The sun was getting rather low in the sky and the traffic was getting rather high on the roads as we traveled by bus from San Gimignano to Siena. We probably should have started earlier in the day, we left at the crack of noon, as is our habit. Perhaps we should have taken a little less time in San Gimignano but the place was like no other and we hadn’t been in a hurry to leave. Then again, if we had paid attention to the bus schedule we would have arrived at the bus stop in time to catch a bus right away. Instead, we waited for almost three-quarters of an hour for the next bus. But if we’d done all that, we wouldn’t have met the couple from Vancouver, and we wouldn’t have had such a great time talking with them. Everything happens for a reason.
However, all this dawdling meant that it was almost dark when we arrived in Siena, and we weren’t able to see it in all its glory. I didn’t really mind too much though, as the tour groups were all gone, the luxury goods shops were all closing and the residents were making their way home for their evening meal. It felt more like we were part of the local scene than just tourists passing though.
We quickly made our way to the famous Piazza del Campo, where the annual horse race is held in July/August. The shell-shaped, slanting piazza has served as the center of the medieval city since the 14th century. We had read about the dramatic slope of the piazza, but were unprepared for how beautiful it is. The restaurants that line its edges were just setting up for dinner, with white tablecloths and votive candles. It was very romantic in the lowering light of evening.
We didn’t want to take the time for a candlelight dinner, but when we spotted a group of young men on a narrow terrace above the square, I turned to take their photo. They shouted down words of encouragement, delighted to have caught my eye, and motioned for us to join them. We decided to take up the invitation, picked up a couple of glasses of wine, climbed the narrow steps inside the café and had a great laugh with them. They were university students in town for the weekend, enjoying Siena themselves. Anil joined them for a photo, but the light was getting low and they were getting high on their drinks. The photo isn’t the best, but the short time spent with them was.
We knew the last bus left for Florence at 8:30 pm, so after a quick meal in a trattoria recommended by the Lonely Planet, we rushed through the now dark streets for the bus terminal and our journey ‘home’. When we arrived at our hotel, the young receptionist, Anika, whom we had met on our first day there, was delighted to learn that we had visited Siena. In a quiet whisper, she confided that she thinks the Duomo in Siena is more beautiful that the famous one in her hometown of Florence. Anil and I looked at each other and knew we would have to return to Tuscany one day, if only to see the Siena and its Duomo in a better light.