Fun, fun, fun on the Autostrade
This morning, I prepared for what I was led to believe was one of the most challenging things any human being could ever take on; driving in Rome.
Whilst navigating the myriad on one way streets was, at times, painful, it was no more difficult than a busy day in Sydney or Melbourne. We left around 9am and had a looong commute to the Autostrade, but it was fine.
Our next challenge cam getting onto the Autostrade, which is Italy's super freeway system. We got to the first set of toll gates, so we got out our cash, ready to pay the toll. There was nowhere to pay and only a ticket system. I buzzed the information button and asked the man on the end how to pay for the Autostrade. After a few moments of silence and some muffled Italian through the low quality P.A. system, the boom gates raised up and the light went green. The lovely man had taken pity on us tourist noobs and let us on for free!.......or so we thought.
100kms down the road, we looked to exit the Autostrade at Orvieto. Again we came to the toll gates and this time there was payment facilities, but it was clear we needed to insert our ticket first....um, what ticket?? Again I buzzed the information man and explained to me in Italian to pay first then go to uffici (office) just past the toll gates. The payment came up as 68 Euro; about $98! OK, maybe the office will give us a refund, so I went inside and showed my receipt and explained our predicament. No one in the office spoke English and the guy I spoke to just looked at me like I was a moron.
So, an expensive lesson in foreign freeway use and a cautionary tale to anyone coming to Italy in the future. GET YOUR TICKET WHEN YOU FIRST GET ON THE AUTOSTRADE!!
Orvieto and Siena
I had only read about Orvieto a week or so before leaving Australia. It is a stunning location. A medieval town perched up upon a volcanic outcrop. It is famous for it's strong historical ties to the Papacy. In 1527, Pope Clement VII retreated to Orvieto during the Sack of Rome. It is also famous for it's Duomo di Orvieto and in particular the amazing frescoes in the chapel of Saint Brizzo by Luca Signorelli. Rumour has is that Michelangelo visited the Duomo and was heavily inspired by Signorelli's work, when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
We had lunch in Orvieto for Zoe's birthday and then pushed onto Siena.
Siena is another amazing medieval city, with much of it's old buildings remaining intact. The historical centre of town is heritage listed by UNESCO and it's easy to see why. We hung out in the Piazza del Campo where they hold a crazy horse race called Il Palio, which is run twice every summer. Every evening, the Piazza fills up with people and they just sit around, taking in Siena and all it's glory. We did that for half an hour or so and then found an amazing pastry shop and stocked up on birthday yummies and headed to our Tuscan B&B near Monteriggioni for a well earned rest.