One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Day 2-Siena and Pisa

Today we started out fairly early. Had breakfast on the rooftop terrace of the Marriott. I didn’t take any pictures of breakfast, but I did capture this cutie who was in a great mood this morning after some much needed sleep.   
We hit the road, heading north out of Rome with our first stop being Cerveteri to see some ancient Etruscian ruins. 

If you’ve never heard of the Etruscans, they were the people before the people. We were influenced by Romans, and Romans were greatly influenced by them. They invented city grid layouts, dug water reservoirs to increase their water supply and therefore their crop yields, invented the arch as a sturdy architectural building form, they dry farmed and they invented tile roofs. 

They were also sort of strange. Their men and women dressed alike. They were fat. The Romans called them “pinguis”, the Greeks called them “Tyrrhenioi” both of which mean pudgy. Ha

They also believed that groups of people only had a finite amount of time on the planet given by the gods. So when the Romans showed up in 1BC, they basically just gave up and became Romans, believing that it was the Roman’s time. 

They were also big believers in afterlife and seemed to put a big emphasis on death. We toured an excavated necropolis or “city of the dead” discovered somewhat recently. Hundreds of tombs, some with wall paintings…and very old, most over 2000 years old.

History says that Emporer Claudius was the last person alive that still spoke Etruscan, even researching for years and writing a 20 volume text about their history, culture and language. Like a true scholar he interviewed elders over the years- even married an Etruscan woman because he believed in the importance of preserving their culture. 

Ironically, there is no evidence of this 20 volume history today. We misplaced it somewhere amongst the conquering. Barbarians…what do you do?

After that we drove past some thermal baths I had read had been used by the Medici…but it was a full parking lot and a bunch of old Italian men in speedos so we decided we were all set and headed for Siena.

The old city is surrounded by medieval city walls built in the 10-11th centuries mostly to defend itself against Florence- it’s traditional sworn enemy. Driving is extremely limited in all of the old city centers so we probably walked 3-4 miles and just crossed our fingers our luggage would still be in our car when we got back. And it was! Even though when we got back there was a guy leaning on our car which freaked me out a little. Ha

For a while I thought we were the only people in the whole city.  
The Piazza Del Campo is the main square. Everyone was already just hanging out here.

 Norah found the water of course…
She wanted to take our picture. Who am I to argue! I never end up in the pictures because I’m always the one taking them!

 The Siena cathedral was unbelievable. Black and white marble gives it such a cool look and the intricate sculpture on the front can’t even be given justice in photos edited on my iPhone.

We couldn’t go inside but there are sculptures by Michaelangelo and Donatello and I grabbed this photo from Wikipedia to demonstrate just how amazing this building is:

  It’s a gothic style church built in the 12-1300s and was designed to be the biggest and best Christian church in the world




   I don’t know the real name of this sculpture but I’m calling it “Fat and Happy”. Like I am this week in Italy.   🙂 

 Butcher. Looking butchy.  


Had our first proper gelato  

We went to a Prosciuteria for lunch and got a sampler board of meats, cheeses, fruits, olives, sun dried tomatoes… It was glorious.


 When we got up to leave, we tucked Norah in with my scarf because it was getting chilly. She kept pretending to sleep every time I took her picture and then begging to see it. Already with the theatrics….
Next we drove another couple hours up to Pisa for the night and decided to check out the Piazza di Mircoli and its famous bell tower.

It’s amazing that a whole city has been reduced to the folly of an engineering mistake in the 1100s. Haha 

 The engineers knew they screwed up quickly- the tower was leaning by the time the third floor was built. Trying to correct it, they put the project on hold. Budgets came and went, wars happened…delaying the completion hundreds of years. Future engineers tried to compensate for the lean and actually tried to cut the stones shorter on one side but the weight of the additional stories just caused it to lean more. Poor tower.

The irony is that if the tower had been completed without the hundred years gap, it most certainly would have fallen over…so we can be thankful for no one knowing how to fix it long enough for the ground to compact and support the future additions. 

 The tower gets all of the attention, but the cathedral and baptistery on the grounds are also stunning- both with very ornate and amazing marble work.   
  After that we walked a few blocks off the square to find a little restaurant for some authentic Italian food. We succeeded after basically interviewing the managers and and inspecting the menus of a few places,  decided on an empty restaurant where the owner was super friendly, spoke a little English and recommended the veal ribs. 🙂  

 Traditional Tuscan food was all he made , so we had Beef Tartare, Kegan had a pork steak of some sort and awesome potatoes and I had a porcini and clam pasta dish. So good. 

    Tomorrow it’s across to Bologna. Foodie paradise. Better get my stretchy pants out of the suitcase. 🙂 


  1. Deana

    Thanks so much for the Italy pics & history. I’ve always wanted to travel to Italy (but gave up that dream years ago) so I am glad I can travel vicariously through you all! (BTW, I’ve always wanted to experience some of the castles and history of Germany, any chance of y’all going there next? LOL)

    • Erin McKinney

      Yes in fact! 🙂 Next summer hopefully. If not, summer of 2017 for sure.

      • Deana

        OMG – great minds think alike…maybe I can be the ‘babysitter’ for that one? lol 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *