Dec 9, 2014

Siena

After a leisurely start to my day, complete with a good breakfast, I made my way from Colle di Val d'Elsa to Siena. Most of the 28 km walk was on trails through the wooded hills and unpaved roads. In the latter part of the afternoon, I met several people who had been picking mushrooms in the forest.

As evening approached (i.e. around 4:00 pm, sunset being at 4:38), I came across un punto sosta per pellegrini. This resting place for pilgrims had multiple seats, a large rough-hewn table, a water tap, a pilgrims' logbook, and an invitation to ring at the house next door for a complimentary beverage: tea, or several types of coffee. It also had a sign asking pilgrims to send a postcard when they got back home.

I knew I was still at least 10 kms from Siena, even though it had been in view for the past hour of walking. (A city set on a hill, and all that.) I took a picture of the address so I could send a postcard, and intended to simply go on my way, but then I heard someone moving around next door.

Since I was touched by the thoughtfulness shown in this ‎most generous stopping point, I headed next door to express my appreciation to Marcelo. We chatted for a bit, and I wound up having a coffee and signing the logbook. (I noticed when I did that I am now only four days behind the mother and daughter from Germany I had met in Santhià a month ago. Perhaps I'll see them again!)

Marcelo had set up this place of rest and restoration for pilgrims four years ago, as a private endeavour. I didn't ask him why, I just thanked him for doing so. He told me that this year he's had twice as many people stop compared to last year.

After shaking his hand and thanking him again, I strapped my headlamp to my hat and continued on my way. Even after sunset, there's a very long twilight, and I didn't turn it on until I finally reached a major road an hour later. ‎ Even then, it was not to help me find my way. It was to help oncoming traffic see me. A blinking light and hi-vis reflective surfaces (front, back, and both sides) gets me lots of room on the road at night - more so than during the day. I really do enjoy walking after dark!

That being said, I knew that by the time I finally arrived in the city centre, the parish accommodations would be closed. (I did get a late start.) I had tried calling them yesterday and again earlier in the day today, but nobody answered. (Quelle surprise!)‎ I walked through the suburbs of Siena, pausing at a McDonald's to use their restroom and try calling some of the hotels listed in my guidebook. I also discovered that in Italy, there are mini-panzerottis on the menu. At €2 for three, they were horribly overpriced, but very delicious.

The very first hotel listed in my guidebook (after the "closed for renovations" youth hostel and the non-responsive parochial house) was Hotel Alma Domus.
(http://www.hotelalmadomus.it/inglese/index.php) As always, I attempted to communicate in Italian, and it was only when the clerk tried telling me of the additional €1.50 city room tax that I failed to understand. He graciously switched to English, and I told him I'd be arriving in about an hour.

The long walk through the interminable suburbs was rather frustrating, since I'd had the city in my sights for several hours. Finally I reached the official city limits and faced another 2 km walk into the heart of the mediaeval walled city.

It was worth it. Not only is my economy room sufficient, but the view out my window (see above) is incredible! At this point, it would be very easy for me to be jaded about (ho-hum) yet another quaint mediaeval town. I mean, c'mon - I've been in cities which have been continously inhabited for the past 8000 years. (Damascus and Aleppo, if you're curious.)  But what I saw of old Siena on my way to the hotel has convinced me it's worth spending at least a few hours exploring in the morning. I can leave my backpack at the hotel after I check out in the morning, and tomorrow's destination is only 27 kms away. Yes, that means arriving after dark if I get under way at noon, but I think it's worth it to see Siena in the sunshine.

And so, to bed. It's almost 1:30 in the morning (these updates do take a long time to compose!) and the complimentary  breakfast is only served from 7:30 to 9:00. A few hours of sightseeing, and then it's back on the road.

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