"Wish You Were Here III"

Trip Start Apr 18, 2007
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Trip End Jun 29, 2007


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Friday, June 8, 2007

I have found a new love that gives me a reason to drop Venice as my Number One Italian sweetheart...

Siena!

Today the sun shone and we walked for miles. The old town sits atop a hill and is ringed by an ancient wall. It has streets that are largely devoid of cars (we presume there must be some control on entry) and the shops are very classy. There is a  minimum of tacky souvenir shops and instead the sweet smell of Florentine leather draws me into boutiques to explore the range. There are also traditional hand-painted ceramics that beckon. The lady in the first ceramics shop had such an enthusiastic conversation with us in non-English about her love for Australia that Liz and I feel deeply compelled to return and buy something just to not be able to talk to her again! Although she could talk UPS shipping details quite adequately...

Gone now are the pastel coloured rendered buildings to be replaced by terracotta-coloured brickwork. The dominant building in the centre of town is the 11th-13th century Duomo - the Catholic cathedral with detailing to outdo Notre Dame! The fact that it is built from multiple colours of marble to start with is an eye-opener. One room inside displayed 15th century handwritten hymn books with stunning calligraphy and illumination.

The food shops are different again to those we have seen elsewhere in Italy and the panforte that I had with this afternoon's coffee was to die for. If only I could be sure of getting some through Customs...

The piazza in the centre of Siena is a large amphitheatre in effect with the imposing 'town hall' across the bottom and cafes ringing the perimeter. Traditional horse races are held here twice a year (but not while we will be here, of course.) Surprisingly, coffees in the piazza were only around 1.50 euros compared to 10 euros at St. Mark's Square in Venice, so I intend at some stage to buy one, sit for a while and watch the world go by.

We paid the small admission to visit the imposing Siena Duomo - the Catholic cathedral built from the 11th to the 13th centuries in predominantly white and black marble. It has a nave still unfinished that is currently a carpark but it is nevertheless a stunning piece of work both inside and out with paintings inside by Michaelangelo, ancient handwritten hymn books and extensive mosaic works on the floors.

After not finding adequate cooking supplies when we have had kitchens lately, we came across a large supermarket between us and the city last night. Having only a fridge in the room this time, we bought cold collations and sat out in the hotel's garden for buffet dinner tonight.

Gallantine of chicken, pesto, salads, blood orange juice. Twittering birds, bells chiming, sun sinking - tough stuff.
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