For our final day in Florence, Marg and I were booked on a twelve hour bus tour of three locations in Tuscany – Siena, San Gigminano and Pisa. We had to set the alarms early as we had to walk to the bus stop past the railway station and be there by 7.25am. Our tour bus was filled to capacity with 61 people plus our tour guide. Soon after we left Florence we were driving through the easily recognisable Tuscan landscape – rolling green hills dotted with red poppies, olive groves and vineyards, large hilltop houses in shades of yellow surrounded by tall cypress trees, or small rustic cottages gathered together in villages.
Siena was our first stop. As buses cannot enter the old town, we had to walk some distance from the car park to reach the piazza which was to be our meeting place. Some people on our bus went off with a local guide, but Marg and I preferred to explore Siena on our own. We walked slowly through the streets, window shopping as we went. The town dates back to medieval times, and many of the beautiful old buildings remain to add history and character to the town.
We climbed the steep hill to the piazza, only to learn, when we purchased our entry tickets, that the doors to the cathedral would not open for another half hour. So we walked downhill until we reached an even larger piazza, obviously the heart of the town, as it was surrounded by large buildings, the most dominant of which was the city hall. We pulled up chairs in the sun at one of the cafes on the periphery of the piazza and ordered coffees.
After our coffees, we repeated the steep uphill climb to the cathedral, as it was approaching 10.30am, opening time. We had to stand in a long, slow queue, and for a time we wondered if we would even gain entrance before it was time to return to our bus. Eventually we made it into the cathedral, but we were left with only ten minutes to explore and enjoy it. The most stunning features for me were the stripes of white marble and greenish-black marble that distinguish Siena’s church from any others we’ve seen here in Europe. Additionally, the inlaid marble mosaic art that covers virtually the entire floor of the cathedral is quite exceptional. Sadly, we could not stay too long, and we moved back through the town quite quickly to the bus, regretting the fact that we could not stay longer. We both agreed that we would have liked to spend two or three days in Siena. It really appealed to us.