Right. Italy. Two weeks enjoying the lovely company of myself, doing language class at Saena Iulia in Siena and a bit of travelling around. Let’s do this! A good thing had happened even before the trip started. Do you know these online competitions, where you „only“ need to type in your name and email after your successful purchase and then hope to win a discount voucher, free goods or a brand-new iPhone? Well, a sort of that thing actually happened to me after I booked with Lufthansa. Pop! „Would you like to win a free upgrade for your next flight with us?“, says Lufthansa. „Yeah, sure, bring it on“, is my answer. And so it really happened – I won it. A guy, who’s always laughing about people paying extra 100 EUR+ for a flight taking 80 minutes, is finally going to test it himself.
So, was flying in Business class a fantastic experience, „flying re-imagined“, like they say? Hmmm, not sure. I mean – it was definitely nice, I felt well-treated, got a great breakfast in ceramic instead of plastic (the minimum amount of waste is something I appreciated at most) and the weirdest thing happened to me when we landed and my luggage has been already waiting for me in the hall. But in the end, it’s the same plane, the same seats and the aircon is blowing ice-cold air into your face, regardless your status.
After I got out of the small & cute Florence arrival hall, I hopped on the bus going to Santa Maria Novella (S.M.N.). Since I knew, I would come back the next day, I didn’t spend any time in the city and went directly to the ticket office to buy a train ticket to Siena. Now, I haven’t been travelling on my own for some time, and I’ve almost forgotten the greatest feature of my face – I must look irresistibly reassuring, especially abroad where I don’t speak the language and in those situations when I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing. Or where I am. I had exactly that kind of moment at the train station, where I simple started queueing in a random queue and then looked around to find out that the queues are not all the same. A sir in his eighties comes to me and start talking Italian: “Italian…Italian…Italian…il treno…Italian…biglietto…Italian…per Napoli, Venezia, Milano”. Hold on a second, I think I understand – he wants me to buy a ticket in the ticket machine, which I’d unsuccessfully tried before. And now unfortunately, I didn’t have much time left for experiments. “It didn’t work…”, I’m trying to explain honestly (which it didn’t but I realized later that I’d been stupid and had used a wrong machine). “But I’ll be fast, sono presto!”, I promised him. And I was – I spent about 15 seconds at the counter. I really couldn’t understand what the other tourists before me were discussing for about 5 minutes each. I mean – you name the destination you’d like to get to, your counterpart names the price, you pay, take your ticket and leave. How hard can it be?
Going from Florence to Siena by train is really easy and really affordable, takes about 1.5 hour and costs about 10 EUR. Unless you forget to punch your ticket, then it can get expensive.
My hotel, Hotel Italia, is located right next to the railway station. But there’s a funny thing you need to know – when you get out of the railway station, you find yourself in a shopping centre. And there is just one way out – go up the stairs. And then another stairs. And then another. And a few more of them. OK, is that it? No, there’s a couple of more escalators. Up, up, up! Siena is very hilly, and this is the old lady’s nice welcome trick to remind you that.
Check-in, quick shower and hurray to the city centre! First, everything went smoothly, I passed the bank Monte dei Paschi, one of the oldest banks in the world I believe and headed straight to the famous Piazza del Campo. But then I only remember blocked streets and cheering crowds. There was a bicycle race! As you probably know, Italians are very passionate about this sport and I could see and hear that. Two pretty old guys were just enjoying their coffee in bar but when they heard the cheers coming louder and louder as the racers was approaching, they’ve run out in a fantastic speed, gesturing wildly and crying in italian (in my direction of course) “What happened, what happened?”? I just couldn’t help laughing. It was my last laugh of the day, though – because of the race, I simply could not make it to Piazza del Campo. I tried to take a few tiny little streets, of which I was absolutely convinced are shortcuts. However, they turned out not to be shortcuts in any sense and took me deeper and deeper into the medieval maze of Siena. I believe I’m pretty good at finding ways with and without a map but I must admit – there were moments, and they were more than one, when I absolutely lost any sense of direction I’d ever had. Dear architects of the city Siena, your tactics works! Sorry you had to wait a few hundred years for my confirmation. Well, at least I checked out the Duomo, which I didn’t fail to find and start looking for the way back to the hotel. It was suddenly raining very heavily and the strong wind didn’t really make it better.