spent a couple of hours there admiring its many amazing paintings, sculptures (some of my favorites were in the children's museum) and frescoes.
Afterwards, I walked to Piazza del Campo to admire the Gaia fountain, I then took a small side street and found the Synagogue of Siena. No one would ever know there is a synagogue there, because the facade looks like a regular brick building with an ordinary brown wooden door, just like all the other doors in its vicinity. However, there is a small beautiful synagogue within. I took a tour and learned much about the history of the Jews in Siena. I really enjoyed this tour, especially since I was the only one that showed up for it, and I was able to ask many questions to the tour guide who was a very knowledgeable and friendly woman.

After visiting the synagogue, I walked down to Piazza El Mercato, where I'd seen a small wine shop with a deli, Gino Cacino di Angelo, and many locals eating their lunch earlier before my tour.
Since it was 4pm, the place was empty, but the owner, Angelo, was happy to prepare a panino for me. I ordered the porchetta (savory pork roast) panino and asked if he could add tomatoes to it. The porchetta was moist and delicious. Total cost of my meal €6 (panino and water bottle).

After my meal, I walked back to Piazza del Campo then back to my room to drop off my small day bag. I then walked to Gelateria Kopakabana, which had been recommended by Elisa. I ordered strawberry, mango, and pistachio, yum! While walking to the gelateria on Via dei Rossi, it began to rain, fortunately I'd borrowed an umbrella from my b&b!
I’d been told that there was a self-serve lavanderia just beyond the gelateria, on the same street, so once I arrived, I went inside and finished eating my gelato.
The rain stopped before I arrived to my b&b, so I decided to walk down to Santa Caterina's Sanctuary. I went inside this chapel decorated with beautiful frescoes, and since there was a mass in progress, I stayed for a while to admire its beauty.
I then took some photos of the side of the cathedral, from the balcony outside the chapel, watched the sunset and returned to my b&b.

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The following morning, a Monday, I took the 10:15AM bus to San Gimignano. The bus ride was comfortable and I enjoyed the scenery of green rolling hills typical of beautiful Tuscany. The bus stopped at ColleVal d'Elsa which looked like a nice town to visit.
The bus arrived to San Gimignano about an hour after it departed Siena.
SG is a very picturesque medieval hill town with amazing views of the valley below. The main street as you enter the city gate, was very crowded, so I took my first right and ended up on the outskirts of the town where I enjoyed the stunning scenery of the green valley.

After walking a bit, I decided to eat lunch at Ristorante Perucà, on a small street away from the main drag, where I ordered pappardelle with Cinghiale (wild boar) sauce and a mixed salad. The food was delicious and very filling!
After lunch, I walked up to Piazza della Cisterna, and waited in a long line at the "best" gelateria in San Gimignano, 'Gelateria Dondoli'. The owner, Sergio, was greeting all the tourists in line and posing for photos. The gelato was creamy and yummy! I ordered pistachio, chocolate and cream. Yes, I love chocolate!

I was feeling a bit tired so decided to go back to Siena on the 14:45 bus.

When I arrived to Siena, I walked to the 'Lavanderia Waterland’, (on Via dei Rossi, 94) and did my laundry. While waiting for my clothes to dry, I walked down to San Francesco’s Church just down the street. The church is very large and it felt very empty, however, its beauty is in it’s simplicity.

Since my lunch was so filling, I did not eat dinner that evening but ate a bunch of sweet grapes instead.

My last day in Siena was a Tuesday and I'd wanted to sleep in, as I was so tired when I went to bed the night before, but I woke up at around 8AM.
At breakfast I met a nice couple, they had arrived at the b&b the day before; this was their first time visiting Italy so we had a nice chat about their itinerary.
After breakfast, I walked down to the Basilica of San Dominico, a very large church with colorful stained glass windows.
I then walked back to my b&b because I'd forgotten my sunglasses. On Via della Sapienza (#50), I found a small jewelry shop where the owner sells very unique jewelry made out of fine stainless steel lace like designs. I liked a turquoise macramé bracelet with a small flowery steel design, but it was a bit too big for my daughter, so the owner's mom told me that she could make an adjustable one and I could pick it up later on that afternoon. When I returned to the shop at around 4pm, I met the owner and picked up the bracelet that had been especially made, by his mom, for my daughter. I love finding unique souvenirs!

