Piazza del Campo in Siena

Italy by Bus

Day 13

Tuesday, June 12, 2001 - Siena, Rome, Tivoli, Villa d'Este


Florence - Rome We begin our day with a scenic drive through the Chianti wine-producing region of Tuscany to Siena. Then time at leisure to discover the architectural wonders of this beautiful city before a late afternoon arrival in Rome. Your evening is at leisure. Perhaps discover the city's culinary delights in a local trattoria and enjoy 'la dolce vita'. (BB)

Optional Excursions

Tivoli and Dinner An excursion to the ancient Sabine town of Tivoli situated a few miles outside Rome to enjoy the gardens and fountains of the Villa D'Este. You will visit its grottos and pavilions, the Avenue of a Hundred Fountains, and the Dragon Fountain of the Organ. We end the evening with a typical Italian dinner, wine, soft drinks and music.

Back to Rome

Today we were awakened at 06:15AM, bags outside the door at 06:45AM, breakfast at 06:50AM, and on the bus at 07:30AM.

On our way to Siena, we passed the walled town of Monteriggioni. Sitting on a small natural hillock, this completely walled medieval town in the Siena Province of Tuscany was built in the 13th century by the overlords of Siena to command the Cassia Road running through the Val d'Elsa and Val Staggia just to the west of Monteriggioni.

The streaks in the photo are reflections from the bus window.

The Walled City of Monteriggioni, Italy The Walled City of Monteriggioni


Siena consists of 17 "contrada", or city-states, each having their own government, flag, church, etc. They have names like Snail, Dragon, etc.

TERRITORIO DELLA CONTRADA DELLA CHIOCCIOLA - territory of the district of the snail in Siena, Italy The first street corner we came to in Siena

In the photo above you can see a plaque of the "TERRITORIO DELLA CONTRADA DELLA CHIOCCIOLA" (Territory of the District of the Snail). These plaques were on every street corner. As you moved from one contrada to another, you could immediately tell it by looking at the plaques.

According to legend, Romulus and Remus were raised by a she-wolf, and then founded Rome. Sienno was the son of Remus. When Romulus killed Remus, he also attempted to kill Sienno. Sienno fled Rome with two horses, one white and one black and founded Siena.
The coat of arms of Siena is half black and half white, and consists of a she-wolf with two children.

Twice a year (it used to be only once) they have a big horse race, called the Palio, in the main square. For each race, ten of the contrada are represented by a horse and rider. Then in the following race, the other seven are joined by three from the previous race, so there are always ten horses in each race.

This has been going on since the 1300's. They use no saddles, bribery is rampant, and the horses are heavily drugged.

The church of the contrada of the snail in Siena, Italy The church of the contrada of the snail

This is the church of the contrada of the snail. On race day, the horse that will be representing this contrada will be brought into this church. While it is there, the people will be watching the rear-end of the horse. If the horse does its duty while in the church, it is supposed to be a guarantee of a win.

We walked on through the town of Siena, until we reached the gothic Duomo.

Duomo di Siena — La Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta

The duomo in Siena is La Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta (Most Holy Mary of Assumption)

The duomo in Siena, Italy La Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta

Inside is this oversized stained-glass window.

The stained-glass window in the duomo in Siena, Italy The stained-glass window in the duomo in Siena

The church was originally designed to be much larger. When the situation changed and they had to settle for a smaller church, they already had the window, so decided to use it anyway. In the area around the duomo, you can see some of the walls which would have made up the apse of the larger building.

Nearby there is a cathedral museum, which we did not visit. In addition to containing art from many masters, you can go up onto the roof for a great view of the city, which once rivaled Florence in power and esteem.

From the Duomo, we walked behind it and down the hill. There we saw the baptistery, which is located under and to the rear of the church.

Here we came to another contrada -- Selva, the contrada which had won the previous Palio. This is the only contrada which is allowed to display their flags. Their symbol is a rhinoceros under an oak tree.

The flags of the Selva contrada on the street behind the duomo in Siena, Italy The flags of the Selva contrada on the street behind the duomo

We walked on through the streets of Siena, until we came to the main square, the Piazza del Campo, where the Palio is run.

The Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy The Piazza del Campo

The large building you can see in the photo above is the City Hall. Its campanille (bell tower) is the tallest secular tower (not associated with a church) in Europe. I do not have any details about it, but you can climb to the top of the tower. There must be great views of the city from there.

The Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy The Piazza del Campo
The marble structure you can see across the piazza in this photo is the Fountain of Joy.

The City Hall Campanille in Siena, Italy The City Hall Campanille
I didn't get any photos of the city hall campanille,
but I found this one on www.bigfoto.com.
A street with an outdoor cafe in Siena, Italy A street with an outdoor cafe in Siena
This is also where we found a smiley room

At this point, we had some free time, so we walked back to a shop we had passed where Karen bought some balsamic vinegar, then used the smiley rooms, where we had to pay 2000 lire (less than a dollar) to get in.

As we left the town, through the contrada of the dragon, we came to this view of the Duomo, below. Marco explained that they used to come to this area, and walk to the Duomo and back. However, when people saw where it was located, they would decline to go. So now he starts the tour of Siena from the other end of town, and walks through it to where the bus parks on this side of town.

