Perugia, Montepulciano, Pienza, San Quirico d'Orcia, Siena, San Gimignano
145 days away
124 miles / 200 km since last post
7,703 miles / 12,397 km total
On Monday we were both still feeling tired so took things easy in the morning. Stu had some business stuff to sort out and we also wanted to do some more planning of our time in Italy, so we stayed around the camper stop in Perugia until late afternoon. We could stay for 24 hours so we made the most of the time there.
After leaving we drove west to Montepulciano, finding a place to stay just below the ascent into the main part of town. It was a massive car park with only a couple of other motorhomes there. It was very quiet, makes a nice change! It became quite windy during the evening and then started raining quite heavily - we were perfectly snug and warm in the motorhome.
By Tuesday morning the worst of the rain and wind had gone, but Stu wasn't feeling well, suffering with a bad migraine. He spent most of the afternoon in bed recuperating and felt a lot better by late afternoon, thankfully.
On Wednesday we took a walk into the town of Montepulciano. The weather was great, with the sun shining and boundless blue skies above. It seems like we are still managing to hang onto the tail end of summer. The main part of town is accessed via some steep and winding streets. Thankfully there was a lift to take us up to the first part of it, but we had to walk from there. It didn't seem to bother us at all though as the town was lovely. Maybe as it was out of season, it was really quiet, which we liked. As we walked along the main streets there were plenty of fantastic little shops along the way, selling artwork, delicious looking meats, cheeses, pasta and other delights. There were some impressive churches and other buildings in the town. It all felt wonderfully authentic, and you could imagine this place hasn't changed at all for hundreds of years.
Along the main streets there were many alleyways leading off, some of which looked incredibly steep, leading up to apartments and houses. There were other alleyways leading to the edge of town, where there were stunning views over the countryside below.
When we reached the main square we stopped briefly to grab a drink at a cafe. As we sat, a group of Americans turned up and sat a few tables away from us. It did make us laugh when they ordered some Italian food for lunch and asked if it came with fries!
After walking a bit longer we decided to make our way back, but find somewhere for lunch along the way. We stopped at a restaurant for pizza, which turned out to be great value. Some of the pizzas were just €4! Then we took a gentle walk back to our motorhome. It was only still mid afternoon by this time, so we took a drive just a few miles away to Pienza, finding a camperstop just next to the town. We knew it would be getting dark fairly soon, but then Pienza wasn't a big place to see, so we dashed out to the town to try and take it all in before it got dark.
Pienza was a very pretty town too, and thankfully small enough for us to cover most of it within the hour before the sun went down. We popped into to one of the many foody shops, and bought some of the local Vino Nobile that we had read about and sampled the day before in Montepulciano.
Once back at the motorhome we decided we wouldn't stay here the night, and instead head on a little further. We wanted to make it to Siena, but that was around 70km and we didn't fancy driving that far on the Italian backroads. Instead we stopped in San Quirico d'Orcia, in the grounds of a spa hotel which was free. When we arrived after dark there was nobody else parked in the camper area and it was really quiet. A free, quiet stop is just what we like! Stu enquired at the spa hotel on their prices for use of the spa, treatments etc. Despite us both in need of a bit of pampering and a massage we decided to give it a miss, as the prices were ridiculously high - &euro50 to walk though the door and a mandatory treatment starting at around €50 (20 minute eyelid massage!) I guess that is what you get with a 5 star luxury spa!
We still didn't feel hungry in the evening after the huge pizzas we had for lunch, so just settled for a little snack washed down with some of the local wine we bought earlier.
Thursday was mainly spent driving from San Quirico d'Orcia to a free stop just outside Siena, and then relaxing the rest of the day. On Friday we headed to another camperstop which was a lot closer to the centre of Siena. It was expensive to stay there at €20, but they did provide a free shuttle bus service into the town.
Siena proved to be a very worthwhile place to visit, with a beautiful medieval centre. Legend has it that Siena was founded by the son of Remus, hence the symbol of the wolf feeding the twins Romulus and Remus which can be seen around the city.
First we headed to the sloping city square, Piazza del Campo. A lovely area containing the Fonte Gaia (Happy Fountain), the impressive town hall and lofty bell tower, with plenty of cafes and restaurants around the outside. We noticed some pictures dotted around of the annual horse race which takes place around the piazza, which looked an unusual sight, but was obviously extremely popular given the number of people that were packed into the piazza to watch it. We took a walk around the piazza, and through some of the interesting streets leading away from it. After grabbing a quick sandwich and drink for lunch, we headed over to the cathedral, described in our guide book as one of Italy's greatest Gothic churches. It didn't disappoint; an amazing sight. The front facade is stunning, with numerous sculptures and intricate carved pillars. We were pleased to find out that entrance to the cathedral was free (I think you would normally pay during the summer season). The inside of the cathedral was pretty special too. Lots of marble everywhere - pillars, sculptures and an inlaid marble floor displaying various biblical scenes. The cathedral was definitely worth a look inside.
We took a further wander through the lovely city streets, eventually leading us to Chiesa di San Domenico - the church where Siena's Santa Caterina took her vows. An imposing looking church from the outside, inside it was a lot simpler. The main point of interest inside seemed to be the actual head of Santa Caterina, preserved inside a display box! It is fair to say, at some nearly 700 years old, she wasn't looking her best! Also in another display box was her thumb. Very strange, but the Catholics seemed to lap it up.
Having felt like we had seen everything we wanted to, we headed back down to the bus stop. The sign next to the bus stop seemed to indicate that you needed to call a number to get the return bus, so we opted to just walk back instead. At least the walk back was downhill, and was only a kilometre away.
We decided not to stay the night at the Siena camperstop where we had parked. Despite having paid the €20 fee to park there, which would have allowed us to stay overnight, the stop was in the middle of a couple of very busy roads, and I think it would have been very noisy. Instead, we decided to drive further west to San Gimignano, arriving at our camperstop just as it got dark. This stop also wasn't cheap at €22, but they provided a free bus taking you the 3km into the town. They also have showers, toilets and electric making it more like camp site so we were happy enough. There were no free stops any closer to San Gimignano so I think this was our best option.
The guy at reception didn't speak any English, so Stu managed to get along using a bit of French and English to communicate. The stop had plenty of space and seems to be fairly quiet. They also have a restaurant on site so we opted to try some local Tuscan food for dinner this evening - a good plan as the food and local wine was very nice.
Life's What You Make It
Living In Another World
Happiness Is Easy
The Awakening Of A Woman
Joan Of Arc
God Only Knows