One of the drawbacks to traveling is that sometimes you fall in love with a place and find it hard to leave. This was definitely the case with Manarola. I could have spent weeks or even months there, but after only one full day, it was time to pack our suitcases again and head to Siena. Siena is a lovely old city, famous for it's Palio races twice a year in the summer time. The city is divided into districts, and each district is represented by an animal. Each district races through Siena's ancient streets to see which team will be crowned as victor. Apparently, this event draws large crowds from all over the world, and even being a spectator can be dangerous. My sister and I, when planning our trip, assumed that Siena would be calm and uncrowded in early April, still several months from the races. Wrong. What we didn't know is that Easter Monday, (the day after Easter) is a national holiday, and the Italians all take little trips on that day. The trains were all packed, one of them to the point that we were crammed into the entryway of the train so tightly that the door closed on my backpack. standing upright on a tightly packed moving train while trying to keep your wheeled suitcases under control is difficult to say the least. Excruciating for someone with claustrophobia like me. The last train (it was a four train journey from Manarola to Siena) involved a vomiting child seated directly across from me, but we made it to our destination in one piece so all was well. After checking in to our lovely hotel, we started walking to Il Campo, Siena's beautiful city square. It was a fairly long walk from our hotel, and we stopped and had a pastry and cappuccino to fortify ourselves for the walk. As we got closer to Il Campo, there were more and more people on the street, until, just a short distance from our destination, it became almost impossible to walk because of the crowd. The entire Campo was full of people, stores were doing booming business, and a festive holiday atmosphere prevailed. However, it was very hard to get any pictures, and if you stood still for too long, you were likely to get ran in to as the crowds kept surging along. We popped in to a few stores, and getting out of each store was like trying to merge on to the freeway during rush hour. Finally, we walked back to our hotel, napped, and then walked up to a pizza place for dinner. This place was recommended by a young lady at the front desk, and it was excellent! We liked it so well we went back the next night, and were not disappointed that night either.
Tuesday, we walked back to Il Campo, and the crowds had vanished. It was so much easier to see things, really explore, and check out the stores. We found a fantastic grocery store, which had specialty foods from all over Italy for sale. Big displays of fresh pasta, rows of beautiful produce, and the most amazing meat counter I have ever seen made me wish I had access to a kitchen so I could actually shop for and prepare a meal with all that lovely food! We spent the day shopping in some really neat little shops, including a store full of vintage Italian clothing.
All in all, Siena is a lovely town, and I am delighted we had two days in which to explore it. If we had had more time, we would have taken a day trip or two to explore one of the nearby ancient, hill top towns that lie a short bus or train ride away from Siena. Next time? Stay tuned for the next, and final, stop on our whirlwind tour, Orvieto! No pictures of Siena, because I can not figure out how to upload them on my new Mac book! I will keep playing with it, and then post them later. I never feel so inept as I do when trying to figure things out on a computer!