I was craving a nice crispy pizza for lunch so I'd asked Elisa, the b&b owner, for a recommendation and she told me to go to the ‘Consorzio Agrario’ (on Via Pianigiani, 5). The woman at the jewelry shop had also recommended this place, so I knew I had to go there!

Continued...

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Within the Consorzio, there's a bakery, 'Menchetti', which sells freshly baked pizza, bread, and various biscotti.
I ordered a piece of the burrata pizza which is made with fresh burrata (cheese), fresh tomatoes and basil, and it was SO delicious! The place was packed with men wearing their business suits, and only a few tourists. They have long tall tables where one can stand and enjoy a piece of pizza, a salad, or whatever one orders from the deli within. This is a great gourmet shop for wine, olive oil, dry pasta, and typical cookies. There’s a deli on site where you can find various cheeses, cured meats and prepared foods. There’s also a butcher selling nice cuts of meat, poultry and pork. The bakery sells the best Ricciarelli (almond paste cookies) and crispy sugary white wine cookies, made without eggs or butter! If you decide to eat there, make sure you take a number (small machine behind you when facing the pizza) before ordering your pizza, bread or cookies.

After lunch, I walked to Basilica Santa Maria dei Servi, a big beautiful church with amazing stained glass windows. There's an amazing view of the city’s skyline from this place.

Later on I walked back to the Consorzio (I wished I’d known about this amazing place before!) and ordered a piece of prosciutto and mushroom pizza to go. As I was leaving the shop, I met the nice Russian student whom I’d met on the train from Florence (four days earlier), and we were both surprised to be running into each other! We exchanged our contact information and will try to stay in touch.

I’d been scoping many of the shops for souvenirs during my visit, but I knew I’d have to buy some of the beautiful ceramics at the small pottery shop next to my b&b. The shop owners (mother and daughter), sell a variety of beautifully hand painted ceramics from an artist in Deruta. I bought two beautiful small ceramic boxes, and they were carefully wrapped with double bubble wrap and gift paper!

I went back my b&b and enjoyed my pizza with some cherry tomatoes, and the olives which I had left over from the other day.
BTW, there’s a big refrigerator in the Tea Room of the b&b which guests can use.
After eating, I packed my luggage, took a nice warm shower and went to bed.

My next destination is Orvieto! I will write an a separate post in a couple of days ;-)

Priscilla

Posted by
11613 posts

So great to read your report! I found the synagogue in Siena, too, and had a private tour. I did not know about the deli, so I will be stopping by next time!

Posted by
28 posts

I enjoyed reading your report. I had less than 24 hours in Siena, but had a great time. One of my favorite memories from the 30 day trip to Europe was the scene from my room in the Hotel Alma Domus. A full moon was centered above and between the lighted Cathedral and lighted City Tower, with other lighted homes and buildings in the foreground.

Posted by
4688 posts

Hi Zoe,

The deli is very small and you'll find it by turning right at the bottom of the stairs leading to the piazza (if coming from the synagogue). It's door is a bit obscured by the beautiful large bougainvillea plant growing around it.

I think I need to summarize my trip reports quite a bit, right?

Ciao!

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4688 posts

frchris.cordes,

A full moon was centered above and between the lighted Cathedral and lighted City Tower, with other lighted homes and buildings in the foreground.

What a beautiful memory!

Posted by
11613 posts

No, Priscilla, keep doing the "thick description" - it adds so much texture to the narrative.

