I took the bus to Siena yesterday morning. It was so easy and smooth and air conditioned. It only took an hour and twenty minutes. Meanwhile, Charlotte had to take four trains from Monterosso. She left her hotel at 10 am and didn’t get to our Hotel Athena until 6 pm! Just in time for a spritz in the panoramic hotel bar.
I love Siena, and while waiting for Charlotte, I wandered the medieval streets and recognized places we’d visited when we were here as a family five years ago. I climbed the Torre del Mangia, a medieval tower in Il Campo that takes four hundred steps to climb! The views are spectacular, though. While I was waiting in line, three fourteen-year-old French boys got in line behind me and were disappointed that it cost 8 Euros per person. They were walking away when I offered to pay their way. I mean, it’s the perfect thing to do if you’re fourteen in Siena. They were so thankful and polite. The said Au revoir, merci, and that they had a rendezvous.
I also found out which contrada won the July 2nd Palio. The Palio is a huge deal here. It’s a horse race in which ten of the seventeen contrade (neighborhoods from the Middle Ages) compete in a horse race around Il Campo. The horses have to race around a very small track with sharp turns three times. This July the winner is L’onda, or the wave. The streets of their contrada are festooned with blue and white banners, representing their contrada, and lit up at night by special lights. There is another race on August 16.
Our hotel is in the Pantera or panther contrada, the same one we stayed in five years ago. My favorties are the wave, the snail, and the catepillar. Oh, and the mollusk. There’s also a tortuga or turtle, so I guess they don’t choose their mascots for speed.
Last night we ate at Due Porte. They have a beautiful patio, and you feel like you are eating as a guest in someone’s home. There is a view of the top of the Duomo. Just went to 8 o’clock Mass in the Duomo. It is zebra striped on the outside and inside, and a real mish mash of architectural and artistic styles. They even have sculptures of the heads of all the popes peering down.
Here are some photos. I took a picture of the Apa 50 because in our class workbook, we read about George Clooney and how a professoresa from Salerno gave him an Apa Cinquanta. Needless to say, he returned it.
Coming back to Perugia, I felt happy to be returning to what I think of as my home. As lovely as Siena is, I wouldn’t want to spend a month there. It’s full of tourists walking around and eating gelato. You don’t get much of a sense of it being a real town where people live, although every shopkeeper and taxi driver I asked could tell me which contrada s/he was in. Perugia has much fewer tourists and more students of all ages and nationalities. It’s a very interesting town with enough going on.