On Thursday we made the train trip to the wonderful town of Siena. We got there later than expected, (once again a stop at every station local train) so the first thing we needed to do when we arrived was to have lunch. We came across a Pizza shop that had special deals, two enormous pieces of Pizza and a drink for 5 Euro. The Pizza was fantastic, so we were off to a good start.
The town was very busy. There were people pouring in and out of the town in all directions, and it didn’t take us long to realise why – Siena is a very beautiful city and is one of the most visited in Italy today. The city is built on top of very hilly terrain, which adds to the charm. The tiny streets and alleyways have a third dimension because of the troughs and peaks.
The historic centre of Siena is a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most of the traffic in the centre of the city is pedestrian and cyclist traffic. As in many old European cities, cars are not allowed within the historic centre of the city, except when making deliveries.
We got tickets to visit the Cathedral. The tickets gave us access to the Cathedral, Crypt, Baptistry, Museum and Tower. The inside of the Cathedral was very beautiful but also amazingly crowded. Many of the floor areas were covered by thin timber matting to protect the floors/tiling from the incredible amount of foot traffic that passes through each year. For a month each year this is removed.
We spent about an hour making our way around the building before heading to the Museum and Tower. On the 3rd floor of the museum, we joined the queue of people heading up the tower to get a fantastic view of the city below. The number of people given access to the tower at one time is capped and regulated by the staff at the 3rd floor level. After about a half hour wait, we made our way to the top via a tight, stone, spiral staircase, across a platform then up another smaller, tighter spiral staircase to the top. Each group only gets to spend 10 minutes at the top. The view was absolutely fantastic.
From one extreme to the other our next stop was the Crypt. As we wandered around the rooms of the Crypt, we came across sections of the floor that were made of glass, standing on the glass it was possible to see the current excavations below the floor that extended down another 40 or 50 feet. In the 1990’s it was discovered that the building extended much further down into the earth than previously thought, ongoing excavations are discovering whole sections of brickwork, frescos, masonry etc that had been covered up, filled in and built on top of, over many years.
We left Siena understanding why it attracts so many visitors from all over the world every year.
The next day we revisited Verona. This was to be an overnight stay as we were going to the Opera, “Aida” which was held in the outdoor Roman amphitheatre. The amphitheatre is the 3rd largest in Italy, Rome’s Colosseum is the largest and the arena at Capua 2nd. The Verona arena was completed in about 30 A.D. and seats about 25,000 spectators on its 44 tiers of marble seats. The Gladiator Games that were held here attracted people from all over the area surrounding the city. The arena is 139 metres long and 110 metres wide. The outdoor Operas start at 9.15pm and stretch, as ‘Aida’ did till 1.30 in the morning. We were advised to buy cushions, even though we weren’t sitting on the marble tiers. This turned out to be fantastic advice, (Thanks Helen!)
The Opera in this setting was very spectacular, while the major performers stayed on the stage area, other performers made use of the whole area, right to the top of the tiered seating, at one stage there was a line of people all carrying torches, (flames) leading from the back of the stage area, up to the top of the tiers then spreading to the right and left covering at least a quarter of the stadium. In one act, I estimated there literally hundreds of people on the stage taking part in the performance, this, along with about a 90 piece orchestra, an offstage orchestra and 12 Trumpeters, 6 on each side. It was absolutely spectacular!
While the performance was spectacular, I must admit, because of the late hour, I almost nodded off a couple of times, I seemed to wake up with a ‘jolt’ (or a nudge from B) just before joining the people in the row in front of me. However I didn’t disgrace myself and thoroughly enjoyed the spectacle. Even though it seems like a long time, there were 4 – twenty minute breaks for scene changes, where you got to stretch your legs and give your bum a rest! A bit like the football – just much longer quarters!!!
As we had our lunch at 5pm we didn’t eat again until after the Opera. We only had a light snack but I washed it all down with a large beer, a one litre Beer, I had trouble lifting it up, but I persevered and didn’t let it beat me!
The main road into Verona is Corso Porta Nuova. It is a very wide street with 3 lanes each way separated by a green median strip and incredibly wide white marble footpaths on both sides. As you travel toward the city and you pass through the huge archway you enter the main piazza, The Piazza Bra. On the left there is a line of gently curved and sweeping buildings that are generally the restaurants and shops. This area is busy for most of the day with people sitting in the restaurants eating, chatting and people gazing. To the right is the massive Arena and gardens. This is a fantastic area where the people of Verona meet and share food, wine and each other’s company.
I spent some of the next day walking around this beautiful city, taking photos, while Barbara shopped…. and bought….
I especially enjoyed re-visiting this wonderful city. Verona would have to rate as one of my favourite cities in the world……BEAUTIFUL, FANTASTIC!!!!
Lance and Barbara