We left San Gimignano around 4:00 pm, and headed for Siena. If you take a look at the map below, you can get an idea of our Tuscan travels. Florence is the city to the north, and the red dot in the center of the map shows Siena. All of the blue dots around Siena represent towns that I wanted to visit. I knew that we wouldn’t have time to see all of them, but these were the places that made my “top 10” list. San Gimignano, which we visited on this day, is towards the left, northwest of Siena.
We found our hotel, which was just inside of the city walls of Siena, with no problem. Check-in was a breeze. (Over the course of the next few days I grew to really appreciate the nice people at the front desk here, who were extremely helpful with tips about eating and driving in the area.)
The hotel is a modest looking building from the street, blending in nicely with its neighbors on either side. Some time around World War I, this property was a private residence which had been inherited by two Sienese women, Elena and Giuditta Grottanelli de Santi. The palazzo was too large for the two women to be able to afford on their own, and so they began to take in borders. Eventually the property became a landmark hotel in Siena, and today is owned and operated by the same family.
I just want to take a minute to brag again about our travel agency, Select Italy. (Ask for Maria!) They did a stellar job at getting us what felt like The.Very.Best. room at each of the hotels we stayed at, but we were totally blown away by our room in Siena, at the Palazzo Ravizza hotel. If you go to the hotel website, it’s “our” room that’s featured on the splash page.
We certainly felt like royalty while we were there. The room was huge, and felt more like an apartment suite than a hotel room, complete with a sitting room with a couch, and a writing / laptop desk in the main room. What really got me was the view out of our windows. I probably snapped over a hundred photos of that gorgeous landscape. Somehow it seemed to look different to me at different times of the day, in different light and traveling mists. We were there one afternoon during a rainstorm, and it felt like a fairy tale.
After we put our things away, we decided to take a walk around our new home base for the next three days, and see if we could get the lay of the land. One thing that we noticed right away was that Siena was a very hilly town. Our calves were getting a workout, but given the amount of food we’d been consuming, this was a good thing. Most everything was closed at this time; not only was it a Sunday evening, but it was getting late, so we headed back to the hotel.
One of the really nice features of this hotel was the little bar that they had in the reception area. Guests could buy wine there, either by the bottle or by the glass, and then enjoy it in the hotel lounge area or bring it back up to their room. The lounge area was very comfortable and we enjoyed relaxing there. The day had been a busy one and it felt nice to sit back and relax.
The last noteworthy event about Day Eight was that it just so happened that back home, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in the MLB playoffs for the first time in 21 years or so. Glenn was not about to miss this, even though he was on another continent, and was roughly 7 hours ahead of Pittsburgh time. He commandeered my MacBook Air somewhere around midnight, and got plugged into the streaming audio feed for the game. (He didn’t have any luck with the video.) I think that the Bucco’s won, but honestly, I was mostly sleeping and don’t really remember.
Day Eight was a wrap.