We departed at 8:30 AM on Saturday, headed for the city of Siena, located smack in the middle of the Chianti region of Italy, obviously well known for its wine and oil production. We started the day, as usual, with a two hour tour.
Siena's baptistery, which actually looks a lot like Florence's, as far as colors go.
After the tour, we had some free time for lunch. We got a recommendation from the guide, but after wandering around and looking for it, we gave up and settled for the first place that looked decent.
Siena is also known for a treat known as panforte, which literally translates to "strong bread." It has been around since the Crusades, when it was made as a kind of trail mix for the soldiers.
After lunch, we boarded the buses and headed to one of Italy's famous thermal baths. These are actually fueled by heated water that comes from a kind of spring that results from all of the volcanic activity in the area. The water is infused with all kinds of awesome minerals that are good for different systems of your body, depending on what baths you go to. The ones we visited smelled very strongly of sulphur (reminded me of home!), and were supposed to be excellent for your skin, liver, and kidneys.
We spent the afternoon lounging in these heated pools, which were like a warm bath more than hot tub, like I was expecting. It was so relaxing and it brought back all of my desires for a nice hot bath (or hot tub)....
Our hotel for the night was actually not located in Siena, but in a small town called Chiancino, where I shared my room with Marissa and Gillian, while Sam was put in a different room because she signed up a bit late for the trip. We were served a four course meal at the hotel! While the food was...you know, hotel food, it was really nice to be waited on (for free!).
Obviously, we started with bread...
We were STARVING by the time our antipasto came out, so we may have overindulged a little at this point.
Primi piatti was a vegetable soup, which I didn't like so much. Now that I've been spoiled by Mario's and Sergio's thick, delicious soups, brothy just doesn't do it for me anymore.
After dinner, we were all STUFFED and exhausted, so we pretty much just went back to our room and talked for awhile before passing out until morning. We boarded the buses at 9 AM, headed for the Umbrian city of Perugia.
The mandatory two-hour tour included some pretty spectacular views.
After hanging in Perugia until around 2 PM, we boarded a bus bound for the Chianti region of Italy, much closer to Florence than Perugia. The ride was about 2 hours, and full of twists and turns...I felt bad for anyone who gets carsick, because that was an intense bus ride. And the driver seemed to have very little respect for the laws of physics.
Finally, we sampled a sweet dessert wine, which was served with these little cookies...whose name I am blanking on at the moment. You are supposed to dip them in the wine, but after one bite of that, I was done with that little experiment, and enjoyed them separately.