We decided ok yes we will do it, we will get on a big blue bus and ride around for 12 or 13 hours, see some countryside and smell a few towns we wouldn’t get to otherwise. The bus was comfortable, the views were good from the top floor, our nearby neighbors were fun, the tour leader was entertaining and informative. We are totally not sorry to have done it and totally are not recommending it for you as there are of course plenty of downsides to traveling around on a BIG Blue Bus.
Our first stop, Siena. We had a local guide who told us the most entertaining stories about the annual horse race that takes place right here, around that plaza above. Six months in the making, the race is over in three laps. It was a total highlight, standing right there in the center of the plaza and hearing this story. You can click on the youtube link below for a nice short documentary on the Palio, a 100s of years old historic tradition.
Copied from britannica.com: “The Palio was first held in 1482 as a civic celebration. The current course was formally established in 1659 and has been held semiannually on July 2 and on August 16 since 1701, except during wartimes. Lasting about a minute, the race consists of three turns around the Piazza del Campo, the main city square.”
Here’s a 9 minute video from the BBC if you’re interested in more of the story of the Palio.
Here are some lingering flags from the last Palio winners still on the main roads.
After the whole horse race experience we went on to the Cathedral. The guide stayed with us for a while and then left us with free time.
The entrance and a close-up of the window that is a big white circle on the left.
I hope I generate the energy to make some pictures from the spectacular floors in that cathedral. Oh my goodness they are most amazing but I was having a problem with the glare.
LUNCH! Surprisingly Fun!!
This was the Ring Master who ran the show like a full on circus. And we all laughed and had an excellent time.
And I do want to mention his catch phrase “more wine for YOU”.
Then on to the hilltop town of San Gimignano.
An internet picture so you can get an overview.
A view from the bottom of the town of San Gimignano before we start the slog up up up.
For our last stop, Pisa, as in The Leaning Tower of… I like the look with other buildings for scale.
There’s a Jewish cemetery here too.
A view from the bus and then home sweet home.