Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Kevin and I picked up a rental car today to drive out to some towns in Tuscany. We were upgraded to an Alfa Romeo, which thank the powers had built-in GPS. I don't know what we would have done without it as my Google maps proved useless.

The town for today was Siena - a walled city with a huge square in the middle called the Campo, that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As we found out, walled cities are not meant for driving in. We decided not to kill any tourists today and instead paid for 2 hours of parking and walked our way in to find Hotel La Perla. We wandered lost and couldn't even find the tourist centre. We bought a map at a tobacco shop and still couldn't find the hotel. I eventually started stopping at every friendly store I saw and they'd point us a little bit closer. In the end, we found our hotel - directly across from the shop where we bought our map. 50 steps away. We counted. Note the photo where the hotel and shop are close enough together they're in the same photo. D'oh! The hotel staff pointed us to a good place to move the car and we stayed on foot for the rest of the day.

The Campo, the city's main square, is slanted in like a bowl and is lined with restaurants. Twice a year they hold a huge horse race in the square so the 17 wards of Siena can duke it out to see who's coolest. The square is big, but I have no idea how they cram a horse race and hundreds of people in there. Throw up some old mattresses for protection and post some "enjoy getting trampled at your own risk" signs", I suppose.

We also did a tour up the Mangia Tower. That climb is a workout - 102 metres! The steps are so narrow that they have a light at the bottom indicating when you can go up, because it's too small for people to pass eachother on the stairs.

Dessert (after dinner of course) was excellent tonight. Despite reservations, I went with the server's recommendation of a traditional Siena cake called panforte. The best part was the sweet wine for dipping. It was probably bad form, but I drank the dipping wine afterwards. Tourist! TOURIST!

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