Leaving Siena and San Giamano

San GiamanoThe entrance to our accommodation in SienaLeaving SienaSan GiamanoSan Giamano hand made jewelrySan Giamano
San GiamanoSan GiamanoSan GiamanoSan Giamano toiletsSan Giamano rolled pigSan Giamano

Leaving Siena and San Giamano, a set on Flickr.


We where sorry to leave our lovely sun deck and surroundings at the Siena accommodation.
Our next stop was Florence but on the way we wanted to call into a little place called ‘San Giamano’ that we had heard about.
This was a very nice clean place and we both really liked its friendly feel. There were a lot of nick-nack shops and hand made jewelry also the prices appeared more reasonable here for the souvenirs.
Next it was back to the car and then set the GPS for Florence….but ohhhhhhh the traffic, but that’s the next story.

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Siena day two

Brolio Castle wineryTuscany countrysideTuscany countrysideTuscany countrysideChapel of St James inside Brolio CastleTuscany countryside
Chapel of St James inside Brolio CastleBrolio Castle SienaBrolio Castle family cryptBrolio CastleBrolio CastleBrolio Castle
Grape vines at Brolio CastleBrolio castleBrolio CastleBoating at Catiglione del lago

Siena day two, a set on Flickr.


Today we decided to venture out a bit into the surrounding country side and see a bit more of Tuscany. Our first stop was ‘Castello Di Brolio’ (Brolio Castle). This castle was for centuries involved in bitter rivalries between Florence allied with the Papacy and Siena, a partisan of the Empire, Based in Germany. Built about 1000 A.D. The castle was owned for a while by the monks of Badia Fiorentina but in 1141 the Ricasoli’s family traded it’s property near Badia a Coltibuono to the monks in exchange for Brolio and it’s surrounding fields. The Ricasoli family have been at Brolio ever since. We were fortunate enough to be able to get see around the castle grounds and to also have a wine tasting afterwards. Much of the castle interior is still lived in by the family and not open to the public. Every were you go you can see the deep family history but no more so than in the family crypt. The chapel inside the castle is adorned in fine wall paintings and the grounds are pristine. When we finished looking at the castle we walked down from the castle through the wooded road of cypress and conifer trees to our wine tasting. The lady that served us was very knowledgable and lost us both not long into her explanation of the wine differences. At this point we nodded polity and smiled false understanding smiles. The wines tasted ok, but at a beginning price of 50 euro upwards, for these kiwis, the 5 euro bottles we’ve been buying tasted just fine.
Next we decided to go and see an Italian lake that was about 1 hours drive away called ‘Catiglione del lago’ in Umbria. This was a large lake but not as clean and clear water as we are privileged with at home. The shore is sandy and they seem to treat it more like a beach with umbrellas and volley ball nets set up. Above the lake is another walled town that are common in Italy. We did a little shopping here and bought more wine and cheese. We found a nice little Taverna for an early tea before heading home. This time taking the shortest quickest route via a motor way and avoiding many of the small streets of the towns.
Tomorrow we leave Siena and head for Florence.

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Siena day one

The view from the end of our bed in the morningGelato any oneThe square in the centre of SienaThe view from the top of the Siena muesumTaking in the vista
That's a long way downSiena CathedralInside the Siena CathedralInside the Siena Cathedral
Inside the Siena CathedralInside the Siena CathedralInside the Siena CathedralSiena libraryThese are no ordinary booksSiena library
The Battistero Siena

Siena day one, a set on Flickr.


We woke up today to the lovely view from our bedroom window (see pic)

We decided that we would venture out with the car and try and find some parking as close as we could to the walled city of Siena. We had been given some instructions but once you are out there trying to negotiate the traffic it is another story. We found parking that we thought was close but as it turns out Siena is not flat and the walled city is quite high up and so a step and long climb from our car was required.

Siena is different again to the other places with the same skinny streets but this time the shops were larger and more variety.

After wondering around the city for a bit. We could not pass by an incredible Gelato store without trying another of these delicious ice creams (see the pic of the shop window display, and yes that is the real stuff).

We then bought a combined ticket to get us into all the main attractions. ‘The Museum’ has amazing Italian art. ‘The Battistero’ was the meeting point of the greatest renaissance sculptors. ‘The Cathedral’ which is said to have bought tears to a king who visited there in 1880. Check out the photo of Sheree standing by the massive entrance doors to get a sense of the size of this place. ‘The Siena library’ with some of the oldest manuscripts. See the photo with Sheree and the size of the old books. The paintings around the walls in here were incredible. ‘The Panorama’ that gives amazing birds eye views of Siena. ‘The Cripta’ that is dedicated to the first paintings using colour and lastly ‘The Oratorio’ that has some of the most amazing surveys of Sienese pictorial production starting from the 16 century. It took us most of the afternoon to get around all these.

