Sunday, September 29, 2013

DATELINE: Siena (7)

Rain.  Serious, heavy, thunder-and-lightening rain.  Sheets of the stuff started falling this morning as we were discussing our options for lunch; the in-or-out thing.  The streets were mostly empty except for a few brave souls scuttling along under umbrellas.

The neighborhood was all shuttered against the water and the wind.

Only one bedraffled pigeon could be seen along any of the neighborhood perches.  Even the one who frequents our window sill did not show today.

 Needless to say, we stayed in.  It's probably a good thing we did because it turns out the ceiling in the living room leaks.  The rain started and we heard (and felt) strange dripping noises around the living room.  Water coming in through the ancient timbered ceiling onto the sofa, the dining table, the cabinet and onto the floor.  Mr. C  jumped into action, hauled out pots and pans and placed them strategically to catch the drips.

I couldn't find a mop so used the bath mat to suck up some of the splashes.  This floor is VERY slippery when wet.  We've had rain off and on all afternoon, sometimes very heavy, and dripping to match.  I'm hoping it doesn't pour down during the night; that will be very distracting.  Anyway, I let the owner know because she is expecting new guests on Tuesday and this rain is forecast for all week.  Likewise in Vicenza.

We'll dine in tonight to finish up whatever is left; some eggs, some pasta sauce, some lettuce and tomatoes, a cookie or two and either a banana or orange.  Hard farings after having eaten so generously over the past week.  So generously, in fact, that the pants are a tad more snug than they were when I got here.  This despite all the miles of walking!

This may be my last post for a few days as I don't think the apartment has email and I don't know where I might find a connection.  If I can't find anything, the next communication will be from Genoa on Friday.  We train there from Vicenza to pick up the coastal flyer from Genoa to Nice.  I chose this route to avoid an overnight to Paris and to get a good look at the Italian and French rivieras at this time of year.  Alas, it will probably rain the whole way!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

DATELINE; Siena (6)

This was a day for museums and other art forms and, of course, a delicious lunch.  First, here's a picture of our apartment building, taken from the bowl of the corso.

We visited the Museo di Citta, filled with statuary, paintings and memorabilia from Siena's history.  Much of it is off limits to photographers, but before I read the sign I snapped a few items.

One of several gorgeous frescoes.  The colors are still rich and glowing

Another fresco
Floor of the museum

The ubiquitous She Wolf with those greedy twins
It was at about this moment that I saw the NO PHOTO sign and didn't want to risk a reprimand so put the camera away.  The other things in this museum include a lovely little chapel with all the original furnishings and grillwork from the 15th century.  Lots of religious art with the usual complement of saints and babies.  One room is dedicated to the history of the risorgimento (reunification) war of 1848.  Huge murals, uniforms, weapons ~ all beautifully displayed in ornate cabinets.  Great stuff.

We walked across the corso headed for the next culture stop of the day.  The sun was shining and the outdoor cafes were bustling with mid-morning coffee drinkers.

Next we walked down to the little music museum located three blocks down the street from us.  You enter into a dark enclosed courtyard dominated by this statue of Pope Julius II ~ why he's there I never did find out unless t was because he was a patron of the arts.

On into the little garden with its old well at the center . . .

into which visitors have tossed coins, maybe to insure they'll return.

The ceilings are covered with beautiful, intricate frescoes.

As you sit and admire the surroundings beautiful music is playing somewhere in the recesses of the building, making the whole scene slightly unreal and ethereal.  There's no real "garden" to speak of.  Just huge pots of trees to soften the heavy stone of the building.

Time for lunch so we went back to La Tellina's where we had gone a few days ago.  Another splendid meal.  For me, a zuppe di cozze, mussel soup that was heaven, absolute heaven!  Big, puffy, meaty mussels in a rich and spicy broth of tomatoes, garlic, wine.  This was followed by a bright, fresh mixed salad with lots of tangy arugula.  Mr. C had the polenta with porcini mushrooms that I had the last time, followed by penne with yet more porcinis.  Another splendid feast in this charming little place.

