Siena and San Gimignano

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Walking into the Piazza del Campo at Siena

We decided to make a day trip from Florence using public transport to see both the city of Siena and the town of San Gimignano in one day. We visited Siena first. There was a lovely Christmas market set up in the main square, so we spent a bit of time walking around trying different cheeses and looking at the various things being sold.

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View of the Piazza del Campo and Torre del Mangia


After spending some time and money at the markets (only on food of course), we headed to the Torre del Mangia. This tower had a fair few steps to climb, I didn’t count, but heard there were around 400. The views were definitely worth it though!

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Looking up through the stairs in the Torre del Mangia

There weren’t many other people climbing the tower at the same time as us, which was good because there were some tight spots on the way up that I imagine would have been difficult to maneuver around if there were others coming back down. As we got closer to the top, the stairs were quite dirty with bird droppings, so we had to climb without touching anything. There was a landing with quite high walls that we had to peer over to see out, and then there was an even higher small platform at the top that had a 15 minute time limit, although nobody seemed to be enforcing it, possibly because there weren’t many people climbing on the day. The top had a wooden floor and was quite cold and dirty, but the views were so good! Even after having climbed so many bell towers already during our time in Italy, the views just never cease to amaze.

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View from Siena’s tower

Next we headed to Siena’s huge cathedral. We initially weren’t going to go in, but the 8 euro ticket for the cathedral, crypt, baptistry, and museum seemed okay, so we went ahead and saw it all. First, we looked around the museum. which was interesting and had a nice lookout in the form of a flat walkway. Again, the lookout only had a 15 minute time limit, but we were able to stay for quite a bit longer.

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The outside of the Cathedral

Then we did the baptistry, crypt, and cathedral. The cathedral was impressive. It was definitely my favourite cathedral that we saw in Italy. The whole thing was just a work of art, both inside and out. I found that I got ‘church fatigue’ quite quickly when in Italy, but this cathedral was definitely worth seeing.

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Inside the Cathedral at Siena

After looking around Siena, we bought a bus ticked to San Gimignano. The driver of the bus didn’t speak English, so he called another driver over and told us to go with him. Apparently there were no direct buses, so the driver told us we would have to wait in Poggibonsi for an hour, but he would try to catch up with the other bus for us so we could do a direct changeover in an earlier town and not wait. So, we switched buses at some random town, with our driver getting out and pointing us to the right buse. Turns out, he had called the driver and asked him to wait for us. We couldn’t believe what a kind and helpful bus driver he was!

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Some of the towers in San Gimignano 

San Gimignano is a small town on a hill that is known for it’s many towers. The town certainly looked impressive from a distance. At one point in history, this town apparently had around 70 towers built by rich families to show off their wealth, because fancy cars didn’t exist back then. Of those many towers, about 14 towers are still standing. We wandered around a bit and took some photos before heading to the Torre Grossa. This tower was much easier to climb and a lot cleaner with a large solid platform at the top. We were allowed to take our backpacks up with us for once. The only difficult bit was a thin steep stairway at the top that had very little space for maneuvering.

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View from the Torre Grossa

The views from this tower were also lovely. Again our tickets had a 15 minute time limit, but we stayed at the top of the tower for around an hour and watched the sunset. Most of the time we had it to ourselves, so I guess the time limit is only really an issue during peak tourist times.

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From the top of the Torre Grossa

We stopped at the tourist office in San Gimignano and found out that the town was having a light show while we were there, so we stayed and enjoyed some gelati while wandering around and seeing the light shows in different locations around San Gimignano before catching the bus home.

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Part of the light show at San Gimignano

We did see a car accident while waiting for the bus in San Gimignano, where one driver hit the back of another car. They seemed to resolve it quite easily, both taking photos and driving off. The only thing was that the driver in the second car was in such a hurry to get out that he forgot to put the handbrake on and his car started rolling backwards and almost caused another accident! Luckily he managed to jump back in, stop the car and put an end to the night’s entertainment.

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San Gimignano at night

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