(excerpted from my voluminuous diary of a trip to Tuscany 12-26 September 1994)

Siena

please click on small photos to see enlargements

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photo Siena Piazza del Campo ©ejm94,00 (jpg 4.98kb)

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Monday 19 September 1994
Our two Parisian friends Gh and C joined us at VolPaia and taking two cars, we drove to Siena. We arrived at last at about 11:00. We found a parking garage about 15 minutes stroll from the main square. There were zillions of tourists, mostly German and American but some English and even Japanese.

In the main square, G said it was too difficult to keep 7 people together so we agreed to split into three groups and to meet at the fountain in the main square at 5:00.

I bought stamps and postcards. For some reason they are insisting it cost L.1100 to Canada. I said to one lady that I would buy postcards only then. She was very angry. At another place, I insisted on paying L1000. The man said if I wanted 1000 I'd get 1000 but it was wrong. I guess we'll find out if nobody receives the dozens of cards I've sent out with L1000 stamps on them. (no problem, all postcards arrived....) T and I went for too much lunch just off the Piazza del Campo. I had risotto and salad; he had crostini and veal chops which were delicious. But it was expensive at L33000 for the two of us.

At 3:30 everything was closed except for some tourist places on the Piazza del Campo. T stretched out in the sun to join the other sleeping tourists. He slept for half an hour as I wrote postcards and perused the map to see where we could walk to see the most things in the space of a couple of hours. It was beautiful and quiet even though we were sitting in the midst of hundreds of people. photo Il Duomo Siena Cathedral ©TPH94 (jpg 1.69kb)At about 4:00, we walked over towards Il Duomo. We stopped in at a school of music and I paid my respects to St. Cecilia, the patron saint of musicians.

We arrived at the cathedral. T asked if I wanted to go in. I said okay, although I would have walked on, contented with looking at the outsides of all these wonderful buildings. But he was right to go in. It was spectacular with a navy blue vaulted ceiling that had gold stars on it. The marble floor had many scenes. There were many many tourists and part of the floor where we walked was covered with a carpet of spongy cheap flooring to protect the marble from thousands of tourist feet tromping on it daily. I wonder what fabulous things we walked on but didn't see. We passed by a library of illuminated music scores that cost L2000 to go into. I said I wanted to look but wouldn't be long. T said he'd wait outside in the sun.... It was amazing. I walked out of the dimly lit magnificence of the cathedral into a brightly lit spectacularly painted room with gold and frescos everywhere. I almost burst into tears at the beauty. The illuminations were remarkable. One letter (an "O" I think, or perhaps a "D") had a minuiature of Christ kneeling and God looking down from a cloud that was made of angels' heads. There was a lot of gold in all the illuminations as well as on the frescoes and ceilings. I was clearly not going to be just a few minutes. I willed T to come in. After about 10 minutes, there was T's face looking around the door at me enquiringly asking if I was coming out soon. His face transformed when he saw what wonders were there and he too entered in to be amazed.

That library alone is worth the trip to Italy. (I bought a postcard picture of the interior but copyright law prevents me from putting it on these pages.)

Dazed, we walked out of the church and around back towards Piazza del Campo. We took some back streets where was laundry hanging out. We saw a lady hanging her huge table cloth from her third floor window.photo clock tower piazza del campo ©TPH94 (jpg 1.69kb)

photo bell tower piazza del campo ©TPH94 (jpg 1.69kb)We all met back in the square and then G, P, Gh, T and I climbed the clock tower of the city hall(?) C and J stayed in the square below to sit in the sun and drink coffee. The climb was long and a bit claustrophobic but the view at the end was spectacular.

photo bell tower down into piazza del campo ©TPH94 (jpg 1.69kb)There was simply a ladder to climb to the final platform just under the bell put in in 1666. (the tower was built in 1334) P went up before I did and I stupidly put my hand on the step of the ladder under P's foot; I thought for about 15 minutes that maybe I was going to change the day of my flight and get to stay in Italy because I had broken my thumb. But, too bad, it's fine so I'll have to go home.

