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Back at home in Australia sometimes you’ll find us engaged in banter at the pub with our neighbours from New Zealand. We’ll give each other a little good-humoured grief about our accents and get into heated debates about who boasts the best cities.
We can make fun of each other at home, you know? But overseas when we run into an Antipodean on our travels we more often than not stick together.
It’s a little like how in your family you can make fun (within reason, obviously) of siblings or cousins, but if someone else tries to, we’ll automatically defend the other.
A lot of this mateship goes back to war times, and on 25 April each year our nations commemorate Anzac Day to observe when our troupes landed at Gallipoli in 1915.
Today Anzac Day still stands as one of our nations’ most important occasions and is marked by a public holiday each year, as well as moving dawn services and daytime military marches.
Incidentally, it’s also my birthday.
Indeed, many of us make the pilgrimage to Gallipoli in Turkey for special dawn ceremonies.
And, there are always services in London including a dawn service at the Australian War Memorial, Hyde Park Corner which is – you might be surprised to know – usually overflowing with attendees.
If you have spent any time travelling or living abroad, you’ll appreciate that the sense of patriotism is often stronger when you’re away from home.
Add that to an emotional national day and you’ll usually find a hive of expats huddling together flying their flag.
On Anzac Day, Aussies and Kiwis unite, and being this far away – just as our men were 102 years ago – it’s a poignant moment to be part of.
It’s for this reason that I jumped on an opportunity that a colleague at work – a lovely lady from New Zealand – told me about.
Each year our High Commission offers passes to special ceremonies, and those with an Australian or New Zealand passport can apply.
You can try this link from the beginning of each year (or if it’s not working, Google ‘Anzac Day London High Commission’).
You must apply for passes to attend this special service, held at the Cenotaph war memorial in Whitehall, and followed by a church service at Westminster Abbey up the road.
Here’s a sample of what we experienced:
The day was moving and memorable. Highly recommended – add the task to your diary from February next year. We’ll definitely do this again.
It’s odd that I’d always known about this word, ‘Siena’, and it’s been one of my favourites ever since I was a child (along with, oddly enough, Calais which is a place in France).
Little did I know this is a mysterious medieval city in Italy; an absolutely aspirational destination– if I won the lotto I’d totally move here. We just had the chance to visit! Here’s our top Siena travel tips.
Siena is one of those cities that you can easily wander around in, so give yourself time to get lost.
There’s plenty of little alleyways you’ll come across, walk up and down hills; around corners and discover magical old churches and homes.
Of course, the city boasts several highlights such as its cathedral and towers that rival those of its once-enemy, Florence.
There are walking tours available if you have time; museums, galleries and so much more – next time I’ll definitely stay for a night or two and I’d recommend other travellers do the same.
Siena would also be a good base to explore the region due to its train and coach transport links, and it’s just a really nice city!
Siena is pretty and oh-so-Instagrammable so take your time. Wear comfortable shoes and take water though, as it gets hot here in summer.
Find your way back
It’s fine to get lost but at some point you’ll want to find your way out of the old town again.
For this reason we strongly suggest that you arrange reliable roaming data for your trip here (and across all of Tuscany) because you can access Google Maps for directions.
Even then we found that we often landed up against a wall – unable to walk through, we combined tech with tips from locals to make our way.
Food with a view
Siena’s old town centres on the extraordinary Piazza del Campo where people-watching is the thing to do.
There are over-priced restaurants selling mostly pizza and pasta that surround this area and you’re really only paying for the view.
Cooper discovered a one-off though, a pub called San Paolo which sells yummy toasted paninis, beer and boasts a small balcony overlooking the spectacle. If you’re swift, you too can indulge for less! This pub opened just after midday when we were there.
For other options off the expensive tourist trail, keep an eye out for little bars and restaurants in the back streets, or even away from the old town and on the way towards where street traffic is allowed.
How to get there
We’ve already mentioned in our clips and blogs that you are better off with a car in Tuscany.
Siena, like in Florence, strictly limits traffic in the old town so you need to park outside.
Some car parks charge around €35 per day!
The car park at the Siena train station is a bargain – we were only charged €2.50 for around eight hours.
To get to the old town from here though is about 25 minutes’ walk – usually not a problem for us but it’s up a very, very steep hill that’s also busy with traffic.
Jump on bus no. 3 or 10. The bus station is underneath the shopping centre (which conveniently, also has a big supermarket).
You need to buy a ticket from the transit machine that will cost about €1.20 (one way). It’s a bit tricky as it’s in Italian so aim for an ‘urban’ pass that comes to about this amount, or ask a local – they were so helpful, quite often walking us a distance to ensure we were on the right track!
Get off at the last stop or one closest to the old city centre – about five minutes bus ride from the train station.
Coming back, you need to find the bus station which is in a different place from where you get off the bus. Again, don’t forget to buy a ticket that will be zoned as ‘urban A’ for around €1.20 for a single.
Siena is a truly wonderful Italian find.
I somehow knew the word, but not the destination until now.
Highly recommended on your Italian travel itinerary.
Do you have questions or tips? Let us know in the comments.
Ciao for now.
PS if you’d like more Tuscany, we captured some beautiful photos that are published here on Flickr.
Travel Live Learn is a popular lifestyle blog + vlog by Sarah Blinco and Cooper Dawson. We're expat Aussies in London, informing and inspiring through travel, stories and social media. Whenever we get the chance, we're out and about exploring, creatively channelling our curiosity into digital content, and there’s always a dog… somewhere. Find out more