Saturday, June 26, 2010

Siena


Siena is a small medieval city in the heart of Tuscany. I’d first heard about Siena when I decided to study abroad in Italy. I was wavering between Siena and Rome, and in the end decided to pursue my classical education as opposed to my Italian language and culture, and I applied to the Rome program. The situation was moot after a while though, as Andrew and I decided to instead study in Denmark. Even after all these years, Siena still held a fascination for me, but upon arriving, I was happy that I didn’t end up there: the whole city is a labyrinth of winding streets that climb and drop, worse than San Francisco. It’s a real strain on the muscles as anywhere you go requires both climbing up one street and then down another to reach your destination.

Our arrival in Siena was a little disappointing as there was a bus strike. This meant that even though our hostel was less than 2km away, we couldn’t reach it as 1) we only had directions by bus and 2) we had way too much baggage to be attempting serious hiking in the heat. Luckily there was another couple traveling to the same campsite as us, and we commiserated together about the horrors of European strikes, which happen frequently and always inconveniently. After 1 ½ hours of waiting, we had just decided to get a taxi when the bus showed up. Figures. We rented a mobile home for the weekend, which was a nice change from the hostel, even though it was obviously more expensive. We spent some time around the pool before heading into town. The walk into town was about 40 minutes by foot, and a little taxing in the heat. I really liked the old medieval walls, the tall buildings, and the winding cobblestone pedestrian streets that make up the city. We stopped by the town hall and city square, El Campo, to find that they were setting up for the famous Il Palio horse race on July 2nd. We’re a little disappointed that we won’t be there for the race. We also drooled over the Duomo, or cathedral, with it’s green and pink façade and black stripes that make me think that if ever Tim Burton designed a cathedral, it would look like this. It’s simply one of the most amazing churches I’ve ever seen.

For dinner that night we stopped at the nearby grocery store and stocked up on sandwich fixings. We had salami, prosciutto, and smoked mozzarella cheese, and added in the sun-dried tomatoes and basil olive oil our French friends gave us as a parting gift. With a nice bottle of white wine and blackberry pie for dessert, we stayed up late talking to two Australian travelers in the camper next to ours.

Our 2nd day in Siena was a lazy day. We slept in late and then headed to town around lunch time, where we took advantage of huge slices of pizza for only 1.50. We headed to San Domenico church, where Saint Catherine took her vows and left pieces of her body. She died in Rome, but Siena felt left out so Rome sent the city Saint Catherine’s head and thumb, as well as the whip she used to flagellate herself. I have to say, Catholics are strange people sometimes. We hope to see her body in Rome when we visit next week.

The highlight of our day was a visit from Meagan, a friend with whom I worked at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. Meagan has also been trotting around the world, and has been in Italy for a couple of months as her fiancé Keith was signed to the baseball team here. She lives near Bologna, but was in Tuscany for the weekend because Keith had a game. She drove up to Siena to wander the streets with us and eat dinner. Tomorrow we’re heading north to her place to visit, relax, and hopefully take some day trips to Verona and Mantua.

Sidenote: My spellcheck won’t accept “prosciutto” as a word. It keeps trying to change it to “prostitute.”

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the blog! If you want to keep up with your Italian online or on your iPhone a good service is Babbel.com (http://www.babbel.com). Buon viaggio!

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