Thursday, May 14, 2009


While we were in staying in Florence, we took a day trip to Siena, a small hill town famous for the Palio, its yearly horse race around the main square, Il Campo. The city is much smaller than Florence and surrounded by an old wall. Il Campo, we were told, is frequently called the most beautiful square in the world, and not for no reason. The large size and strange rounded shape certainly make it unmistakable.
Il Campo is surrounded by cafes, restaurants, gelateria, and bars. While we were there, the about-to-graduate class in Siena travelled around to several of the different bars and sang loud Italian songs presumably about moving out of their parents’ basements and not having to hang out the wash anymore.
We made up for our no-gelato day in Florence by going to the best Gelateria around in Siena. Daniel had his first conversation completely in Italian with the man behind the counter. He ordered 2 of a specific size of cup and 3 flavors of gelato, asked and responded to questions about payment, and thanked and said goodbye to the staff without saying an English word.
Siena is also home to a large Duomo, or Cathedral, and a beautiful centuries-old baptistery in the basement of the church. The vaulted ceiling of the baptistery was painted with scenes from the Old and New Testaments and finished with Gold. The walls of the baptistery, like the Duomo and many of the churches around this area, are built with Tuscan Marble in alternating green and white rows. The look of the Tuscan churches is unmistakable. Many of the churches in Italy took several centuries to build, and Siena’s is no different. The lower floor was built in the popular Romanesque style, while the upper floors, built later, are very gothic. If you start at the bottom and work up you can almost see the way architecture got gaudier and form began to be taken more into consideration rather than just function.
Ever since Rome, whenever we go to a new town we decide that we will be retiring there. Siena was no different. The buildings are all medieval and none of them are quite square, the streets are cobblestone, and the paint on the buildings, though bright, is faded because of age. The only problem with retiring in Siena is the fact that it is built on 3 hills, which makes walking a bit of a chore. Maybe by the time we are retirement age, there will be little scooters that are rugged enough to tackle the Sienese hills.

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