A view of the duomo in Siena, Italy, from the outskirts of town A view of the duomo in Siena from the outskirts of town

A corner of a Medici fortress on the outskirts of Siena, Italy There is a Medici fortress here, but I could not get a good vantage point for a good picture of it, so I settled for this detail of one corner.

On to Rome

Then we headed back to Rome.

A package of Pocket Coffee

We were back on the road at 10:50AM, and stopped for lunch at the Autogrill at 11:45AM. Here we finally found some more Pocket Coffee, and Doris was thrilled. According to the sticker on the package, this pack of 18 candies cost 5800 lire, or about $2.60 US.

At 12:45PM we were heading for Rome. During this drive, we filled out surveys, received coupons for discounts on our next Trafalgar tour, received and paid for our group picture, and Marco finalized our arrangements for our flights home.

Group Photo Group Photo

At 2:45PM we arrived at our hotel, the Sheraton Golf, chosen because it is close to the airport. Those people not taking the optional excursion would have to use the hotel shuttle to get into the city. Altogether we had traveled about 3300 kilometers, or about 2200 miles.

Even though Marco had called ahead and let them know our arrival time, they were not ready for us. Nothing Marco could do would help the problem. They got things ready and got us our keys at their pace, and nothing could speed them up. They pretty much acted like they had never done this before.
Eventually everyone got their keys to their rooms, and all was well.
One oddity was that the key cards for the rooms also had to be inserted into special slots in the rooms or the lights and air conditioning would not work. I have never seen this before anywhere.

Tivoli — Villa D'Este & Dinner

At 4:15PM, we left for the optional excursion to Tivoli, and the Villa D'Este.

Our tour of the villa began in the courtyard.

A detail in the courtyard of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy A detail in the courtyard of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli

We then toured the villa itself, before going out to the gardens and fountains.

A view from the villa down to the gardens at the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy In this photo you can see down into the gardens from the villa and also a panoramic view of the countryside.

A view from the villa to the town near the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy

In this photo you can see the hill town next to the villa and gardens. This town used to extend through where the gardens are now. However, it was torn down to make room.

Fountains in the gardens of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy This photo shows an area of the gardens that is supposed to represent Rome.

Fountains in the gardens of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy This is Karen's picture of the aisle of 100 fountains

Fountains in the gardens of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy

This is the Organ fountain. When this fountain was built, it was designed to make a noise, caused by the water. This was simply a droning note sounding endlessly. However the organ stopped working shortly after it was built, and no one can seem to get it working again. It is thought that someone from the houses directly behind the fountain sabotaged it to stop the noise.

Fountains in the gardens of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy A view back up from the gardens to the villa

Fountains in the gardens of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy This is a fountain that is supposed to grant youth. Every time you visit it, you gain some years on your life.

Dinner in Tivoli at the Ristorante Antiche terme di Diana

From Villa D'Este, we walked to the Ristorante Antiche terme di Diana. This used to be a small restaurant in a basement with 5 tables. Then one day the owner felt cool air coming through a wall. He broke through the wall and found some rubble in a room. The Italian archeological people dug out the rooms and discovered that it was ancient Roman baths.

When we first entered, we were given a welcoming drink of something like Sangria. Then we were given a tour of the place, and brought to a room where the owner's wife showed us how she makes pasta.

After the demonstration, we were brought to our tables. Most of the people sat at one long table, but a few of us sat at smaller tables close by. On the tables when we sat down along with both a red and white wine, was a plate of proscuitto, ham and salami, mozzarella cheese, and eggplant, along with a bowl of sun dried tomatoes, and some homemade bread. Then we had soup (pasta fagioule -- excellent -- much different than what we get back home) and spaghetti. This was followed by a salad and veal stuffed with mozzarella and ham, and potato puffs. For desert, we had fresh cut peaches with basil, and coffee.

Two other couples had anniversaries this evening.

After dinner, we danced a little. Then when it was time to leave, and we had a farewell drink of Amoretto which was quite good.

Fountains in the gardens of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, Italy

They had some interesting cups that they used for the wine, and Karen bought one for me.


Marilyn and Beth

Commentary from Marilyn and her daughter Beth about their Best of Italy tour, September 7-20, 2001, reproduced here with their permission.

Day 13, Wednesday, 19 September, 2001 - Florence to Rome

After breakfast we headed towards Rome.
We had a 2 hour stop in Siena, drove for a while and then had our final lunch at our last Autogrill. Our TD gave us our final receipts for our optional excursions and we also let her know about our needs for transfers to the airport in the day etc.
We arrived at our last hotel the Sheraton Golf, around 3. This was the newest hotel we stayed in and was only the second hotel with a pool.
For those of us that went on the final optional we left around 6, Farewell Italian Concert Evening with Dinner $52 pp. Before we got on the bus most people gave the TD and BD their tip envelope. We drove around the city for a final goodbye in the daylight. The dinner, the singers, and the vino was wonderful. After dinner we again drove around the city for another farewell.

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Contents © Copyright 2001 Author: Lee Briggs except where noted. All rights reserved.