We had planned to go to a concert but since it didn't start until 9:15 PM we got realistic about our chances of staying awake and changed plans.  So it was a quiet evening with delicious soup made from whatever was still edible in the fridge as we begin the great clear-out preparatory to our Monday departure.   Rain is forecast for tomorrow and for most of the week we'll be in Vicenza.  I guess this beautiful sunshine is about over.

Friday, September 27, 2013

DATELINE: Siena (5)

My wonderful oilcloth bag had a busted strap yesterday ~ too many heavy bottles of wine, etc. ~ so first thing I went up the street and around the corner to the shoe cobbler's shop to see if he would fix it.  Of course he would!  He sewed the strap back in place, reinforced the other three straps, and it's good as new.  All this is by way of explaining why I didn't have my camera with me when we went out.  After that little chore we went down to the campo to the Museo Civico to check on its hours so we can pay a visit.  That's on the menu for early tomorrow morning.  Back up the steep ramp to the via di Citta and a walk up to a music museum ~ a great photo op that I'll go back to tomorrow with camera in hand.  An additional chore or two, back to the apartment to put things away, and then it was time for the great lunch hunt.  On our way back from the train station the other day we passed a place that looked quite delightful to me, so we retraced the taxi's route and found it.

What a splendid find!  Way off the busy tourist route, quiet, comfortable, delicious.  We shared an antipasto of salami, ham, cheese, white beans, bruschetta and what I think was a crostini<>/i> with caviar.  Mr. C then had ribollito, a thick Tuscan soup made with white beans, bread, onions, garlic, tomatoes, olive oil and a chard-like vegetable.  It's one of his favorites and this one did not disappoint.  I had ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach with a meat sauce.  It was a perfect meal; not too much, not too rich, just right.  All served up with such charm and attention by the delightful owner.

After lunch we strolled home, taking note of some recent decorations on the street.  I don't know if this weekend is a holiday or festival of some sort, but there are now flags everywhere.

I also took note of these beautiful street lamps.

Note the duck!
On our way home I passed this shop selling all sorts of coffee makers ~ electric, stove top, Italian, French, espresso, filter, etc.  Inside are all kinds of cups, pots, trays, and everything else that adds to the art and science of coffee.  Sorry this is not a very good photo but I hope you can get the idea that Italians love coffee and want it made right! 

 In closing today's post, here a photo of our apartment house showing where we've been spending the last few days.  I'd come back here any time!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

DATELINE: Siena (4)

A day in San Gimignano is  day very well spent.  Here's how it went.

We walked to the bus station early for a 9:30 bus to the hill town.  About 10 minutes in to the ride we looked at each other and thought, "Are we on the wrong bus?"  I inquired of a gentleman across the aisle who spoke ONLY German ~ not a language in my vast repertoire ~ but got the message across and he assured me we were on the right route.  So we relaxed and watched the gorgeous scenery roll by.  We made a stop in a town whose name has surpassed my favorite, Topolobampo, named Poggibonsi.  I want to live there just so I can say it frequently!  Moved on, climbing further up the side of the mountain, looking down on a beautiful, fertile valley with tilled acreage, miles of vineyards, red tile roofs, horses and cattle.  After a few hairpin curves on very narrow roads we stopped in the central piazza of this beautiful walled city.

Arch at far right is entrance to the city
 By 10:30 the streets were already clogged with tourists.

 The long, central street, lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, linen stores (this whole area is famous for its weaving and fabrics) leads from the front "gate" up to the massive, towering cathedral.

Before we went all the way up we took a side path to the left and walked out onto a broad lookout for a splendid view of the entire valley.  As you can tell from the sky it was cloudy and overcast, which made it a perfect day for trooping around.

The lucky people living in this apartment have one heck of a view.

Back to the path up the hill, through the cathedral and around a bend, and what should we find but the weekly market.  Totally serendipitous.  It reminded us of the weekly market in Vicenza (next Thursday we'll be there).  Tables and tables of clothing, linens, housewares, toys, etc.  On around another corner was the food market.  And flowers, of course.

This area is big on boar ~ you see cinghailoe in a variety of styles on almost every menu.  But this little piggy was just that, a little piggy, boned and roasted and trussed up for slicing.  Mr. C bought a pork sandwich which we ate when we got back home.  Cute, isn't he?

