Friday, November 20, 2009

Inspiration: Siena

With a fabulous hotel nestled in the heart of Tuscany we set in for a few days of relaxation and a slower pace of life that only the Tuscan's can create.

In Siena the city center is walkable in a half a day and major sites are clearly marked. Our first stop of the day was the grandiose cathedral, the Duomo. Construction began on the Duomo in the 12th century- hard to believe something so massive and detailed could be so old! In the 1300's plans were made for an addition that would rival Italy's other prominent cathedrals but construction was never completed.

Having seen on a prior trip to Italy the Duomo in Florence and St. Peter's Basilica (stay tuned for the next post) I wasn't expecting much however I was incredibly impressed and in awe of the fantastic mosaic floors, craftmanship and famous artists that contributed to its creation.

As I mentioned in the last post I could go on and on about the beauty and awe of this cathedral but I'd spend two pages telling you about all the history and details. Like I said... Rick Steves.

And, also as I mentioned last post, Siena is home to Palio which takes place in the Piazza del Campo. We grabbed fabulous pizzas and vino for lunch on Il Campo and people watched while eating al fresco.

After lunch Andrew and I decided we'd like to climb the Torre del Mangia (the tower of Siena). I don't remember how many steps it was but I do remember almost having a panic attack- the stairs are so narrow that you have to step carefully and duck your head to not hit the cramped steps above you. Because of the close quarters only 25 people are allowed at a time but the view is spectacular. (I had to include this cool picture of the bowled piazza. Even though the tower walls are 11 feet thick on either side I was worried when they sad it "shifts in the wind.")

This was just one of the breathtaking views from the top. Funny story. We reached the look out and there were two others up top. One was wearing a Hope College t-shirt. (For those unfamiliar Hope College is in Holland, Michigan.) After asking if he attended Hope this world traveler was a fellow Michigander. Small world.

With our feet on solid ground again we wondering the Sienese streets. Many ancient charms still remain- like these awesome hooks and rings where riders used to tie their horses.

There were beautiful pottery shops everywhere. The vibrant colors and intricate patterns are captivating. I purchased a small piece from a local artist but I adored these tiles representing the many neighborhoods of Siena and their coats of arms. And since I've been traveling I have discovered my love for gated courtyards and the vines that hold their secrets. (I have a fabulous shot of wisteria vines at Windsor Castle in England in my office.)

As the sun set on another gorgeous day in Italy (my heaven on earth) we made our way to the grocery store and gathered a feast for the ages... Parmesan cheese, focaccia bread, salami, prosciutto and a bottle of Chianti Classico. I slept well even though all through the trip Andrew and I either shared a bed or a bedroom. Praise God I had my own bed this leg of the trip because his snoring was horrible!

We woke with more sun and a warm breeze. Since we had no adjenda other than making our bus at 3:00 at the station (this time we were prepared) to head to Rome our morning was relaxed with the exception of the three cappuccinos Dad, Andrew and I each had. Our server/cook at the Villa was a fantastic barista! Once the caffine was mixed thoroughly with my blood stream I was ready to go and had a one track mind for gelato.

The front desk attendant called a cab and we were off to wander Siena's streets one last time. And look what we found...

Even though I was fixated on my pinapple, coconut and cherry vanilla gelato I managed to focus just long enough across Il Campo to find none other than an Italian wedding.

It was so sweet and intimate. The couple and guests walked from the church to this charming restaurant right on the pizza called La Biblioteca. It appeared as if they had rented the entire establishment and they sang, danced and dined on Siena's biggest stage. I loved her bouquet- you can see it slightly above in my paparazzi picture (I had to hide my camera under the gelato to not look like a freaky tourist).

The perfect ending to the most perfect taste of Tuscany. Each time I take a bite, enjoy and leave wanting more... till next time.

Our journey back to Rome was not as exciting as our journey to Siena however when we arrived I was ready to take on the chaos and as i said, "bella chaos!"


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