It was lovely to waken up and see the sun shining. We didn’t see a cloud all day and when we were outside it felt great once again to have the bright sunlight on our faces, gently caressing and warming our skin. But boy was it cold! It was one of those memorable days of old when the weather was absolutely perfect except for the freezing temperature which caused you to wrap up in your cosiest of winter clothes and walk about with a slightly restricted feel to your body where the layers were thickest.

We set off to explore Siena by buying bus tickets on the campsite then walking to the bus stop only 100 metres away. A handy electronic screen at the stop told us the next bus would be in 50 minutes as it was the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a national holiday in Italy. So we opted for Shanks’ Pony and strolled down the hill, over the railway bridge and back up the other side into the old town. Having wandered through a warren of cute little streets and alleyways, we descended an ancient flight of stairs and found ourselves in the world famous Palazzo Pubblico, a redstone half saucer-shaped central piazza. We had read that the thing to do was to sit down and people-watch but it was a tad on the chilly side for sitting down on the pavies so we walked around and people-watched.

The famous piazza

The famous piazza

Lady Burton

Lady Burton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A beggar!

A beggar!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. & Mrs. Emptytummy however sent us in search of a place to eat and we ended up having a rather substantial brunch upstairs in a trattoria. I ate wild boar stew for the first time but Mary said she’d had  chicken before. Thoroughly satisfied, we made our way up to the Duomo, another world-famous visitor attraction. A strange little point here: although entrance to the cathedral was free we had to go and get a ticket before they would let us in. It was something to do with keeping track of how many visitors were inside at any given moment.

Siena cathedral is very different from the great Gothic structures we have seen elsewhere. It is constructed of alternating black and white marble giving it its famous striped look. The façade is medieval with Italian Romanesque and Classical features which lend a very distinctive shape to the front and are a million miles away from the black, jaggy protuberances you find on Gothic buildings. Inside, the candy-stripes are everywhere, making us think we were in a scene from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. The floor of the cathedral is quite unusual too, being composed of huge drawings dedicated to the Sibyls, the prophetesses who used to go into a frenzied state and spout forth predictions of an apocalyptic nature. A bit like Mary when she loses the rag with me!

Duomo Facade

Duomo Facade

I told you it was stripey!

I told you it was stripey!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When we came out of the Duomo the temperature had dropped even further so we searched for a warm place to hide, intending to go to Mass at the cathedral two hours later. We found a supermarket which kept us warm for 20 minutes or so but we re-emerged into a frozen scene of people with huge scarves over their faces, wearing goalie gloves, furry hats and equally furry boots. Mary’s leggings were proving totally insufficient to keep the blood circulating in her legs so we had no option but to take the bus back to the campsite.

That 15 minute wait for the bus was agonizing and I found myself doing that New York thing, bouncing up and down and swinging my arms round my body. Thank God I’d bought a cosy hat as soon as we’d reached the old town. Mary meanwhile began to turn blue with the cold, so when the bus arrived I found us 2 seats at the very back where the engine is and we partially thawed out on the way home.

Thanks to a wee tobacconist’s shop, I also managed to recharge my 3 Dongle for another 30 days, giving us some Internet access no matter where we are. It’s really quite cheap for access here in Italy but I’m told it’s very expensive in Spain so we will have to look at how to use the local sim cards liked we’ve done here.

Here’s the weird bit. On our return, I noticed that the satellite had blown over so I stood it up again and widened the tripod legs to make it more stable. When I checked inside to see if the signal was still ok on Astra 19 I got nothing, so took the opportunity to retune to Astra 28 and search for the BBC. Astonishingly, just like yesterday, on came BBC Scotland’s Football Results programme before I even went out to point the dish! For anyone who may not understand the significance of this it’s a bit like taking eggs out of the fridge and finding them already hard-boiled and ready to eat!

Guess what I watched in bed? Yes, for the first time in eight weeks, it was Match-of-the-Day.

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