Saturday, June 23rd:
This is becoming a pattern. Lincoln politely crept into our room about 8:30am. I had been awake for about 30min and was just preparing to go downstairs to start on a big omelet breakfast. I sautéed zucchini, mushrooms, onions, grated fresh parmesan and mozzarella, diced tomatoes, basil and ham and fried up some pancetta. Then everyone selected their ingredients like a hotel omelet station, and Bryan cooked them up. Delish! I think we finally headed out the door about 1:30pm for Siena.
The Duomo was first on our list. It’s my favorite cathedral in Italy – I’ve not seen them all, but I like this one best of the ones I have seen.
I took this same picture 12 years ago when Jenny P and I came here. It looks the same, and I still love it.
Lincoln was actually interested in all of the detail inside, so we walked around together talking about what we liked best. He lit a candle outside of the Chapel of the Virgin Mary and then we made our way over to a special exhibit – or at least I think it’s a special exhibit. I don’t remember it from before. There is a fantastic collection in a side room dedicated to giant texted featuring beautiful illuminated manuscripts. You couldn’t take pictures, but the entire circumference of the room is lined with frescos and illuminated manuscripts. Utterly lovely. Even Lincoln was impressed.
Finished up the Duomo and waited on the steps for everyone to catch up. A traveling choir began an impromptu song while we sat on the steps. It was beautiful and echoed off the stone courtyard. Our group considered singing Love Shack in response but decided against it. I did take a few minutes while siting to offer up a bit of gratitude for my recent shoe purchase. I have put a few miles on rough cobble stones streets in these babies and they have been like walking on a cloud. My feet have not ached, my toes are not blistered, nor have my legs felt miserable. Huge victory on the shoe front! Birks for the win!
I think we then went on a quest for the gelato and found the largest and most expensive ones around!
This stuff was huge and the picture really doesn’t do it justice! It’s already 6pm, and none of us are hungry for our 7pm dinner reservation. Oh and when you’re name is Siena, all sorts of things are perfect!
We wandered around some of the side streets and stumbled into a ceramic shop. I was terrified to have the kids walk in the shop lined with 4 walls of breakable items, but they immediately flocked and stood in silent wonder, watching the elderly gentleman diligently crafting in the back. He lifted his head from his work and smiled at the kids as they watched him creating his latest masterpiece. It was a marvel, and I, too, found myself mesmerized by the spinning plate by his one hand and his artistic touches with the other. There was something different about his pieces from all of the other pieces in all of the other pottery shops we had visited over the past several days. I purchased some blue and white pieces to compliment our white dishes at home. The artist, Walter, has been painting the same pattern I purchased for 25 years. His two daughters also work with him – one is a potter like him and the other is a painter. The shop is called Bianco e Nero – white and black. He threw in a free Christmas ornament, asked us to mark Austin on his map of patrons and requested I send him a picture of us sitting at our table at home with his plates on the table. I loved him and can’t wait to use his amazing dishes he tells me will be perfect in the microwave since they are lead free and in the dishwasher because he cures them at a high temp for a long time. I really was giddy. Bryan couldn’t care less about pottery, but even he loved this little guy. Just look at him!
I floated across the cobble stones to dinner. There are 17 different Contrade (neighborhoods/wards) in Siena. Each neighborhood has a different crest and competes in the annual hose race in the town center – Palio di Siena. The race is insane if you haven’t heard of it and the day after we were there they filled the square with packed dirt in preparation for the July 2nd and August 16 race each year. Each week leading up to the race, the neighborhoods have parties and parades with drums and flag throwing to celebrate their champion or the previous victors. We caught the first and last of the Leocorno (unicorn) contrade’s party while wondering around and then before dinner. Everyone sports a contrade scarf and dressing in blue and orange. Pretty festive and similar to the sea of burnt orange on UT game days.
The last time I was in Siena, I had the most amazing pasta with wild boar -Pappardelle con ragu di cinghiale alla toscana. Soooo good. I ordered it at Osteria Da Gano and wasn’t disappointed. Just the best flavor. So full. Really full. Just don’t know how we keep eating but we do! Wandered our way back to the car and grabbed my most favorite picture of the trip so far.
Siena at sunset. Pretty great.