I had a beautiful time my first week in Italy. Sadly, though, the rain got the better of me. In fact, I was in Italy during a record of rain fall. It was this rain fall, which was everywhere throughout the country, that convinced me to cut my time in Italy short and head to Greece. I was really sad about this because I absolutely loved Italy and was dying to explore it more, but alas, Greece called. You can only do so much in a torrential downpour.
While it was awesome that I had the luxury to change my travel plans and head to a sunnier climate, most travelers don’t have that option. I didn’t always have this option either. And I definitely didn’t have this option in Sienna, where it began raining the day I arrived and I wasn’t due to my next destination (where all my stuff was with no way to access it) for another few days.
So I had to improvise. Here’s what I did while it was pouring rain in Sienna:
1) Head to the Tourist Center
I usually go to a tourist center the minute I arrive to a new place, but in Sienna I needed their guidance more than ever. I collected packets of things I could do, including tours, classes, and anything that could possibly teach me about the area without requiring me to be outside.
2) Take Pictures in the Rain (Under an Umbrella)
Might as well get an alternative perspective.
*I went to a fancy place for my slow food lunch. If you don’t want to spend a lot, look for a cafeteria like place that doesn’t have a lot of people where you can sit around for a long time. Or order multiple appetizers, but take your time with each, ordering them separately. Only do this if the place is not busy and you can tell it won’t encumber the staff. In Italy nobody rushes you to eat.
I don’t usually take tours because they’re expensive, but I wanted to see more of Tuscany without getting wet. At least on a tour I would be in a car, safe from the rain, and I’d get to meet other people. As a solo traveler, that was a big plus for me.
After my trip to the Duomo, I headed off to join an organized tour of the Montalcino wine region. First we went to the town of Montalcino itself, which was deserted, but would have been a wonderful place to stay in the summer I’m sure.
(Every year a different local artist creates a plaque to represent that year’s vintage of Montalcino. The stars on each plaque refer to how each vintage was rated. Which makes me wonder how it’d feel to be an artist making a plaque to commemorate a crappy year of Montalcino. I guess it’s still an honor)
Then we went to a church where monks still worshiped.
(We got some moments of dryness and during that time I enjoyed looking out at this beautiful countryside.)
Last, we went to a winery and tasted about 8 different vintages of Brunello di Montalcino. While tasting, and getting more and more tipsy, I made friends with a girl from Utah who agreed to get dinner and drinks with me after the tour.
(Our awesome tour guide who, like so many people I met in Sienna, was from Sicily.)
6) Take Advantage of Night Life.
Night life is really important when it’s raining because it’s the one part of the day when most of the activities take place indoors, all of which are usually accompanied by alcohol 😉
My friend from the Montalcino tour and I decided to spend the night exploring Sienna’s wine scene. First we had a drink at Le Logge (because I loved their Brunello). There we sat at a table with a famous chef who was able to guess our zodiac signs without even speaking with us!
From there we headed to Le Logge’s sister establishment, Un Tunbo, a wine bar and performance space. The entire place was full of young hipster types, probably college students, and the staff went completely out of their way to find two seats for us in the otherwise impenetrable seating area. We sipped down classes of Chianti as we watched an experimental jazz show. Between acts we took breaks outside and my friend gave me and some local girls hula hoop lessons. After that we went to another bar, right on the Plaza del Campo, and ordered Prosecco. A bunch of the youngsters from the show were also hanging out and asked my friend to teach them how to hula hoop. And that’s how it went until 4 a.m. when I finally passed out in my hotel room bed. By that point I was glad I booked a hotel instead of a hostel…even though it was expensive as hell.<A Note About Going Out Drinking When You’re One of the Few Tourists in Town: You’ll notice when you come out in conditions like these, when it’s raining or it’s the off season, that you get extra attention from the locals because there aren’t as many tourists out as usual. Most of the time this is a great thing, but the one problem is that you don’t have as many other travelers like yourself to watch out for you if something goes wrong. In our case, the manager of Le Logge (who also works at Un Tunbo) gave my friend a lot of attention, including free drinks. We thought, “Man, what a nice guy!” Unfortunately, he thought that giving her free drinks meant she owed him something, so at the end of the night he went up to her and kissed her. I grabbed her hand and we left the place right away. To that end, I’d recommend anyone traveling alone in a foreign country have their wits about them when they’re being offered free stuff. It’s a great gesture, but sometimes it comes with a catch! End Note>
All and all, I was definitely able to enjoy Sienna despite the rain. I definitely wouldn’t want to travel in these conditions if I had a choice, but I’m glad I was able to make the best of the situation. I hope you can too!