Saturday, July 5, 2014

Day 28 - Rest day in Siena

Piazza del Campo, Siena

We had almost thought we didn't need a rest day, but booked it anyway to spend some time in Siena. But after a few hard days slugging up the Tuscan gravel hillside we are sure glad we booked it in.

Gourmet Picnic with a view

Although yesterday was short, we climbed almost 1000vm offroad in the sun, which sure took it out of us. Walking around the steep city streets it was an easy choice to enjoy the views from our balcony and have a "hotel picnic" once again and get an early night.

After a good nights sleep, although a little warm with no a/c or fan unfortunately. We are staying in a b&b (lupe) just near the city gates which is a nice spot. Breakfast was nice, a relaxed traditional Italian style coffee, juice and cake!

We didn't plan to do too much, walk the streets and check out whatever we came across really. We did want to see the Duomo, and joined the queues 30mins before opening time. Surpisingly we actually got free entry with our pilgrim credentials, which is basically a passport you get stamped along the route to show where you have started and gone.

The entire square is covered in sand for Il Pailo
Standup bars, skul the coffee down

Entering with the throng of eager Americans and tour groups it really was beautiful, Italian churches are just so much more flamboyant than anywhere else. After about 45mins of wandering around inside we escaped outside into the warm morning. Just exploring the streets was nice, we didn't realise earlier but Il Palio the famous horse race around the piazza del campo was only on 2 days earlier! They were still cleaning the sand out this morning. So the city is still abuzz with revellers from the winning team, if that's the correct term. With their flags hung all around the city, and parades every few hours. It's quite an atmosphere.

Duomo, Siena
Inside, this is when it wasn't too packed!
The entire floor is marble and decorated like this, but mostly covered to protect
So enticing, but so steep!

One strange part we have found with the city is a lack of casual bars to have a drink. The centre is all shopping, mostly tourist junk or restaurants. Then you have basic caf├ęs but nowhere for a beer or glass of wine. So wandering around for 30mins we give up and join the tourist hordes on the piazza del campo for a drink, which is only 5euro for a glass of wine so not too bad considering the view.

After and easy morning it was time for some lunch. We actually came across a place last night that looked good, and after some internet stalking it came up looking like a good choice. Arriving at around 1pm it was still fairly quiet. The entire trip we had planned to enjoy some Bistecca alla Fiorentina at some stage, as Rishi had made a version at home earlier this year and it was delicious.

It doesn't get much simpler, basically it's a good cut of t bone meat, which has to be lean, cooked rare, rested for around 15mins and seasoned only with olive oil and salt. Which leaves you with the remaining juices mixed with the olive and salt as the sauce on your plate.

The cut of meat they use is a particular breed called the Chianina, and they generally cut super thick to ensure it is really juicy, charged per kilo we had seen anywhere from 35-50euro

Pasta, Pici(hand rolled pasta) and tomato and garlic, and Ravioli with truffles and cream sauce
The steak!
Creative napkins?
Ristorante grotta di Santa Caterina di bagoga
Steak and Wine

Of course now that we are hungry seasoned Italian diners we had pasta entree, and the steak as main. The pasta was bought out, and was excellent as usual. But just as we start to eat they bring out the raw cut of meat to make sure you are happy with the size, and the entire restaurant turns around with wide open eyes looking at it, as it's a huge slab of meat!

The meat was amazing, the most divine piece of beef I've ever eaten, and I do like a good steak. The simple flavours and the tenderness of the almost blue meat espically around the bone was delicious. Washed down with a great bottle of Montalcino Sangiovese, which is a local wine region we will pass through tomorrow on the route!

It's always a risk going out for a decent meal in a city you are not familiar with, and already on this trip we have been slightly disappointed a few times. But the meal at "Ristorante grotta di Santa Caterina di bagoga" was fantastic, they had quoted us that the cut was around 1kg, which would be 50euros but they actually marked it down to 40euros on the bill which was a pleasant surprise.

With full bellies, there was only one thing we could do for the afternoon, find somewhere else to drink some more wine! The Italian government has setup a state funded Enoteca in Fortezza Medicea where they promote Italian wines. It was a little overpriced, but they had about 10 wines by the glass which is a great selection, the first guy was not super helpful, already feeling quite good after the delicious wine at lunch we went for the 2 most expensive ones known as "supertuscans" that got his attention!

Enoteca Italiana
Le tour and Vino

Really nice wines, which we enjoyed in their courtyard with free wifi, realising the Tour de France had started I logged into Rai sports which let us watch on my phone!

We had thought to consider sending back a few bottles until we checked the postage prices, 160euros for 6bottles!! So we may just have to stock the suitcase/bikebox up with the maximum duty free amounts in Rome.

So 3 fairly long hard days of riding left until we arrive in Rome, and we still can't believe how far we have come up until now, I think it won't actually feel real until we arrive in Rome!



1 comment:

  1. Good luck for your last 3 days! I am going to miss these blogs once you finish.