Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: Shanghaied in Tuscany!

By train to Siena

I got up in plenty of time to catch the 0900 shuttle bus into town. A peek outside revealed none-too-promising misty conditions, no doubt a hangover from the previous evening's downpour. I had a satisfying continental breakfast in the Executive Lounge and joined the growing number of people waiting for the shuttle, which would have to fight its way into town at this hour. Unfortunately, the connection with the hourly train service to Siena didn't work very well, but I passed the time with a short walk around nearby streets, although it didn't yield anything particularly interesting.

The train left on time at 1010. Considering that this was continental Europe, the sounds and smells of diesel propulsion felt a little out of place and tended to remind me of home. The train ran for around 35 minutes under the wires, before veering off onto a sparks-free and largely single-tracked branch line that meandered its way through some scenic countryside. In contrast to my journey the previous day, this train was full of nice people - no dodgy characters at all. On arrival at Siena station around one and a half hours later, I followed the signs and soon found myself aboard a crowded bus for the city centre. Although standing in the crush-loaded vehicle made for a very uncomfortable five or ten minutes, catching the bus turned out to be a wise move: although it's not far to the historic area, it's a steep uphill climb all the way. Even so, a bit of walking was needed, as the bus couldn't get too close to the narrow city centre streets.

Having finally arrived, my first priority was to grab some lunch. I didn't want to waste too much of my limited time on eating, but luckily I found a reasonable place that was able to offer me a slice of pizza, a toasted sandwich and a seat for a few minutes. After all these preliminary steps, I sincerely hoped that my visit would be worthwhile.

I needn't have worried. Siena's narrow streets proved to be a treasure-trove of interest and beauty, and my camera was kept busy. Although once again staying outdoors for most of the time, I did make a visit to the cathedral's baptistry which, owing to the hilly topography, is unexpectedly situated behind and underneath the main part of the cathedral. Perhaps as a consequence, it had no queues of tourists waiting to be admitted. Time seemed to pass quickly, and yet I realised that I was going to manage the 1520 train back, an hour earlier than the one that I'd been assuming. It wasn't that the sights were disappointing or thin on the ground, far from it. In many ways, Siena turned out to be the highlight of my 2009 visit to Tuscany, and it actually added to the charm of the place that so much interest was concentrated into a small, manageable area. Having just missed a bus, I decided to walk back to the station. At least it was downhill all the way.

My train for the return journey was a shiny new diesel multiple unit, not dissimilar to the type that operate the bulk of rail services in Scotland, except that this one was articulated and oozed style in almost every aspect of its design. Once again, my fellow passengers turned out to be a thoroughly nice bunch. I wondered whether Pisa was perhaps a rougher town, or whether the previous day's experience had simply been a piece of random bad luck. As often happens with return journeys, this one seemed to pass much more quickly than the outbound earlier in the day. I was soon back at Florence station and looking out for the Hilton shuttle bus.

I decided on a relatively simple evening meal in the hotel's lobby bar, leaving plenty of time for packing and for catching up on this diary. I popped up to the lounge for a coffee when I felt like it, and enjoyed it together with a clear, uninterrupted view to the cathedral's dome in the far off city centre

Monday 05 Oct

Next Day

Previous Day