Day 4, Monday, April 4, 2016: Day 4 was a travel day to Florence,
giorno di Viaggio per Firenze. On our route to Florence we made two major stops. The first stop in the beautiful city of Siena and the second stop in Pisa to the Leaning Tower. It was a long day on the bus but the views of the Hill Towns through Tuscany were amazing.
Siena is a fortified medieval town built on top of three hills and competed with Florence for political and economic superiority. The city is made up of 17 neighborhoods and each neighborhood purpose was to organize and defend their city section from invading forces. This small city of 60,000 fits into a very small footprint on the hills with each neighborhood or Contrada is alive and very competitive with it fellow Contrada. The Contrada’s compete twice a year in Siena’s Palio. Palio is very competitive bareback horse race that take place in the Il Campo (The city’s square). The Palio is now a major sporting event in Italy attracting thousands to Siena and broadcasted on Italian TV.
Our guided walking tour began outside the city walls Porta Ovile walking through the Giraffa Contrade. The narrow streets wind up and down throughout the city. Each Contrade has its own church, and stable. We made our way to the Santa Maria Di Provenzano which was originally a hospital. We walk through the streets to the, Piazza de Mercarto, and Plazza Del Duomo. From Plazza Del Duomo we walked through some incredibly narrow, hilly streets to a stable tucked in the Contrade. We finished our tour in the Il Campo, where we had some free time for lunch and shopping.
After lunch we met at the base of Mangia Tower in Il Campo. We walked to the Church of San Domenico which is the resting place for Siena’s patron Saint Catherine (1347-1380) head and left thumb. Yes you read that right, they have on display her head and left thumb. We finished our time in Siena with a walk from the Church of San Domenico to the Siena Fortezza where our bus was waiting for us.
From Sienna we made our way to Pisa cutting through the countryside of Tuscany’s Hilltop towns on a small two lane road. The trip to Pisa was a needed rest after the hill walk through Siena. The countryside and views were spectacular.
The immediate surrounding area to Pisa is a mostly a industrial area and once into Pisa sights of the Duomo, the Baptistery and the tower its very touristy. Our trip to the tower was a very quick one, long enough for our driver to take a break, visit the WC and visit the tower.
The tower has one of the most amazing lawns you will ever see!!! Two things I found annoying at the Tower. First, the number of tourists trying to take to take pictures of them either pushing or holding up the tower. Second, the number of aggressive immigrants trying to sell Selfie Sticks and/or bracelets.
From Pisa we made our way to Florence where we will stay for the next couple of days. After we arrived at our hotel, Residence Palazzo Riscasoli, where we made our way for a late (Normal time for the Italians) dinner at a local restaurant. We on walk from dinner back to the hotel the city was alive with street musicians, people socializing at the church plazas, and of course the restaurants filled.
Note: Pictures and details of the trip will be posted over the next several days in chronological order of the trip.
More pictures of Day1-3 are on our Flickr Italy Group Page.