Tuscany (Part 3)
A day in Siena: campo, Duomo, crypt, baptistery, museum, roof views, hospital museum, gelato in the campo
After some intensive research on the villa's shaky internet connection we headed south to Siena and found our way to an excellent car park within the city walls and just a short walk from the historic centre.
Swallows flitted in and out above the rooftops as we made our way downhill through the narrow streets to the Piazza del Mercato dominated by the massive southern face of the Palazzo Pubblico.
A little bit of extra exploration brought us around to the famous bricked Campo overlooked by the beautiful tower of the Palazzo Pubblico.
We wound our way through bustling streets to the main square in front of the sensational duomo of Santa Maria Assunta, a truly incredible piece of architecture. Again the air was alive with swallows which whirled and dived around the black and white marble of the campanile.
We bought tickets to head inside and then stepped from the hot piazza into the cool of the cathedral interior. We found our way across to the amazing Piccolomini Library, a delightful space of light and colour with painted walls and illuminated manuscripts.
We wandered around the cathedral, taking in the carved pulpit by Nicola Pisano, the tombstone of Bishop Giovanni di Bartolomeo Pecci sculpted by Donatello and the four small sculptures made a young Michelangelo.
We crossed the hot square and descended down to the cool dim space of the baptistry which unlike in Florence, is part of the cathedral building itself, albeit at a lower level and with a completely separate entrance. Here we sat admiring the ornately painted cieling and the hexagonal font which has an exquisite bas-relief sculpture by Donatello on one side.
We then made our way through the museum and gallery next door. This eventually led us to a brief visit to the top of the only constructed part of what would have been a much larger basilica. A narrow staircase brought us out above the rooftops of Siena and we enjoyed the wonderful views.
Out in the square it was hot still and so we took to the shady streets to find some lunch. The Trattoria i Barberi hit the spot providing food and refreshment.
The afternoon was spent wandering around the amazing old hospital of Santa Maria della Scala which is now an art gallery and museum. Some of the rooms and passageways had an odd, slightly eerie feeling with lots of history and layers of building and expansions. The most fascinating part was the original statues and sculptures for the fountain in the main piazza which is now being restored in the museum, with many pieces on display along with details of its commission and construction.
Back outside there was cloud building to the north and it looked like the run of perfect weather might finally be coming to an end. Not wishing to miss out on the sunshine we headed back to the campo, buying gelato on the way and sat on the hot bricks as the afternoon advanced.
We slowly made our way back out of the centre and along to the car park the feet aching after a long day.
Back at the villa we had a delicious dinner of cured meats, local cheese and slices of melon bought from a small grocers in Siena. We enjoyed a spritz as there was once again a hazy sunset beyond the Tuscan hills.
The villages of Chianti: Greve for coffee, Lamole for lunch, storm in Radda and gelato in Gaoile
This was sadly our last full day in Tuscany and the plan was to visit a few of the villages that sit amid the Chianti hills, an area famous for its red wine.
The first stop was the village of Greve where, after a short exploration of the church, we found the delightful village square. Flowering plants flowed out of the porticos and there was a general buzz off people around the shops and cafes.
We followed signs up a side street to the museum of sacred art but found it closed. After a quick diversion further up the hillside for views of the Chianti hills we headed back to the main square for our morning espresso.
As we were sitting the vangaurd of a classic car rally arrived in the square, giving the local police something to do on this otherwise quiet, sunny Friday morning.
We wandered back through the town to the car, passing a shop selling an interesting range of cycling jerseys and seeing lots of local Chianti produce displaying the region's black rooster
Our next stop was the hilltop village of Lamole. This was at the top of a winding road that climbed out of the valley containing Greve and up to the forested hilltops of Chianti. We soon had company, the white Porsches that had paused in Greve were now behind us billowing dust up behind.
We snagged a couple of parking spots and then managed to get one of the last remaining tables at the Ristoro Di Lamole. The views across the hills were sublime and both the food and drink were excellent. We had a Chianti from Brolio that perfectly accompanied the wild boar pasta. Cloud slowly built during the course of the early afternoon and they were a couple of sharp cracks of thunder.
We now headed back down the mountain and further south through Chianti. After the deep rumbles of thunder heard during lunch we could now see much more dramatic skies ahead.
Next up was the hilltop village of Radda where the threatening skies seemed to have detered most of the tourists. We briefly visited the quiet church and then walked round the perimeter of the village.
The dark clouds finally emptied their contents on us and we hurried from shelter to shelter as we made our way back to the car as the sloped streets turned rapidly into rivers.
We finished the day in Gaoile, a larger town in Chianti. After a brief wonder through quiet streets we got gelato from a small cafe off the main street and then bought delicate little pastries and some more food for the barbeque.
Back at the house it was much less sunny than the previous days but the barbeque was good and it was still more than warm enough to enjoy a last evening on the terrace watching a dusk sunset before the fireflies came back out.
We woke to grey skies and rather than doing anything particularly relaxed at the house before packing the car and heading back north to Florence and the airport. By the time we were passing San Gimignano the sun was back out and it was a very hot end to the holiday as we refueled the hire car, dropped it off and then headed to the airport terminal for our flight back to the UK.