This afternoon was so much fun. Sandra and I drove in the car with Judy, a woman from Australia who speaks Italian beautifully, and Barbara, the young woman in my intermediate class who studies Italian at Yale. It’s great for my self-esteem that Barbara and I are in the same class. I may still speak haltingly, but I’m understanding more, especially the grammar, and I just enjoy learning and being in class and trying. Last week I considered giving up on my dream to study Italian, but this week I decided not to, that I enjoy the challenge too much.
Before Pienza, we stopped at the Pieve di Corsignano. Corsignano was the name of the town before Papa Pio II, who was born here, became Pope and decided to transform his hometown into the ideal Renaissance city. Well, town, really. The Pieve di Corsignano was built in the 11th century in the Romanesque style. It is austere and simple and beautiful. I especially love the carvings on the front and the statue of the woman in the center of the top window, holding the church up with her head.
Barbara and I learned from our teacher, Cinzia, that Papa Pio II was so stubborn that when the architects told him the church design was too large for the space, he made them extend the foundation. Today you can see the cracks in the floor and the walls and feel the way the floor slopes down at the end of the church. He also built a Papal residence, and if his bishops refused to move there, he fired them. It is the Palazzo Piccolomini where the Zafarelli film Romeo and Juliet was filmed in the early 70s. The Duomo was consecrated in 1462.
Dopo Pienza siamo andate a San Quirico d’Orcia. It’s about five miles away but another beautiful little medieval town. We had a spritz in the piazza and then had the most delicious dinner at Il Forno Vecchio nel giardino (in the garden). Sandra remembered Stefano, the kind owner, from when she was here two years ago, and we had a lovely dinner. As soon as we sat down, the cameriere poured us a sip of delicious Prosecco, and we ordered fiori di zucca con porcini fritti and the paccheria, a pasta with pistacchio, pancetta, and scallions. The town is very quiet but lovely. Each contrada or neighborhood in town has its own flag.