Magical Siena

Trip Start Oct 04, 2006
Trip End Oct 21, 2006

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

A busy day in Siena! Woke up early and had breakfast in a little bar/cafe next to our hotel. Then ambled about, soaking in the cool morning air before meeting everyone at Il Campo at 10:00am.

A very pleasant Siena native showed our group around the city and gave us a very interesting insider's perspective of the city and its history. We got to visit most of the 17 Contrade on our tour and she also took us to the Duomo.

We were lucky because the intricate inlaid marble floors, although roped off, were uncovered and viewable -- something that only happens maybe once a year. The floors and the rest of the cathedral were magnificent! There were masterpieces everywhere you turned including a fresco by Michelangelo...and I loved the pulpit, resting on the backs of marble lions.

We then got to see an exciting short movie about the Palio, the horse race that takes place in Il Campo twice a year. The rich and dramatic history of Siena is fascinating...and wouldn't it be wonderful to experience the Palio first hand? Maybe someday...

From our guide, we had already heard a bit about the keen competition that takes place between the Contrade and the shame of coming in 2nd against your worst rival. (That's what happened to the Eagle Contrada this year when they lost against their bitter enemy, the Panther.) She, herself, is a member of the Shell Contrada...but admitted that everyone wished the Owls would finally win (their losing streak goes back to 1979)just so that they'd quit complaining!

After the movie, we were on our own for lunch. We had a delicious sandwich and birra nazionale for lunch...then rejoined Stephanie for another walk around the city. She took us to the Roman Gates and, eventually, to St. Catherine's sanctuary and church where St. Catherine's preserved finger and head are on display. It's a beautiful cathedral.

Went back to the hotel for a shower...but there was no hot water (what an awful place -- never stay at Hotel Piccola Palio!) So we sponged off and joined everyone for drinks an dinner at Trattoria da Gano at 7pm. Yummy food, good wine -- but sad/fond farewell to Stephanie and our traveling companions.

Tomorrow---off to Cinque Terra!
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