We then headed home and planned were to go for tea while sitting on the deck and enjoying some of the food and wine we had bought. It was late before we headed out to a restaurant on the other side of the walled city. It took a lot longer than we though to get there and there were some really skinny streets. Once we found the restaurant ordering was another treat as this was true Italian and very little English was spoken. After a few pigeon english words and some sign language we had no idea what we had just ordered until it arrived. What a relief when what we received tasted great. After a lovely meal we headed back home but this was a trying time as we kept taking wrong turns in the dark and the GPS was constantly recalculating. Steven was not enjoying this at all. Finally around midnight and feeling very tired we got home and hit the sack.

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Leaving Cortona arriving Siena

The sun sets in TuscanyStreet parade in CortonaOur room in CortonaLife size garden ornamentsLife size garden ornaments
PienzaPienzaPienza Street
Pienza shopA whole rolled pig in PienzaWhole rolled pig sandwichPienza streetAnnabelle WhiteAnnabelle White
Motor bike trucksLost in San Quirico AlighieriSan Quirico Alighieri gardenSan Quirico AlighieriA watering whole in San Quirico AlighieriSan Quirico Alighieri

Leaving Cortona arriving Siena, a set on Flickr.

The night before leaving Cortona the locals did another big street parade in traditional clothing with beating drums that we put down to saying goodbye to us.
The next morning again after the kiss kiss on the check we said goodbye to Jeanette at the Casa Chilene B&B in Cortona. This B&B sets the standard that all the others should try and follow. Jeanette Wongs service and cooking was superb. Jeanette teaches the Italians how to cook in her spare time.
Once seated in the car it’s was a deep breath and then away we went again traveling on our wrong side of the road. We are starting to feel a little more comfortable with driving now as time goes by. Our first stop was another lovely little town called Pienza. This is a UNESCO world heritage town. Pienza has some gorgeous little shops and streets with wonderful hand made Italian shoes and clothes and a lot of other foody stuff. Really wonderful just wondering around looking. Annabelle White a New Zealand cook and celebratory speaker who has a cooking segment in one of the NZ woman’s magazine’s was escorting a group of about 10 people on Vespa motor bikes, around Tuscany, on a food and cooking tour. Sheree thought she recognized her when she heard her speak, and went up to her and made herself known. Annabelle immediately embraced us as fellow country men and named us Mr and Mrs Dunedin. She then told us about a little shop that had sliced pork and local cheese buns that were divine. She promptly marched us up and into it and ordered for us in Italian. Annabelle was right it was divine. See the photos of the whole boned out pig carcass that the pork was sliced from and Sheree eating her bun. We later went and saw them off as they went on their way to finish the tour(see the picks of the yellow vespa’s).
Our next stop was the little town called San Quirico Alighieri. Not much here but it was very medieval and unchanged over the years with a lovely rose garden. It was hot here so we found a lovely bar for a drink that was sheltered by a large grape vine growing over the seating area outside.
Bagno Vignoni was supposed to be our next stop but some how we missed it and did not realize until we reached the town of Buonconvento, the last town before Siena. As it was only a 20 min back track we turned around and found this ancient roman town popular for it’s bathing waters. Their is a nice hotel here and we would liked to have stayed, had we not already booked in Siena so as to experience the healing spa waters.
soon we were off again on the last leg to Siena and the Agriturismo Malafras B&B. We arrived at around 7pm after a journey that should have taken about an hour and a half, that had taken us all day. However we were in no hurry, we had the time and loved all the stops.
The Malafras B&B is like a country farm house that has the grape vines and olive trees to make its own wine a olive oil. We were offered a sample of their desert wine as soon as we arrived..lovely.
We quickly unpacked and sat out on the large deck that our room opens out on to, with a local red wine. We had to pinch ourselves as we soaked in the view of the grape vines and olive trees that spread out below us, with the green fields and a few other farm houses in the distance as we watched the sun go down in Tuscany….ahhhhh bliss.
That night we went for tea in the local village. We were not sure what to order so the waitress made the suggestions of some quite delicious fried and battered mushrooms for starters, Pork for Sheree and Calf steak for Steven. At the end of the meal they gave us a complimentary local Grapa drink each (this stuff is fire water) and some sweet tart. After the half bottle of wine we had with the meal, we made our way home feeling very very happy and content with a glow in our checks.

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