A day that started slow got even slower (Daniel’s words). We started in Monterosso al Mare, hung out on the beach, then had two very tight train connections, and sat in a broken-down train 10 km outside of Siena for 90 minutes before being rescued. We then wandered aimlessly around Siena in search of the Alma Domus convent hotel, found it (at last), and had one of the best meals of our trip.
One would think that the newest looking trains would be the least likely to break down - guess again! We began our most exciting travel day yet in Monterroso al Mare on a train that was 10 minutes late and had 11 minutes without the delay to connect in Pisa Centrale. Someone else on the train pointed out our next train a couple of tracks over and we ran like hell to make the connection. Beads of sweat formed on my forehead and cheeks but we made that first connection, and wow, was that train packed. We found out only after arriving in Siena that today is not just Easter Monday, but more importantly here in Italy, it is National Day…the 25th day of April is when Italy was liberated in World War II. At Empoli, just a half hour and two stops from Pisa Centrale, we had to once again run like crazy to get to our next connection and the final leg of today’s journey, connecting us to Siena…eventually. It was the newest train we had seen in all our travels here so far. At the first stop, we sat in the station for 10-15 minutes and we didn’t think much of that while the train stopped and restarted. However, as we approached Siena, the train seemed to be coasting at times without any power until it finally stopped altogether, about 10 km outside of Siena. After about 75 minutes with attempts at restarting the engine, and very little in the way of explanations, other than what an Italian lady could gather, translate to French for Laura to tell the other passengers in English, another engine came from Siena to pull our train to the station. One of the train engineers, who claimed to not speak any English, when he opened the train doors and got out of the train, said, “Don’t move!” We all expected “I’ll be back!” to be uttered next. We got to know Jill and Sam, a couple of engineers from Minnesota during the wait and shared a lot of laughs. It turned out that they were also staying at the same former convent in Siena.
We have the worst WiFi yet on our entire journey at this hotel; it’s a good thing that we only dabbled with it paying for only 30 minutes. Everywhere else we have been, WiFi has been free with the hotel. It isn’t really worth a penny here, it is unusably slow. If I didn’t say before, this place is called Santuario S. Caterina Alma Domus. We are very grateful to have found a room, and after more than 30 minutes of wandering the crazy steep hills of Siena with our luggage on the cobblestone and stairs in the rain, finding this place is not all that bad…just forget about internet access here.
We enjoyed looking around this amazing town with some of the oldest buildings of our trip. The Il Campo in front of the city hall is an incredible site that is a must see. We ate some gelato since we had time to kill before dinner since Trattoria La Tellina didn’t open until 7 pm tonight (usually it opens at 6:30 pm, but delayed because of the holiday.) More pasta dishes, best grilled eggplant of all time, and sea bass was then topped off with the best tiramisu of the trip as well as really good vino della casa and aqua minerale frizzante. The service was very professional and duly noted on the bill in addition to a cover charge. We topped off the evening with more walking to the Duomo and another series of Dena, Daniel and Rob photoshooting like maniacs.
Tomorrow, we get to explore a bit more of Siena in the morning before heading to Rome for the last few days. We’ll have to gather our courage to get back on a train!