Friday, October 9, 2015

Moving on to Siena

My friend Anne came today to look at pictures from the Italy/France trip.  As I shared some of those experiences with her, I was motivated to continue my reflections on this blog.
View on Road from Rome to Siena
We'd been in Rome for five days.  On June 28, Maggie and I took a 3 hour bus ride from Rome to Siena, a great way to see the country we were passing through.  There were fields of sunflowers, mountains in the distance; vineyards, gardens, olive trees - all the things you expect and find in such abundance.  As we travelled north we caught our first glimpses of some of the hill towns which just feel magical. I was so excited that we'd actually be staying in such a place for a few days. 

Basilica of San Domenico
We arrived mid afternoon and were able to walk from the bus stop to our hotel, the Alma Domus, a sweet retreat, somewhat reminiscent of being in a convent, though with more amenities.   One wall adjoined the building that used to be the home where Catherine of Siena lived, and her church, the Basilica of San Domenico, towered over us. In the late afternoon we could hear visitors singing vespers in the little chapel that was built on the grounds of her home.
Siena is small enough that you can easily orient yourself to find the main sites: the Campo, which is the town square, the Duomo - which is a huge, gloriously ornate church, the Pinacoteca - a wonderful gallery of paintings, as well as the main shopping areas.

View from Alma Domus to the Duomo
The guide book said that you could pretty much see what is to see in half a day.  Perhaps that is true if you're just wanting to glance at each attraction.  But if medieval art and architecture are of any interest, then you need at least two full days. And if you want to spend any time browsing through the weekly open air market, people watching as you enjoy a gelato, sketching, photographing, writing - you could easily fill a few more days and still want more.
We happened to be there during Palio week.  This is a horse race held in the town square once in July, once in August. It attracts people from all over - the town is packed with tourists. We hadn't planned this, would not have chosen to be there then - and yet, I wouldn't have missed it. I'll write another post about it.
At the end of the afternoon of our initial explorations, we bought a bottle of wine, some good crackers and cheese, and found a bench out of the way to sit and relax, to soak up the late sunshine, and to pinch ourselves - we felt so lucky to be there.