Saturday, December 1, 2012

Proud to Be a Caterpillar

Nov 26

Waking up at a decent hour is actually harder than you think it will be when you've walked several hundred miles in the last week, your feet are threatening to secede from your body, and for some reason you can't get to bed before midnight (local time, not home time).

But, we got up and ready and were out the door by I think 9:30.  Go us!  The bus for Siena left at 10:15ish (we had some time to kill at the bus station once we walked there).  The ride lasted almost an hour and a half, and with that plus walking/wandering in a somewhat sleepy stupor through the slanty streets of Siena (do you want more alliteration?), we got to the Piazza del Campo just around noon, just in time to hear the giant bell tower at the Palazzo Pubblico ringa-linga-ding-dong-ing.

Il Campo!
We got some pizza slices (mine was boring cheese, Sam's was prosciutto and eggplant-- trying to show me up on the "interesting pizza" thing from yesterday) for lunch that were actually a tad disappointing and tasted almost like Costco pizza.  To make up for it, we got gelato.  Sam ordered one he thought was blueberry, but the guy acted all confused, so Sam pointed, the man corrected him with the actual flavor, Sam didn't recognize it but got it anyway, and it turned out to be cherry.  Good story.

Siena actually turned out to be kind of a boring town.  Maybe it was the complete dearth of people.  Was it because it's Monday?  Was it because it's the end of November?  Was it because everywhere we go we leave a trail of emptiness and decimation?

Anyway, we walked around a bit (it is kind of a pretty Medieval town, after all) and then decided to go the Duomo, which is dedicated I believe to Santa Maria Anunnziata or something.  Everything we read about it hailed it as bigger, better, prettier, more astounding, more everything, than any church outside of Rome, especially the duomo Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.

Il duomo.
The inside was indeed amazing, but since we haven't been to the duomo here in Florence yet, I can't really compare.  The floors, actually, were also quite impressive.  The pavements in the church are entirely composed of marble mosaics.  Many parts are just geometric patterns covered in carpet so people can walk on the floor, but many areas are of giant scenes of battles, biblical stories, crowds, etc.  It's pretty interesting.  The inside of the dome is also very pretty.  At this cathedral there is a tomb for some bishop or other done by Donatello, and some altar with four smallish statues of apostles and popes done by "a young Michelangelo," who was originally commissioned to do 15 statues for the altar, but ditched it in the middle of the project for better prospects doing the David for Florence.  That man.

Rikkin tikkin stripes
Marble mosaics
After the duomo, we walked around some more.  Something interesting about Siena is that it is divided into 17 neighborhood areas called "contradas," which I guess are kind of like houses in Harry Potter, because they have rivalries, particularly during the Palio races.  Other times of the year, no one cares as much, but during the races it can get almost deadly.  Anyway, each contrada has an animal (or in the case of Forest and Wave, an inanimate object) that represents the area.  There are ones like the eagle, unicorn, panther, etc, that seem pretty regal and awesome, but there are also ones like the caterpillar, giraffe, and porcupine that really just make me laugh.  We were hoping to find a Contrada Gift Shop or something so we could get awesome silly animal keychains for everyone, but apparently there is no such thing, a grave oversight.

Siena's streets
Noble indeed.

I think we're in Giraffe territory now...
Anyway, we walked down to the farthest reaches of the Giraffe/Caterpillar border to find the monastery type thing for the order of San Bernardino or somebody.  Unfortunately, it was closed to tourists for the winter, but we did pause to watch cute Italian kids shouting in joy as they played jump rope and kicked a ball around in the little piazza.

The Monastery: closed for the winter
We walked back to the bus stop and waited (not long) for the bus back to Florence.  I slept pretty much the whole way, so it was uneventful.  After returning, we walked into the historic center to view and photograph the facade of the Spedale degli Innocente, a hospital/orphange for which Brunelleschi was the architect.  I forget why it's supposed to be important, but it was still a cool building, with creepy medallions of wrapped-up babies between the arches.  Down the street was the duomo, and there were Christmas lights strung between the buildings.  It was very quaint.

Florentine Christmas evening
It was still too early for many places to be open for dinner, so we walked back home, blew our noses , and sat around for a little while.  It was nice to rest.

Around 7, we walked back across the Ponte Vecchio into town and found that most every restaurant was still closed!  Apparently Monday evenings are slow so people don't even bother to open.  We did finally find a place in front of the Palazzo Vecchio that was open, and the menu looked tasty, so we sat down.

For an appetizer (actually, it came with the other food) we got what was listed as "vegetable soup," which the waiter ordered as "minestrone," and what actually turned out to be butternut squash soup.  For the main course, Sam got gnocchi and I got lasagna al forno (do not judge, lasagna al forno is completely different from lasagna bolognese…ahem).  We decided that this would be our big meal in Florence, so we also ordered dessert.  Sam got tiramisu and I got a chocolate torts, which was actually kind of like those chocolate pudding-pies, only warm.  It was very tasty.  We sat and talked for a while, ignored about 6 or 7 rose-sellers, and then walked home.

It is most definitely time for bed.  Not only are we exhausted and going to wake up a little earlier tomorrow to head up to Florence's biggest and best-priced market, but we are both coming down with colds.  Sam's is ahead of mine, but I have been feeling mine coming on for the past 24 hours or so, which usually means it's going to be pretty bad.  Maybe I'll just get lucky.  We have a little decongestant Advil that I thought to bring, but hopefully neither of us will have to use it.  Wish us health!

1 comment:

LP said...

So was the butternut squash soup good? And did you tell the waiter how you pronounce "minestrone"?