Siena: in sickness and in health

June 16, 2015
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There are days in life when even the best laid plans go out the window, along with your stomach lining, and my trip to Siena was one such day.

I’d like to say that this blog post is filled with wonderful, insightful tips on how to get the most out of a day trip to Siena and I do mention a few places to visit. Unfortunately, however, my trip to the city was cut drastically short by what will now fondly be remembered as the ‘Siena sick saga’. A day where the marriage vows ‘in sickness and in health,’ were truly put to the test. But before we get on to that, let me focus on lovely Siena and our day before everything went oh so very wrong.

As soon as we arrived in the city (if you’re driving in, parking is expensive but easy enough), we headed straight to our trusted vantage point: the clock tower of Torre del Mangia across the beautifully slanting square of Piazza del Campo. Compared to my experiences of Florence’s Duomo, this 500 step tower felt like a walk in the park. The views from the top were, as I had to come to expect in Tuscany, beautiful and we spent an enjoyable fifteen minutes watching people move around in the Piazza below. What strikes you about Siena is just how different it is to Florence. Gothic and more rustic, it has a more shabby and mystical charm, which I really warmed to.

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After collecting plenty of panoramic views, we began the climb back down the tower (great for the old calf muscles) and swiftly moved on to Sienna’s Gothic Duomo. What’s really eye catching about this particular Cathedral is its rather snazzy black and white striped marble exterior that follows through to the interior. Inside is a real treat!  I’d say it’s easily on par with the Church of the Savior on Blood in St Petersburg for impressiveness. Alongside the black and white marble, the vaults are blue with gold stars, just to make it extra beautiful. Strangely, the main thought I had as I walked around the Cathedral was just how strikingly similar it was to the Kardashians home with its black and white theme. Perhaps we should give those reality stars more credit for taste!

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If you’re looking to escape the heat and crowds of the city (although I found the crowds had nothing on Florence) then head down Orto de’ Pecci, a lovely urban park. We had a leisurely walk around this green and quiet patch of Siena, watching people flying kites and having picnics.

Our last stop of the day was to Complesso Museale Santa Maria della Scalla, a former hospital (it is a little spooky underground), that now houses three museums. We visited the Archaeological Museum that was located in the dark and creepy former hospital tunnels. Although this was an interesting stop, I’d probably suggest if you’re short on time you visit Museo Civico, the city’s most famous museum instead.

To cheer myself up after spending an hour underground, I decided to head back to Piazza del Campo and enjoy a gelato in the afternoon sun. If you’re looking for somewhere to people watch, this Piazza is the perfect place. It doesn’t seem as congested or manic as other major Italian city piazzas and has a more laid back feel to it. Little did I know, however, that these would be the last few minutes of happiness for me in a day that was about to go very wrong.

Half an hour or so after enjoying my yoghurt gelato, I started to feel odd. Perhaps it was intuition, perhaps a stroke of luck, but I decided that as it had started to rain it was probably a good sign to set off back to Pienza. I’d been suffering a lot of tooth pain whilst in Italy  and I was beginning to wonder as I got in the car whether my body was having some strange reaction to it. As we started to head out of the city a wave of intense nausea washed over me and before I knew it, I was yelling for my fiance to pull over, before scrambling out the car on all fours and being spectacularly sick in front of the passing cars. After a few minutes of stunned silence, I got back in the car, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

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Unfortunately, within ten minutes, I realised the events that were about to unfold would be some of the lowest moments of my life. With no where to stop, and no obvious place to put my head, I frantically wound down the window and craned my neck out as far out as it would go. As I  vomited out the window, whilst watching an Italian family gawp in horror next to me, I failed to take into account one key factor: the 50mph back wind. Terrible. It will be a memory that we shall never speak of again and has scarred me deeply. It took another hour to get home, with more stops, and a leaking plastic bag to add to the fun. By the time we reached the hotel, I was a  mess and cried tears of joy upon reaching my hotel toilet. (I won’t burden you further with the aftermath of cleaning a rental car out with face wipes).  It was an incident I’ll probably develop PTS over sometime soon.

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So, Siena is a place, although beautiful and brimming with art and history, I will now unfortunately forever associate with being violently ill. I guess these are the kind of travel stories we’ll laugh about in years to come. In sickness and in health, or in my case, in food poisoning and in health, your travel companions are your heroes in times of need when both home, and your toilet, are far, far away.

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2 Comments

  • Reply Todd June 26, 2015 at 10:42 am

    Good story. I have a friend who caught worms while traveling. We laughed (many years later now) that we forget that going on a trip is not always castles and funny clothes and street vendors selling roasted mystery-on-a-stick – sometimes the bonus activity is playing host to a colony of parasites in your intestine for a few weeks.

    • Reply The Twins June 26, 2015 at 10:46 am

      Haha! Exactly, it’s not all fun and games. Maybe the parasites came from the roasted mystery-on-a-stick!

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