Beautiful fruits and vegetables . . .

Tiny two-bite pears and very sweet grapes
Tender little lettuces to take home and plant in your window box
 . . . big food trucks selling meats and cheeses ~ we bought a long, skinny salami with red pepper seasoning.  Chopped some up and tossed it into the pasta for last night's dinner.  There was also a wagon selling hot, cooked food.  We looked for the divine fish lasagne we bought from a wagon in Vicenza lo these many years ago but alas, different wagon.  We're hoping to get some next week.

We headed back down the hill, threading our way through all the camera-toting tourists and stopped outside this shop for a bit of a breather.  No purchase, however.

Well, here's one very satisfied customer.

In fact, I saw this little boy and his parents in Siena today but he was completely zonked out in his stroller.l

On down the hill where I spotted this.  It reminded me of our youth.  OK wine but terrific candleholder!

We caught the bus, admired the views, went through Poggibonsi again and I got a better look, keeping my future in mind!  Back to the apartment for pork sandwiches and beer and a bit of a lie down, basically to rest my feet.  They are getting a real workout.

I'm not sure what's on tomorrow.  It's more complicated than we had thought to get to Buonconvento so we may stay local instead.  We'll see what tomorrow brings.  The weather is supposed to change to cloudy and rainy beginning either tomorrow afternoon or Sunday morning.  That may have something to do with the plans.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

DATELINE: Siena (3)

Busy day today.  First thing was off to the bus station to buy tickets to San Gimignano tomorrow.  We're taking the whole day to stroll this almost totally pedestrianized hill town.  Us, and probably 5,000 others, but that's just the way it is.  We are also looking into going to Buonconvento on Friday.  The woman who owns the apartment stopped by this morning and told us what a delightful place it is so, following her lead, we'll check it out.  After milling around the bus station looking for the proper stop for tomorrow's bus we set out for the train station.  Fortunately it's all downhill and about 30 minutes later we found it.  TRAFFIC NOTE:  Italian auto traffic is thick and fast but cars always stop at pedestrian crossings although not necessarily for jay-walkers.  If you're at a proper crossing spot and you even LOOK like you want to cross, drivers will stop.  Even motorcyclists.

We found the station, checked out the trains from Siena to Vicenza, bought our tickets for the Monday departure.  We go first to Florence, then to Padua, and finally to Vicenza.  Caught a cab back to the apartment and thought about lunch.  Mr. C was all for eating "in" and I was all for going out.  I won this round and here's where we went.

If you're ever in Siena we can't recommend it highly enough.  It's tiny - no more than 24 seats - and quite charming inside.  We both loved what we ordered.  I had a caprese salad with such juicy, sweet tomatoes and smooth, creamy mozzarella, and an order of polenta smothered in porcini mushrooms.   Mr. C ordered beans and pasta with mussels in a light bean sauce with red pepper flakes.  A mezzo of house red, a bottle of fizzy water.  It was so yummy.  We left feeling that our 35 E was well spent.  A little shopping on our way back home to pick up some coffee, some prepared eggplant parmesan for dinner, another bottle of fizzy water.

This little street was on our route home.

And this one, too.

We put our purchases away then went out again for the IHT and a gelato.  Limone ~ so refreshing.  As long as I have my insulin handy I'm set!

Limone on the far left
 Then back home for an afternoon of reading and relaxing.  This is the street entrance to our apartment.

Tomorrow, news about San Gimignano and whatever else happens in this glorious place.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

DATELINE: Siena (2)

Before I move on to Siena, I want to finish up with a few parting words about Florence.  There's nothing like a bus trip to show you parts of a city you would never otherwise see.  I'm not talking about the tourist bus ride to places of interest and fame.  What I mean is just getting on a city bus and riding it until either it comes to the end of its route or you decide you've seen something you want to investigate.  We learned a tiny bit about getting around on regular city busses ~ routes 11, 12, 36 and 37 all ended up at Porta Romana, our stop.  The other bus ride was the one taking us out of the city to Siena.  It wove all over the city then headed out to the suburbs, then into the countryside.  Along the way were plenty of bus stops for our lines 36 and 37 so we could have come out this way.  Beautiful homes dotted here and there in the hills, lush woods, vineyards, wild flowers, all just outside the busy, bustling city.  There is also a huge castle surrounded by high walls and turrets; I have no idea what it is but would sure like to go up and take a look.  Soon the bus hit the autostrada and we zipped along, still passing by woods growing right up to the edge of the highway.  In 1 1/2 hours we pulled into the Siena bus station.  We got our luggage and eventually found the front door to the apartment house (castle!) located on via de Citta in the heart of the old part of the city.

