Saturday, 21 ottobre 2006
“It rarely rains in Siena…” ~ Rick Steves, Florence and Tuscany 2007
Guess we just got lucky! I kind of enjoyed the rain. It was the good drenching kind that gardeners and ducks appreciate, and it gave me a different perspective. When we arrived at Spannocchia, I noticed that it was very dry. I’m sure that they welcomed the rain, too.
The bus let us off at the bottom of the hill and we walked up to the famous center of Siena, Il Campo. The first thing we all did was sit down under some tents at a caffe, have some hot drinks, and make plans for splitting up and meeting later. Sandino and I opted to go to the Duomo and take advantage of “free” admission (included in our class fees). We had somehow missed going inside any churches or cathedrals in Firenze, although the outsides of those structures were quite impressive.
The inside of Siena’s Duomo was magnificent. If you’ve ever tried to photograph the inside of a cathedral, you understand that it is not possible to do it right. I was able to get a bit of a sense of it without my flash. The inlaid marble mosaics on the floor probably got as much of my attention as anything (see the photo at the bottom of this post for a famous one), but this was easily the most beautiful indoor space I have ever seen.
Sandino and I walked in and out of shops for most of the rest of the time, but we didn’t buy anything. Sandy wasn’t interested in the food shops and I wasn’t interested in much else, so we finally went back to the same caffe overlooking the Campo and had a couple of birre (beers). Carol joined us and we started swapping stories about Greensboro, and eventually others drifted in. The waitresses began bringing out free appetizers that were really good, so it was hard to restrain myself, but we were about to go eat a major meal at a restaurant. I enjoyed just kicking back with some good companions, looking out at people reappearing on the sidewalks as the rain subsided, and watching the restaurant staffs getting their places ready for the evening crowds.
When we got to Antica Trattoria Papei, we found that they put our group in a separate room. I’m sure that they thought that this was special, but I looked forward to a more authentic restaurant experience in the midst of the other diners. I suppose that was hard with a group of nineteen. Nevertheless, the meal was wonderful and our server was gregarious and friendly. I wish that I had jotted down notes about the meal, but I do remember that the waiter would not tell us what the meat spread on the crostini was until after we tasted it – spleen – and that the secondo was pheasant with a contorno of spinach, and that I finally tasted grappa after the meal – whew – and that I was so thoroughly stuffed that I thought that someone would have to roll me to the bus. We had several toasts and it was a little sad for me – this was our last dinner as a group in Italy.
Firenze is much more convenient to an airport, but I wish that we had spent a couple of nights in Siena. It was an interesting place, and very beautiful. When I go to Spannocchia this summer, maybe I’ll get to go back and see it in a different light and season.
To be continued…