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Siena ... Not

July 30, 2003

Dear Friends and Families,

We learned something today.

We had picked our stay at Colle de Val d'Elsa in part because it was close to Siena and EVERYBODY says Tuscany visitors MUST see Siena. Wednesday morning, we headed out right after breakfast for our day in the must-see city.

We took the "old road", which followed the path used two thousand years ago by travelers from Florence to Rome, via Siena. Today it seemed like just another two-lane Italian highway, but there is something special about passing fields and villages and realizing they have been there for most of "Western History".

Approaching Siena itself, we shifted to veteran-tourist-driver team mode: Marianne driving and me navigating. Our plan was clear: hit one of the main parking lots around the old city (no cars allowed inside the walls). This should be no problem because we were amply equipped with maps and guidebook advice.

However, we were approaching town from the old road, not from the autostrada, and it took us a few (=30) extra minutes to start seeing the signs to these mega-lots. By the time we saw the signs, they all said "Chiuso" or "Completa" and by now our Italian is good enough to understand "Closed" and "Full".

That's all right, we'd just find something on the street. However, after driving around for another few (=45) minutes, seeing not a single spot into which our little car would squeeze, we concluded this plan was a failure too. Now what?

Well, we thought about all the walled towns we'd seen and all the walled towns there were left to see. For us, Siena was not going to be on that list, not in 2003 at least. We simply turned south and started looking elsewhere.

So, what did we learn? If ALL guidebooks send ALL tourists to a single place, they'll take ALL the parking places before you get there.

Take care and stay off the beaten path.

John and Marianne.

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