Posted by
2328 posts

What a wonderful report on your time in beautiful Siena, Priscilla, including so many churches, synagogue, restaurants, and delis, bakeries, etc. I hope future visitors to Siena take good notes and will try your recommendations. A few years ago, I was scheduled to spend a couple nights in Siena, but mid-way during my train ride from Orvieto, there was a flash flood which blocked the roads and rail tracks into Siena, so I lost a night and a day in Siena, had to return to Orvieto for a nice dinner. I was able to go to Siena the next day, but only via a longer route connecting in Florence. Still a lovely but abbreviated visit. Hope I can return and follow your tips.

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10053 posts

We stayed at Antica Residenza Cicogna 7 years ago! Loved it! Is Elisa's father still working there, too? He made us cappuccini every morning. (Elisa was a new mother and not working all the time then.) It is a charming place.

Yes, Siena is noisy, isn;t it? Everything reverberates off the buildings with no plants to soften it. A little like Venezia although for some reason we found it more annoying in Siena. More loud voices, I think, and students out on the weekends having fun in the wee hours.

Glad you enjoyed your stay!

Posted by
2911 posts

I love your report, Priscilla! Keep it up, please.

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652 posts

Gracie, Priscilla, for posting your trip report! While reading it, I felt like I was right there along side of you! Don't you think Siena has especially beautiful sunsets? Sounds like you found your stride traveling solo!

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4688 posts

Zoe,
Thanks for the encouragement!

Larry,

I do hope you make it back to beautiful Siena. When you do, make sure you go to Kopakabana for a delicious gelato!

Laurel,

I did not see Elisa's father during my stay. Elisa mentioned that she and one of her best friend, Ilaria, whom I met, take turns running the b&b. They also hire a couple of women to help them clean the rooms.

I really like the central location of this B&B despite the Saturday night bar noise. Elisa apologized for the noise, when I mentioned it the following morning, but she said that unfortunately there's not much they can do about it.

All in all I'd definitely stay there again!:-)

Wray,

I'm happy to hear that you've enjoyed reading my report :-)

Christine,

Yes, I love the sunsets in Siena!

Traveling solo was definitely an adventure. Now that I've taken my first solo trip, I understand how this can become a real addiction!

Where are you traveling to this upcoming year?

Posted by
11613 posts

I am assuming the "where are you going" question is for all of us, and since I have a travel addiction (hello, my name is Zoe), here is the plan for 2018: London, Torino, Milano, Stresa, Bergamo, Matera, Napoli, Firenze (conference), two weeks with friends in Lazio, Toscana, Le Marche or Umbria (two of the four), Bologna, Orvieto and Roma. Some dates are not filled yet. This is the third draft. Can't stop.

Posted by
2096 posts

I enjoyed your trip report, thanks for sharing. I loved Siena, too. Vivid memories of the Cathedral there, the magnificent floors and the library! Met a student who was celebrating her graduation from school with a law degree- having a lunch with friends. I asked her if I could take a picture of her with her laurel wreath. She agreed and I enjoy the memory of that moment with my photo. So fresh-faced and happy!

My travel plans for 2018: Paris and Amsterdam in April, and Turkey in October. I have a travel addiction but am restless and have to see different places every year. I have a friend who has been to London 3 times this year and has a plan to return in January.

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4688 posts

Zoe,
Your destinations sound great!
Do you want to help me plan my next trip?

Judy B,
Two trips in one year, now I’m jealous!
Enjoy!

Posted by
11613 posts

Priscilla, I am at your service! I get a lot of ideas from your posts, too.

Posted by
375 posts

Priscilla
Loved your report. You described Sienna beautifully. I visited there on the Rick Steves best of Italy tour, so I only stayed 2 days, but I fell in love with Tuscany. The sunsets seem to have a golden glow that is magical. Thanks for reminding me of the things that made Sienna so special. (Oh and the gelato... it was incredible).

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362 posts

Dear Priscilla

Your report on Siena was wonderful! I only spent a few hours there. I did find the synagogue, but I had no idea you could take a tour.

But what I was going to say was how much I enjoyed attending a Catholic service on Sunday in Italy. We were staying elsewhere, and a friend (a devout Catholic) wanted to attend mass. So we went with her. (As in yay - I packed a dress!) And it was a wonderful experience!!

