Thursday, June 15, 2006

VF Day 5 San Gimignano - Siena

Maria was good last night. The clapping went on too long, and the packing away was loud and went on for ever.

Lou's bottom woke us up by burping. She still had a bad tum. My eyes opened slowly and the light seemed to hurt it so I put sunglasses on. I was worried that I might have to quit as it felt so swollen and what I could see of it was bright red. Then a real disaster distracted me from my pain - Gulliver was missing! He wasn't in the room so we traced our steps from last night hoping he'd be sitting on the Cathedral steps. He wasn't and we cycled sadly out of town without him, after I'd fashioned an eye patch out of monster plasters.

A whizzy descent took us out of town. We had 6 miles behind us when we stopped for breakfast at Colle di Val d'Elsa in Chianti. I had a scummy mini-pizza - focaccia topped with oodles of tinned tomatoes and herbs and sprinkled with mozarella. Lou had a tuna panini. After a translation error Lou ended up with hot milk so ordered an espresso to go with it whilst I carried our stuff out. On her way out with it she slipped and spilt it everywhere. I poured what was left from the saucer into her milk to make a delicious latte. Almost.

We cycled on for a short while, back into a 'Basso' town, this time knowing what was ahead. My eye patch blew off, and I decided to carry on without it, although I kept my eyes very nearly closed much of the way. Half way up Lou's botty needed a stop so we took one at the first hotel we saw. It was a bit fancy-pants but they sold us tartufo icecreams and we sat outside.

There was plently more cycling to do so we pressed on, stopping at a petrol station for water and to top up Betty's potion for the climb. We carried on up, but when we saw the two German women who'd stopped us this morning to tell us we were only the second set of people with panniers they'd seen all week we decided not to take the detour to Monteriggioni. They were miles above us and it was a straight up and down detour with no miles gained. We focussed on getting to Sienna. It was fortunate that we did as there were plenty more cimbs ahead.

When we arrived here at Sienna it was confusing. Every sign pointed to the centre so we bimbled round before seeing what looked llike city walls. It was a fortress though so we tried again. We found a room at the Donzella as recommended in both guidebooks - cheap but a shared bathroom.

The Cathedral was spangly - black and white stripes but the facade was sadly a giant photo as the real thing is under construction underneath. We went into the 'crypt' which was fabulous, but not really a crypt. It was an old entrance they'd discovered in 1999. They were working on it as we watched. The Baptistry had more wonderful frescoes, with mirrors so you could look upo and not hurt your neck. I wanted to lie on the floor and look up, but I think the staff would have considered that rude.

The Cathedral itself was busy, with marble inlaid floors. There was fabulous artwork on all the walls but we were looking out for relics. We spotted what looked like a skull in a reliquary above a statue of St John and stared for some time at a glass box on an altar to see if its contents resembled a thumb. I asked a couple of staff where St Catherine's thumb was but one didn't know and another gave us really long and convoluted directions which involved crossing town - it was in another church. We left the cathedral and had a drink in a cafe in the square. Then we waited ages until the waiter could be bothered to bring the bill. Getting up to leave worked much better than numerous polite requests.

We stopped at a bar on a super-steep hill for half a litre of red and some water. It was good. Drier and more acidic than at San Miniato, but still cherry juice Sangiovese. The restaurant we'd chosen for dinner, Hosteria il Carroccio, didn't open til 7:30 so after our wine we mooched down. We didn't have reservations so were allotted a table outside. I'm sure Tom Hanks didn't get that treatment when he ate there. More sangiovese and I had a tuscan bean soup - angels dancing on my tongue! As best as I couold tell it had big haricot beans, bread, onions, carrots, spinach and tomatoes, served with red onion pieces for sprinkling. Lou had 'pici' - a particularly fat spaghetti from Sienna. Then I had spaghetti with egg and artichoke which made me think I could make a carbonara with smoked salmon instead of ham or artichoke.

We sat by three German lads, one of whom reminded me of Matthew - he was singing Que Sera Sera. On the other side Clive Sinclair seemed to be having dinner with a gorgeous French woman. After dinner we walked down to Il Campo and sat in the square watching the sky change blues as it got dark. It was beautiful, but we were pooped and strolled home to bed.

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