Europe 2014 – Siena Pre – We Ride to the Top of the Hill in Chianti

Timeline: October 6th – 10th

On the way back to camp from the Apple Store on Tuesday we stopped in at the small town of Monteriggioni. We parked in the large lot at the bottom of the hill and walked up to the town, stopping to enjoy a gelato in its main square, then walking its few streets until we’d covered it completely. We remarked on the number of folks sitting outdoors at the couple of restaurants eating good-looking food and how we were going to have to do more of that. And we would in just a few days.

Monteriggioni Square

Monteriggioni Square

Upon our return to the car we decided that Monteriggioni would make a good starting place for a bike ride, being about a half hour’s easy drive away from camp, with plenty of safe parking, and faced with the knowledge that trying to ride out of Colleverde, in the narrow, crowded, hilly streets near there would be crazy. And so we found ourselves the next day, and then again two days later, parked at the base of town, ready to ride.

Parking Lot at Monteriggioni

Parking Lot at Monteriggioni

On the first day we basically just explored, seeking out good and safe routes. We found a short bike path that took us out into the countryside, where we picked up a lightly used two-lane road that eventually leads up a long climb to the charming town of Castellina in Chianti. It was a pretty warm afternoon and we’d not been riding much, so about halfway up we turned around and cruised back down to Monteriggioni, then out another five miles in the other direction before returning to the car.

Bike Path on the Ride, Monteriggioni in the Background

Bike Path on the Ride, Monteriggioni in the Background

Two days later we set the goal of making it to the top of the climb so we started a bit earlier in the day, caught some luck with a cloudy sky that kept the temperatures down and with a good but not terrifically difficult effort, made it up to the top and the town itself.

Shopping Street in Castellina

Shopping Street in Castellina

We walked our bikes down the pedestrian only main street, full of wine shops, restaurants, and specialty markets, stopping at a cool shop that featured wine themed bicycle clothing. I was sorely tempted to buy the full kit, but didn’t need another set of bib shorts (about the only style of men’s short sold here is a bib) so passed on the idea.

Bike Kit

Bike Kit

We pedaled out to the edge of town for a gelato stop, then back through the shopping street to begin the long and very nice downhill to the base of the climb. On the way back into camp we stopped at the COOP for dinner supplies and to stock up in anticipation of Lyndsay’s arrival the next day.

The Rocca in Castelina

The Rocca in Castelina

On Thursday, the day in between our two rides we took the bus into Siena center to familiarize ourselves with the route and to see some of the town, since Lyndsay’s stay would be short and not her first to Siena. We were lucky to have blue skies, not always available. In fact, Joanna and I have often talked about the effects sky quality can have on your mood on any given day.

Piazza del Campo and the Tower

Piazza del Campo and the Tower

There is not doubt that camping in bad weather is difficult; it just makes things twice as hard to deal with. Not impossible mind you, just requiring a bit more effort, which can be hard to muster when you get up in the morning. As the day progresses, if the skies are cloudy, gray, or overcast, it puts a whole different spin on your take of that period’s events.

Florence Duomo

Florence Duomo

It was a good day in Siena, pleasant temperatures (I’ve gone back to wearing shorts and will do so for another week or so) with blue skies to brighten our day. We hit the highlights of town, walking places we’d seen before, revisiting those we hold in our memories. We found the piazza where we saw the horses being loaded into the trailer prior to the Palio in 1984, then the street with the café where we dropped Heike and Francois, and the street that led to the Campo where we climbed the fences to witness some portion of the race itself.

The Spot from 1984, Without Fences, Grandstands and 70,000 other Spectators

The Spot from 1984, Without Fences, Grandstands and 70,000 other Spectators

We made our way back to the bus station, stopping at the shrine of St. Catherine, the house she lived in during the 1300’s. Catherine is one of the two patron saints of Italy, together with St. Francis of Assisi. Hers is an interesting story, similar to that of Joan of Arc (recall our visit to Rouen in July). As she wasn’t a nun, she lived at home her whole life, traveling widely and influencing the Pope of her time, an amazing story.

Siena Hillside

Siena Hillside

With many nights of cooking in camp behind us, and one more on tap before Lyndsay’s arrival, we hit the restaurant at Colleverde that night. During the season they have a full menu, which was a shame for us as it looked interesting and pretty representative of a range of Italian standards. We settled for the pizza, which was good and quite reasonable, a pie big enough to split for 7-8 Euros plus inexpensive house wine.

Saturday morning we broke camp for what we thought would be the last time, and moved across the campsite to one of the two-bedroom trailers, complete with kitchen and bathroom. Just before we moved I checked my email and voila, I received one from the Apple Store Gigli in Florence informing me that the MacBook Pro was ready for pickup.

The Trailer

The Trailer

Once we had our gear and luggage moved, I hopped in the car and made the drive up to Apple. Although the email informed I’d need a Genius Bar appointment I figured if need be I’d put on my unhappy tourist face when I got there and they’d let me slide. It was reassuring returning, as I knew the route and so parked, the lot much more crowded, as it was a Saturday.

I entered the store and walked up to the intake staff member, showing them the email. They happily exclaimed “unit for pickup”, told me to wait at the Genius Bar a few moments, and indeed a short while later a Genius representative came out with the laptop. I fired it up, made sure all my files were still intact, shut it down, shook his hand and thanked him for the great service.

The ride back to Siena went smoothly, made even more so by knowing the problem had been resolved so effectively, and best of all, at no cost. Owning Apple products is not always a great experience as they have their bugs like every other company. But I’d challenge any PC owner with a three-year-old laptop to get a repair of this nature handled in Italy with such ease. I’m thinking theirs would have had a slightly different outcome. And I’m thinking I’ll keep buying Apple when I need a computer.

Piazza del Campo with Duomo in Background

Piazza del Campo with Duomo in Background

Links

Monteriggioni: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monteriggioni

Castellina in Chianti: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castellina_in_Chianti

Piazza del Campo: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piazza_del_Campo

Florence Duomo: http://www.ilgrandemuseodelduomo.it/#cattedrale

Casa de Santa Caterina: http://www.sacred-destinations.com/italy/siena-st-catherine-shrine

Catherine of Siena: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_of_Siena

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