And for all of those throwing out their trip plans, we have the following for the next 12 months - Sicily, Morocco & Ecuador. There's some domestic travel in there as well, but now I'm thinking...hmmm....must return to the greater Tuscany area...

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4688 posts

Zoe, Grazie mille!!! I will be sending you a PM in a few days.

Janet,
Yes, the sunsets in Siena are magical!

aquamarinesteph,
I'm glad you enjoyed the catholic Sunday mass.

Sicily, Morocco & Ecuador. There's some domestic travel in there as well,

Lucky you! Will you travel to Sicily and Morocco on the same trip or are these separate trips?

Posted by
3022 posts

Hi, Priscilla. I, too, greatly enjoyed reading your account of Siena and encourage you to continue writing detailed trip reports; your prose is lovely! I visited Siena in May 2015 for 4 nights during a 3-week trip through Italy. I stayed at Agriturismo Marciano, just outside the city, where I was surrounded by vineyards and olive trees. The Tuscan countryside was amazingly gorgeous, and Siena itself was fabulous; it's the kind of place that one imagines Italy to be. Having also been bitten by the travel bug, I'll join the others in sharing my upcoming trips: Stuttgart for Christmas markets in December, Berlin for 10 days in May (becoming an annual May tradition!), Norway in late August, Rhine valley for a week in September. I'm trying to figure out a way to squeeze in Estonia somewhere!

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4688 posts

Dave,
I appreciate your kind and encouraging words, thank you!

I think it’s wonderful that you’re able to travel so much. Do you speak German?

I’m not familiar with Germany, other than visiting Munich eons ago, how do you decide where you want to travel to?

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3022 posts

Priscilla,
I have been learning German in my free time over the last 2 years. I was prompted to learn it after listening to teens/young adults in Salzburg speak German; I thought it sounded cool and wanted to be able to talk like that, too! I would say my language level is "late beginner." It's good enough that I can negotiate restaurants and lodging establishments decently if no one speaks English there; for example, I was able to call the owner of a hotel outside Berchtesgaden (who spoke zero English) to let her that I was going to be late for my arrival, and she understood me. I can have short, basic conversations in German, but nothing extended. Going to Germany, though, helps me practice my language skills.

You can obviously tell from my upcoming trips that I love Germany. I'm a history buff, so there is a lot for me to see/do. But I also enjoy the culture.

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4688 posts

Dave,

I was able to call the owner of a hotel outside Berchtesgaden (who spoke zero English) to let her that I was going to be late for my arrival, and she understood me.

I think it’s great that you’re learning German and you get to practice it every time you travel there.

What towns are you planning to visit in the Rhine Valley?

I’m trying to get some ideas for my next trip.

Posted by
3022 posts

For the Rhine trip, the primary objective is Rhein in Flammen at St. Goar/St. Goarhausen. Rhein in Flammen (Rhine in Flames) is a series of five firework shows over the Rhine that is done at different cities/town throughout summer/fall. So, I'm spending the week at an AirBNB rental in St. Goarshausen. I'm still putting together the itinerary, but I plan to hit castles (Burg Eltz on the Mosel River and Marburg Castle on the Rhine), towns (Koblenz, Bacharach, Bingen), a historical site (remains of the bridge at Remagen that US troops crossed to enter Germany in WWII), and festivities surrounding Rhein in Flammen.

Previous Germany trips for me:

Berlin-Wittenberg-Leipzig-Munich

Berlin-Black Forest-Bodensee/Lake Constance-Berchtesgaden

Short trip to Nuremberg for Christmas markets and historical sites

As far as other German-speaking countries go, I've also done a few trips to Austria and one to Switzerland.

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4688 posts

Dave,

Thanks for the information about your upcoming trip to the Rhine Valley, it sounds so amazing!

I have more questions about your previous trips to Austria and Germany so will be sending you a PM.

Perhaps I need to start a new thread asking others about their upcoming trips ;-)