Monday: Viareggio

It was bittersweet to leave Siena late this morning. Our hotel – Hotel Ravizza – was so comfortable and a great place to stay and Siena is a wonderful city. But we will be in Viareggio for the next few days and I’m sure we will live it there too.

We stopped for lunch in Pistoia, an old city about an hour from Viareggio. It is Monday, so many restaurants are closed but we found a good place for lunch and spent some time there since check-in for our Airbnb was at four o’clock.

We drove around Viareggio and checked out the marina. The largest and most expensive yachts in the world are made here by Benzetti boatyard. They are spectacular to see, but since it was pouring rain we couldn’t walk around at all. We will do that tomorrow.

We will also take the train one day to Cinque Terre to hike and see the five seaside villages and beautiful views. We are hoping for some nice days ahead after almost a week of rain but we will make it work regardless. For now we are settling in at Viareggio.

photos: seen along the way as we drove today – a farmer apparently has a sense of humor about hay bales; this evening’s view from our Viareggio home; little round eggplants for sale

Sunday: Siena

Our last day in beautiful (but still very rainy) Siena was mainly a lazy and relaxing one. We got laundry done, which took a few morning hours. The streets were pretty much empty – so different from yesterday evening.

We went back to the Boccon del Prete restaurant for lunch (we had been there a few days ago). With many places closed on Sunday, it seems lunch spots are at a premium so we felt happy to get a table and have a delicious spaghetti-with-meat- sauce lunch.

Tomorrow we leave Siena drive to the Viareggio area to enjoy a few days of exploring there. It is two hours from here and on the watee. It will be a nice change of scenery although the 7-day forecast doesn’t look great right now.

photos: Siena looking like a postcard; the book exchange – I love finding this in a place I’m staying; Siena – empty of people this morning

Saturday: Siena

Today was another rainy day in Siena, but that’s okay. We still made the most of it.

After breakfast at the hotel, we headed out for a stroll around the city. We ended up at the Museum of Torture, which I never should have gone into. Medieval methods of torture are so awful that I get nauseous just thinking about them. Sure enough, this museum was certainly well equipped, with ancient gizmos designed to get a person to admit their guilt, suffer horribly, and slowly die.

I walked the experience off and we had lunch at Osteria Babzuf, a restaurant the hotel staff had recommended. We were glad they did – it was a small cafe, it had delicious food, and it was a comfortable, relaxing stop.

We browsed around some shops after that. An interesting butcher shop, La Bottega a Rosano, has been around for over 300 years, passed down from fathers to sons. The entire family apparently lives upstairs and it is a tiny shop, made smaller by the many types of meat hanging from the ceiling and salami displayed in the cases. Photos are not allowed – they aren’t trying to be a tourist attraction. Still, it was a fascinating place to see.

It rained off and on for the rest of the late afternoon and evening, heavily at times. We spent some time in a patisserie waiting for it to lighten up and eventually went back to our hotel.

photos: fun tiny art at Osteria Babzuf; the Piazza del Campo; a room at the torture museum, I photographed none of what I saw there.

Friday: Siena

Today we moved out of our hotel located outside the walled city and into one inside the walls. We had reserved this hotel a while ago and it is a very old, magnificent place to stay.

There are strict rules about cars in the city, with steep fines for offenders. The hotel has a parking lot but it is a little bit tricky to find. We got ourselves checked in and also got a restaurant recommendation for lunch.

Today and tomorrow are holidays in Italy, so some people take a long weekend away to cities like this one. Our lunch at the recommended Boccon del Prete was terrific, and the small place filled up quickly at noon.

We hope to take a tour of the top of the Siena Cathedral here – apparently a small narrow staircase brings visitors to near the roof – a vantage point that is said to be spectacular. We will see if a tour works out for the time we are here.

For now, we will enjoy the very pretty views.

photos: a gorgeous view; the ceiling in the hotel; escargot with olives👍

Thursday: Siena

We left our fabulous Scandicci villa this morning and headed to the walled city of Siena where we will spend the next few days.

It is hard for me to believe that once again we parked our car and then hours later could not find the lot. Here’s how easily it can happen in a walled city: (1) park the car, (2) walk in via the grand arched entrance (there are about five of them in Siena, I have come to learn), (3) walk around inside the walled streets with very few cars, have lunch, walk into a few shops, walk along some narrow almost-alleys to look around, (4) decide to get the car and check in at our hotel.

Attempts to retrace our steps didn’t work. We had walked all over in the three hours we were there. Yes, we had taken photos of where we parked, but that that didn’t help because there are so many entrances to the walled city, each about a 15 minute walk.

I put the parking receipt address in my phone and it brought us to a lot on the other side of the city, maybe the main lot but not where we were parked.

It rained, sometimes very hard in the 90 minutes we were searching. Finally we saw an available taxi and I showed the driver our parking receipt. He knew where the lot was located based on its name, which my GPS didn’t recognize.

It turns out it was a surprisingly long 10- minute cab ride away. I don’t know how we would have found the car otherwise. We would likely still be walking around.

We checked in at our charming old hotel, our clothing stuck to us from the rain. The receptionist, Alicia, was a gem, telling us in her very sweet English that she would give us the “best room possible” and then she walked us to it (I guess so we wouldn’t get lost).

We will explore more of Siena tomorrow. We can leave our car at the hotel and use the map Alicia gave us.

photos: bike outside a restaurant in Siena; lunch starter; this bar made me smile as we walked by