Monday, May 25, 2009

From Firenze to Siena - A thousand steps

We stayed at a B&B called Olga's house, which was actually run by a man named Roberto, a former motorcross rider. The rooms were large, clean and centrally located next to the boutiques and the main Piazza della Signoria. The only thing is that going up to Olga's, you have to climb 79 steps. So, for the three days we were in Florence, we climbed at least 480 steps a day just to come in and out. This doesn't count for the numerous steps we climbed at the museums so we've learned that in Italia, you need to walk and get ready for the "natural" stair masters.

For our last evening in Firenze, we checked the Rick Steve's book for a recommendation and found another great place which served many nice dishes in a casual place. There were only 10 tables but all were filled and reservations were required.
The boutiques that lined the streets next to our B&B had lots of shops like Max Mara, Gucci, Chanel, Sisley, Miss Sixty, Stefanel, etc. This was the most unusual & frivolous window display.
At the Piazza della Signoria, there's an outdoor museum with statues like these located just adjacent to the Uffizi. All had dramatic poses.
This morning (Sunday), we woke up relatively early at 8am and took the bus to Siena. The bus was a double decker and we sat in the top front row with an amazing view of the road. It seemed at times like we were riding on a rollercoaster while the bus maneuvered the narrow streets, roundabouts and tight turns. Here, we trailed a cyclist and from our view out the front window of the bus, it looked like we would hit him.
The drive took about an hour and a half and it was quite scenic.
Once we arrived in Siena, we checked into our hotel and decided to walk to the Il Campo, the huge plaza in the center of town. On our way there, we encountered a street artists dressed all in gold, playing a movie camera as a prop.
Il Campo is shaped liked a shell and near the center is this fountain, which is as big as a swimming pool.
Il Campo's most striking feature is it's tower, which is 83 meters high. We decided that we would take the 400 steps up to the top and of course, another 400 down. The warning sign cautioned against those who were pregnant, claustrophobic, in poor health or giddy. Giddy?
A view of the stairs going down...
From the top, we could see the entire city and its surroundings.
There was a bell tower at the top which Russ decided to hang on.
Back down at the Il Campo - there are numerous restaurants, bars and gelaterias. For lunch, we had calzones, soup and later - more gelato!
The streets in Siena also have lots of shops. This one was at the front of a bookstore... Hmmm???
Another impressive building near our hotel.
Our room is on the 2nd floor, which actually means the 3rd floor as the Italians count the first floor as the Ground Floor. Russ counted 40 steps to our room today.
The highlight of today was watching a pro futbol (soccer) match in the Siena stadium. After trying to buy tickets at three of the entrances, we were told "Finite" or sold out. But at the third entrance, we met a couple of guys scalping tickets so we bought them! We've learned that if you don't like the first answer, try and try again.
The game was Siena vs. Juventus and we ended up sitting or rather standing with the Juventus fans for the entire duration. It reminded us of our times at the Hong Kong Sevens where they had the rowdy, crazy area called the South Stands. Well, we were there today! No one sat in their seats. They sang songs, waved flags, made big hand gestures and kept us entertained throughout the entire game. At halftie, the guy comes around the hoses the bleachers so we all got wet.
The crowd's enthusiasm is unlike anything in the states. The bleachers next to ours had smoke bombs going off. We were lucky that we weren't right in the midst of that.
When the Juventus scored their first goal, the two young guys next to me were ecstatic, like the rest of the fans. One guy almost gave me a hug and later, he asked me if I wanted a cigarette. So, I guess he was trying to be friendly.
The Juventus are in the gold and Siena in the black & white.
The Juventus fans particularly cheered loudly for Del Piero, a Forward on the team who scored two goals.
This guy was trying to climb over the barbed wire fence. Later, we found out that he wanted to position himself to get the goalie's mitts as a "gift" to the fans.
The Juventus won 3-0 and the crowd literally went wild! Luckily, they don't sell any alcohol in the stadium and we understood why. They were shouting and singing so enthusiastically that we just followed along. We followed the crowd and made the wild arm gestures when the ref would make a bad call or when the other team "accidentally" injured someone on the Juventus team.
On our walk back from the stadium, I saw this poster, which read, "Vota Comunista"
Some of the narrow streets in Siena
A shop had this boar's head hanging above. Inside, they were selling meats and cheeses.
A beautiful fruit stand
My favorite - gelato! I had pesca (peach) & caffe (coffee) today.
Russ just hanging out.
Tomorrow, we're renting a car to drive through Tuscany...

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