The best sight in Rome:  the fellow dressed up like a centurion at the Coloseum, talking on his cell phone.  Too quick for a photo but the sight is burned into my memory.

The best sight in Florence:  A bevvy of  young nuns, in full regalia, crowded together, chattering in Italian  and  giggling as they bought gelato cones.  Girls will be girls, no matter what.  NOTE:  You rarely see  nuns in the old fashioned long black habit anymore.  Now they wear mid-calf dresses with long sleeves, usually gray.  The wimple has been replaced by a short, shoulder-length veil held in place by a sort of head band.  Modern times.

So now on to Siena.  Early night last night but it was interrupted at around midnight by what sounded like a parade passing by.  It was heavy drums beating out a rhythm and people singing.  The group seemed to pass by down via di Citta and fade out.  A couple of hours later, the same thing.  I haven't the faintest idea what that was about and don't know who to ask!  But if I ever find out, I'll certainly let you know.  It dawned clear and bright this morning and the weather is, and is forecast to be, perfect for the next few days.  We went out do so some shopping . . .

and looked for a restaurant for lunch.  Decided on Numerounici,  down the street.  Did some Postitalia business and came home for awhile.  And here's home.

Living/dining room
living/dining room


This city, like everywhere else, I guess, is filled with tourists from everywhere.  Lots of Australians, Germans and Chinese.  Most of them are on walking tours so we see huge groups being led around by a guide who uses a tiny microphone to talk about what everyone is (or should be) seeing.  The followers all wear earphones so has not to miss a word of the guide's wisdom!  One amusing sidelight on this procedure:  the guides all wear something to distinguish themselve such as a large, tall hat or they carry something ~ I've seen long-stemmed fake flowers and a paper parasol among other things ~ so straying members can find their way back to the group.

Lunch was absolutely delicious for me - a very fat noodle slathered in pesto, olive oil, garlic, spicy Italian sausage, sprinkled with garlic bread crumbs.  Divine!

 Mr. C, was not so thrilled; he swore his gnocchi contained not one hint of potato!

 The setting was, to say the least, unusual.  We sat down on a lower deck overlooking a rather bleak and steep walkway.  But someone in the apartment building across the walkway, up on the 4th floor where not a ray of sunshine ever actually penetrated, still had a tiny garden.

We did some sightseeing after lunch to try to walk off the effects of too many carbs.

The first stop is, of course, Siena's Duomo, this magnificent pile of black and white striped marble.  The light was so bright you can't see the striping so here's another look.

Then it was back to the Piazza Publico, location of the Palio horse races in August.  Many years ago, dhring one of my parents' long stays in Europe they were in Siena for the races.  My father had met the Anglican clergyman here and was invited to sit in a box seat to view this madness.  He loved it.  I've seen the pictures.  I'd call it "Mob Scene with Horses."

 We can get down to the Corso by walking down a steep ramp to the wide plaza.  The  whole place is ringed with cafes and restos, a perfect place to sit and watch the world go by.  And my goodness, there's a lot of world packed in to this tiny town!  Our apartment building faces on to the corso although ours is on the opposite side and faces on the street.

More walking around, more looking and poking around.  Back to the apartment at about 4 PM where Mr. C headed straight for the bedroom and a nice post-too-much-lunch nap.   Plans for dinner are:  eat in.  Tomorrow we're heading down to the bus station to investigate a little day trip to San Gimignano, then on to the train station to check the schedule for our return to Florence/Vicenza next Monday.  And to search out a bank and another place to have lunch today.