It was lovely to drive into the countryside, and we chose Monte Argentario, as our destination, some 120km north of Rome. Apparently a Roman play location for the rich! It was beautiful, 3 roads on and basically one that went around part of the landmass. Beautiful mountain, beaches, posh yachts and clear blue sea. We managed to find a camp site that would have us for two nights and had a very relaxing time.
On Thursday we visited a large walled hill town with lovely old streets and views over the Tuscan/Umbrian countryside called Orvieto. (strictly speaking this shouldn’t be mentioned in this blog as it’s in Umbria, but it was on the border and Tuscany was clearly visible – can I get away with this?) It had another one of those wonderful cathedrals, or at least the facade was wonderful, the sides were striped horizontally blue and white and rather reminded me of the film the boy in striped pyjamas. We enjoyed sitting at a cafe in the square overlooking the cathedral to have a tea and lunch, and had one of the poshest pots of tea that I’ve ever seen. Note the lovely tea bag. I did investigate the purchase of some, but the coast of €1 each, put me off. With the quantity of tea we drink this wasn’t a reasonable option.
Our next stop was to go to Stigliano, a small hamlet to the south of Siena. This is our week of luxury in an HPB apartment. We decided to start the week off with a walk from the site, which was lovely in the sun until the gorgeous Roger persuaded me that as our planned walk was so short why don’t we add one of the other walks on. So we trudged up a particularly steep track again, and commenced this other walk. I think Roger may have handed in his previously impeccable sense of direction with his warrant card when he retired, as we ended up walking around in circles, joining the very steep track again which wasn’t what was in the plan!
On Saturday we zoomed off to Siena. A particularly beautiful city built on a hill with fantastic narrow streets, beautiful buildings and lovely open piazzas. Additionally there was a chocolate festival going on in the main square which added to our interest.
Sunday saw a visit to a little town called Torrita di Siena, a small town, on a hill, celebrating a ‘Palio dei Somari’. Not entirely sure what was going on, or why, but we enjoyed a parade through the streets which included a brass band and then 8 sets of different teams all of whom paraded with flag wavers, drummers, what we’d probably describe as a carnival King, Queen, Prince and Princesses, a knight and a priest all dressed in the same costumes. It was very loud in the narrow streets and very colourful. We then finished the day in a temporary arena built in one of the palazzos where the whole processions processed again, prizes were awarded, and then the day finished off with donkey racing – a very unpredictable sport. It ended in chaos with donkeys losing their riders, but still winning races and the crowds rushing onto the track when the winning donkey passed the line.