21 July 2009

Successfully Seeing Siena

Our first day in Siena had been not completely successful; remember "Black Sunday"? We returned on this morning to a much calmer and better-stocked city. We found fairly easy public parking at Il Stadio (the city's football [soccer for us Americans] stadium), which is conveniently located near all of the city sites.

We started our revisit with a quick tour of the Cathedral of San Domenico and Santa Catarina (St. Catherine). The outside is a kind of drab beige brick, and the inside is not up to the French or Italian Gothic standard, but it's bland material structure is way more than made up for in the story of St. Catherine. I can't recount it all here, but in a nutshell, she's the one who convinced the Pope to move the Catholic Church from France back to Italy. Rick Steves' book has a great down-to-earth recounting of her story.

From there, it was time for lunch. (Imagine that. More food.) We settled into a small trattoria where we enjoyed more Tuscan fare. After lunch, we split into two missionary camps: the shoppers and the Internetters. (Guess into which camp I fell.) We reconvened at the drain of Il Campo (a work of art in itself), had some gelato, and decided to return to the villa for what was to be one of our best and most memorable meals.

On the return to the villa, we needed to get some fuel for the fleet. We drove into the Siena Esso station to find it closed. It turns out that they were out of petrol. Hmmm...

For dinner we decided on bistecca alla Fiorentina (steak Florentine). We visited the local Coop Market and had the butcher hack us off three T-bone slabs. We got some accompanying veggies, and then headed back to the villa to fire up the grill and get things cookin'. After a feast of steak, chicken, zucchini, and more, we relaxed on the patio before heading to bed. Tomorrow was to be a big, big day in Florence...


The plan was to get up early and leave the villa by 8:00 for the scenic drive to Florence, about 50km away. We were on our way to the autostrada by 8:15, but had to stop for petrol (see above) on the way. We pulled into the Total station in Montereggiano to find the "chiuso" (closed) signs posted. Julie inquired and learned that there was a strike of some sort, so fuel was not being transported for two days. Luckily, we had planned tomorrow as a do-nothing day at the villa, but how were we to get to Florence today?

Enter TrenItalia. Instead of driving the trek to Florence, we decided to go to Siena and take the train. (The drive from the villa to Siena and back is just 1/8 tank of gas.) We got to the station, easily parked in their lot, and were off to Florence via rail. While many European trains travel industrial routes (which is why the industry is there in the first place), there is not much industry in Tuscany so the rail routes are surprisingly scenic. We past vinyards, villas, vegetable gardens, and a variety of other pretty places. And because Florence's Santa Maria Novella (SMN) station is in the heart of the historic city, we didn't have to futz with finding refuge for the unfueled Fiat (and Lancia).

Florence in a Flourish: Chasing Julie

We arrived at SMN at 12:30 PM, about 3 hours later than planned because of the strike, just in time for lunch. Julie has spent much time in Florence, so she knew of a great little (REALLY little) restaurant close to the station. It was so small, in fact, that four of us had to sit outside and four sat in.

After a great lunch, we were off to the races; we had a lot of ground to cover in our condensed schedule. Piazza della Signoria. Ponte Vecchio. Santa Croce. Accedemia. (We had a reservation to see Michelangelo's David at 16:00 thanks to Julie's planning.) Bar. Whew. Finally a rest. We had beer, water, water, and water, and rested for a good 45 minutes. Some of us shopped at a nearby stationery store while others of us continued our rest and cool-down.

We headed to the outdoor market and strolled the endless stalls of stuff. Our sole purchase was a prized possession for a dear friend. It was now around 18:00 and we were ready to head home to the villa. We headed back to SMN and made the 19:10 direct train to Siena.

We had yet another great Tuscan dinner in Siena, played a game of "What's your most embarrassing momemt?", and made the short drive back to the villa. Another full day in Tuscany accomplished.

1 comment:

Julie Richey said...

Thanks for sharing! Love your pics and the narrative.