We got down to the bottom and sat around waiting til our dinner reservation at a restaurant P and Gh had found. T had asked at a coffee bar and the fellow had thought about it carefully and had given us 3 names of restaurants, one of which was the one we were going to.

T and J went to the pharmacy to get J some medicine and they had an hilarious time. T said it was one of those perfect times that he understood everything and that he remembered what words to say. He finally got to use his favourite phrase that he learned in Toronto "Is there a reduction for the ancient?" Apparently, that caused gales of laughter from all. T & J came back to us having been successful in their purchase (but no reduction for the ancient...) J was still laughing when they got back.

photo siena wall ©ejm94 (jpg 1.91kb)We headed to the restaurant Osteria le Logge (just off Piazza del Campo). Just in the entrance way was a large table filled with two baskets of porcini mushrooms and one plate of truffles. Two men were seated, paring the mushrooms and shaving the truffels. One of the men looked exactly like Pavarotti! It turns out that "Pavarotti" owns the restaurant and produces the wine Rosso di Montalcino. The food and ambience was spectacular. It couldn't have been better.

The dining room was beautiful with glass doored shelves all around that may have been book shelves but now are filled with wine bottles. On the counters under the shelves were cakes, biscotti, tomatoes, olive oil, etc. etc.

Verdacia di Sanmarino 1993
fettucine al porcini
Rosso di Montalcino 1991
T: veal steak beautifully grilled
E: chicken with parsley caper sauce
grilled mixed vegetables
poppy seed cake with chocolate sauce

L55000 each

J had some amazing gnocchi - very rich but delicious. I don't know what the others had. C had never had poppy seed before. He didn't like it much. Too weird for him.

We walked back to the car (approx L50000 to fill tank with gas and L170000 for parking) We arrived back to Vol Paia at midnight and crashed. What a great day.

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Siena Train Station, Sunday 25 Sept 10:45 am
We're on the train waiting to depart for Rome with a change in Chiusi.

G awakened us at 7:30 with the idea that we would leave at 8:30. We were ready early so we left about 8:15. We arrived in Siena in no time. (about 9:15) We went into the train station to buy our tickets for Rome. The ticket seller looked really surprised and said for the 10:55? We said for the 10:10. No. the schedule changed today. And the time changed today. We are off daylight savings. Suddenly it wasn't 9:15 but 8:15. According to the old schedule, there was a train at 8:10. We thought we had just missed a train. We must remember to tell G that we didn't just miss the 8:10; we missed the 7:35.

The three of us had breakfast in the station. We had to buy the chit for breakfast then take the chit to the bar for breakfast to be prepared. Then G headed back to VolPaia and T and I checked our luggage in the baggage room (L1500 per bag for each 24 hours. T paid L3300 per day for his bicycle in Milan.)

We then walked into old Siena. The housing close to the train reminded us of Calcutta. (the nice part of Calcutta) There were quite nice apartments with balconies that had lots of plants and hanging baskets of flowers. everything was closed because it is Sunday.

We got into the main square. There were not a lot of people about. Some of the postcard stalls were open and one restaurant was open with a few more were just opening. We wandered about a little bit through the streets, looking for an open grocery store. It was either too early or Sunday. Everything was still shut tight except a few tourist shops.

We then sat in the square for a bit and watched an Italian boy, about 10, playing alone on the piazza with some Palio flags that his parents had bought for him. photo boy with flag on Piazza del Campo ©TPH94 (jpg 1.69kb) He was at times standing still thoughtfully anad other times running so the flags would be unfurled, racing with all the other imaginary horses. It was strange to be virtually alone on that giant square that had been so full of people just a few days before.

11:05 am We walked back to the station. It was peaceful and beautiful. The air was close and warm with the sky overcast slightly, making it bright but hazy. We got to the station at 10:40 and saw that the train was there waiting. On the platform were a number of young German backpackers who were sitting in a circle singing folksongs. We got on the train and left at ll:02 for Rome and my final day in Italy....



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