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A Trip to Italy (and maybe some runs) Part 7, Siena

Two cute kids at Piazza del Campo

The Flexi-plan became fully functional again today as it seemed that everyone had their own idea for how to spend the day. For Linda and me, we decided to take “Chiara’s Car” to Siena.

Siena was first occupied by the Etruscans sometime between 900 and 400 BC. It has a long and somewhat checkered past. Far enough from Rome to be seen as a red headed step child historically (no offense to red headed step children), it prospered more because of its time under the rule of the Lombards and the subsequent conquering by Charlemagne. Always known for their advances in irrigation and architecture, the area spent much time as an affluent trading post. It survived the Italian War of 1551-59, Spanish occupation afterward, and finally became a part of the unification of Italy in the nineteenth century.

We found our way via some back roads, a freeway, and a tollway. Eventually (actually slightly less than two hours) we arrived in Siena. Here’s what we knew: there was one of the world’s largest piazzas, the Piazza del Campo, and it was a nice place to visit.

Linda’s Bruschetta

A little tired from yesterday’s adventure on the Luccan Walls, walking around Siena did not seem to be high on my list as a fun activity. Add to that the fact that Linda was also tired AND it was going to be big time HOT, we may not have been the most dedicated explorers. In fact, I’m guessing we missed a ton of cool things simply because we were tired of walking.

Our first mission, however, was to find the Piazza del Campo. We figured there would be some nice photo ops, lunch, and maybe post-lunch gelato. We were correct on all three counts. The Piazza was huge although certainly not overcrowded like some of the places we’d visited. Restaurants, shops, and hotel rooms surrounded the area. People were scattered in the middle soaking up the sunshine and gazing at the other people walking around gazing at those gazing at them. Pretty laid back.

We ate at a little place called La Mossa and then walked the perimeter of the piazza. Linda has a tomato thing (that frankly I don’t have) and what that means in Italy is Bruschetta. This, I guess, was one of the better ones during the trip. I got overly risky and tried the spaghetti and meatballs (better than Olive Garden for sure). 

Siena Cathedral

What strikes you most about the shops and restaurants in El Campo is the constant reference to Palio di Siena, the horse race depicted in the James Bond movie Quantum of Solice. It is run twice a year and is an extremely important part of Siena’s present culture. The streets were a little wider than Lucca (except of course, the Lucca “trail” – sorry still carrying bitterness), the pace was slower than Rome or Florence. It was very laid back and we appreciated that. The problem, however, was still the heat. As the afternoon sun rose, we would cling to the sides of the street that had some semblance of shade. 

We saw the Duomo Siena but barely went inside (I read that it is gorgeous) and did not under any circumstances do it justice. We went in and out of some awesome shops, especially a little pottery place at the base of the steps near the cathedral. All in all, we were toast, or maybe toasted. Wearily, we decided to make our way back to the car and head to the Villa. Unfortunately, several hundred yards from our destination, I

Leonardo doing chalk work?

reached in my pocket and did not feel my International Driver’s License. Holy Crap!

The next twenty minutes were a tizzy of looking, re-tracing, and lamenting. Like in the US, not having your license when driving is only an issue if you are asked for your license when driving. Since I don’t speed and I have conquered being the chill, laid back Italian driver, I wasn’t overly worried about this. What did occur to me however, was that I might be the evil American who gets sent to Italian prison for not having his driver’s license, probably a life sentence for an American. At some point, I remember thinking, “maybe I left it in the car.” Huh…. crisis over.

The drive back was uneventful but air conditioned (thanks Chiara). Dinner was a spaghetti thing (didn’t see that coming when I’d ordered lunch) that Kevin and Alex made for everyone. As usual, much to drink, lots of chat, in bed early.

BTW, ran 3 miles in the morning.