Published: October 17th 2011October 16th 2011
Farewell to Monterosso...
...and our special B&B Giardino Incantato. The photo is taken from the corner of the main street, the B&B is visible in the background (oval plaque).
Today we left Monterosso and headed to Siena for our final stopover before heading home.
We will miss our special B&B Giardino Incantato; staying in such quality accommodation in a really special location in the centre of a historic town has been one of the highlights of our trip.
When we went to see our housekeeper yesterday to say we wouldn’t need breakfast in the morning as we would be leaving early, she asked what time we were going and said it was no problem they would do an early breakfast or us. It is typical of the level of service we have received.
The accommodation has been fantastic, the people lovely and extremely accommodating and they show incredible attention to detail. An example of this was when we came back to base one night and decided to check out the garden by night. When we entered it was lit up by candles along the entrance path and on the tables – they would not have known anyone would be in the garden that evening (the weather was quite cold) but lit the candles in case any of the guests chose to use it.
Train to Siena
For the first leg of our journey each carriage was devided into very comfortable compartments which seated 6.
would love to return here one day and although it’s not the cheapest anyone thinking of going to Monterosso/Cinque Terre should consider staying at Giardino Incantato, book early though there are only 4 rooms and there occupancy rate is extremely high.
MONTEROSSO – CINQUE TERRE
For us Monterosso was the best of the 5 towns to stay in, its larger than the others so has more shops and restaurants, and a bit more to see if you just want to wander around. There is the historic old town and the new town plus it has good quality beaches - we were there at the very end of the season in great weather so we got the best of both worlds (we avoided the crowds of peak time and had perfect weather so we could enjoy the outdoors to the fullest). The towns are so close together and getting from A to B by train just takes a few minutes so it’s very easy to get around. Plus of course the accommodation at Giardino Incantato is the Jewel in the Crown of Monterosso.
We are very pleased with our decision to spend ‘Chill Out’ time in Monterosso – it’s been
Piazza de Campo
The central public place of Siena, featuring a very high tower that Jeanette is determined we will climb!
THE TRAIN, THE TRAIN
Anyway back to the present, how would our 3.5 hour rail trip with 2 train changes go? Given our history with Italian rail we were pretty nervous as we stood on the platform at Monterosso station. We needn’t have worried though as the whole trip was seamless! We took the national train for the first leg of our journey to Pisa, inside each carriage there were a series of compartments each of which had seating for 6 and was completely separate from the other compartments. We didn’t realise we had allocated seats but fluked getting on the right carriage and with a bit of juggling ended up in our correct seats for the first leg of the journey.
From Pisa we took regional trains with a switch at Empoli (a smallish station with not too much around it). The trains were crowded and hot, because we had all our baggage and it would have been a mission to find seats let alone space for the luggage we stood in the area by the doors for this part of the trip. There was plenty of room for people to hop on/off around us so
Piazza del Campo
From another angle, the Piazza is surrounded by lovely historic buildings -oddly all the awnings are brown. Note how blue the sky is.
it all worked nicely, although we were pretty hot, sweaty and a bit tired of standing by the time we reached Siena.
Siena is a historic walled city in the very heart of Tuscany. It is famous for its Clans - there are 17 'Contrade' which represent the various districts of the city. Each is run by democtratically elected councils that administer the affairs of the Contrade - they are effectively mini 'States' within Siena. Each Contrade has their own colours and coat of arms. Every Senese is first and foremost a member of his Contrada -it is like an extended family. Twice a year they compete fiercely in a sensational ‘no quarter given or asked’ horse race 'the Palio di Siena' around the city.
The Siena train station is well out of the CBD so we took at taxi to our hotel The NH Excelsior. The Hotel has a reputation for extremely poor service, but we received a very warm welcome at the front desk – they were playing a Spice Girls song when we arrived but that aside the staff were excellent!
The Hotel is a short walk from the Piazza del Campo (main
A huge church just off the Piazza, done in the same style (black and white stripes) as the one we visited in Monterosso
town 'square') in the historic centre of Siena, so we headed down there to get orientated and have a bit of lunch. For lunch we had sea food, -while we were in a small fishing village we eat steak (to be fair the nicest steak in the world), now we are in the heart of Wild Boar and Steak Florentine country we ordered seafood –what’s going on! We had shrimp cocktail and a seafood risotto – I must admit with the risotto I was expecting a fish paste/ sauce type of arrangement with the rice NOT creepy crawly tentacles sticking out from the depths of the dish! It was an extremely bright day and where we sat was right in the glare of the sun so as soon as we had finished eating we headed off to find some shade and have a look around the shops.
On the corner of the Piazza there is a Kappa Store – they provide the football jerseys for Siena (and also Roma) football (soccer) teams. Now that Siena is my Italian team I thought I would get a replica jersey so I could fly the colours, however the skin tight Italian inspired styling of the shirt didn’t quite match my Italian food inspired body shape so I settled for a very nice polo shirt instead.
There are plenty of handbag shops here so hopefully Jeanette will find something, also some fantastic ceramic pots and bits and pieces as well so looking forward to having a good shop around over the next few days.
We’ve got a big day tomorrow as we are doing a full day Tuscan tour with a local company that has an outstanding reputation, so we just had a quite meal in the Hotel and an early night.