Monday, October 05, 2009

The Odyssey

First there was Tartarus.

It is not easy to get from the Siena train station, 2km out of town, to the historic centre. Usually I prefer to walk if I can, but Lonely Planet obscured the position of the station on their map with the reference listing. They say in the guide, “buses Nos 8, 9 and 10 run between the train station and Piazza Gramsci” at the edge of the pedestrianised old town. This is not entirely true, as it suggests a shuttle which goes to and fro. What they neglect to state is that the number 10 does not simply return to the train station. It continues on to tour the outlying Siena suburbs in a 40km loop, for which I waited 20 minutes to do on a bus with no shocks helmed by Slayer’s ex-drum roadie working the pedals over roads patched more times than a chain smoker gone cold turkey before being returned to the spot where I boarded. I understand that getting lost is part of travelling, but this is one time that the otherwise reliable Lonely Planet has failed.

I got off the bus where I got on and walked the two kilometres to the train station, where I found that the 18:41 train didn’t arrive or even exist, despite being posted on the timetable. The missing 19:18 must go to the same destination. So, I tried to catch the 19:41 which, according to the departures board, was leaving from platform 1 TR. At 19:38, when a train berthed at platform 1, naturally I boarded. But you see, Siena train station has six platforms, 1 through 5. It’s perfectly logical: there is a hidden platform, actually in the dark, at the far end of platform 1 and obscured by the building, called “Platform 1 Tronco (truncated).” When the train I boarded wasn’t moving by 19:45 I realised that it was indicating a different destination, and after some scrambling noticed somebody running into the dark at the end of the platform and boarding a train—my train—which promptly departed.

So, I finally caught the 20:18. In the end, it took me an hour and forty-five minutes to get to Siena and five hours to return. I was aiming to get back before sunset so I could at least get a photo of the one thing I can now say I have not seen despite having been to Pisa—the Leaning Tower.

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