A view of Siena

siena-and-duomo-from-torre-wideI’m not sure if there is a best way to see Siena. Walking the narrow streets it looks great. Standing in the the middle of the Campo it looks great. But from the top of the Torre del Mangia it looks breathtaking – quite literally breathtaking – because of the 400 steps (exactly 400 steps) that need to be climbed to reach the top.

Here are some shots taken once I had caught my breath.

Haircut day in Siena

Jean and girls in the campoGroom day in Siena was a major family outing. We had found a groomer just a few metres from the Campo and they would take one girl at a time. So we spent the afternoon sitting in our favourite bar firstly with one girl and then with the other.

This was no hardship and gave us ample opportunity to check some emails, watch some people and do some shopping – as you do in Italy.

Under a Tuscan sun – surprisingly

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According to the locals this summer in Tuscany was not good – lots of rain and wind, and not the usual warm temperatures. But we didn’t notice – for our two day stay the weather was glorious. It was a short stay but we … Continue reading

A year ago today – triumph and tragedy

It began as a day like all others as the sun climbed over the Crete hills to the east – except that we were up early enough to enjoy the sunrise and completely confuse our girls when we gave them each a pat on the head and departed for Siena. We were cutting it fine and the mood in the car was sombre. There was none of the usual banter as we headed along the SR2 into Siena.

Thankfully we didn’t get stuck behind any of the local autobuses on the way and as we drove through the Porta Tufi and into the old city to park we had 10 minutes left for the walk to the Campo.

It was Rugby World Cup final day. Half a world away two teams were about to go head to head to determine who were world champions – our might All Blacks or the unpredictable and dynamic French.

We arrived at the bar in time to find a seat amongst the small but growing number of New Zealand fans and the far more numerous French fans. We ordered our usual RWC colazione (breakfast) – cappuccino and tea, followed by white wine and birra. The discipline required to start drinking at 8am was something we had mastered over the preceding 6 weeks as we had watched the pool games, the quarter finals and the semi finals. In fact we were well known in the bar and our order arrived at the table the same time we did.

The game was engrossing. What everyone expected to be an easy All Black victory became an arm wrestle with the French doing what they do best – being unpredictable and playing ten times better than they did in the early rounds of the tournament – and with 15 minutes to go the score was 8-7 to the All Blacks. The remained of the match was agonising with neither team able to get in the killing blow.

The tension in that little bar in Siena was palpable. The Kiwis had gone quiet while the French supporters were vocal as the underdogs refused to roll over.

Victory for the All Blacks, when it came, was more relief than triumph.

After congratulations all round we left the bar and stepped out into the sunlight of the Campo. We headed to our usual bar – Al Mangia – to celebrate with a glass or two of Prosecco.

At Al Mangia the talk was not of rugby but of motorcycling. Motorcycle ace and local hero Marco Simoncelli had died after falling off his bike in the Malaysian MotoGP earlier that morning and the bar patrons were noticeably affected. Simoncelli was just 24 years old.

It was, it turned out, a day of triumph overshadowed by tragedy.

Family advice

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My nephew’s girlfriend and her sister are planning a trip to Tuscany in September. We have been asked for some advice on where to stay and what to do in and around Tuscany. It sounds as if the girls are … Continue reading

Tuscany in three and a half days – day one and a half

Charlie and Isabel arrived on Saturday afternoon having travelled from north of Florence.  I had suggested they text us when they got close to our place which, in this case, meant texting from the carpark “I think we are here”.  The 3kms of dirt road make you wonder where the hell you are the first time you arrive.

We ambled out with the dogs and found them looking around wondering if this was our place or the home of some local family.  Either way they would have been made to feel welcome.

Dinner that night was at our local Pizza restaurant Le Campannia (other summer visitors will know this restaurant) which does excellent pizzas and provides endless free entertainment watching the antics of the locals.

Next morning was the All Black quarter final game so the entire team headed to the Campo at 9am to watch the game.  Clearly word about our World Cup venue is getting out as there were already two holidaying kiwi couples waiting for the game – and with us that meant the crowd swelled to a record eight people.  Nine counting an elderly Italian gentleman who joined us to support the French. He was a day late but still enjoyed the game.

Ninety minutes later it was “job well done” by the lads.  Well sort of well done as there is still some work to do before meeting Australia – and a chance for a wander around Siena before lunch in the sun at Osteria del Bigelli which, once again, did not disappoint with the food.

Jean made her famous kiwi roast pork with gravy for dinner and we washed it down with a very nice Chianti courtesy of our guests.

Rugby, beer, wine, sightseeing and roast pork with gravy.  A top day and a half.