Saturday, December 15, 2007

Daytrip to Siena (6 of 10)

Awake and out of doors early into a pristine and empty square. The day visitors always arrived much later and you could see all the nuances of the architecture so clearly with only the local town’s people for company. The streets were very clean as the locals have great pride in their beautiful town and work hard towards its upkeep. It was tremendous fun watching the little road cleaning vans scurrying up and down the narrow laneways, scuttling around the walls in the center of the squares.

All the café tables were set out in regimented rows by 7am with beautiful fresh table cloths and waitresses were wiping down chairs and glass table tops. Our bar, Caffeteria dell’Olmo, to the left of the entrance of our hotel, is where we started the day with the first cappuccino. siena,

We stood at the bar, sipping and sighing, because the cappuccino was so delicious. The day’s fresh croissants, brioche, and other delectable pastries were delivered in a small white van which went first to our café then straight across to the other two across the square.

At 7.30 the breakfast room opened at our hotel. Do you know the television series “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” by Beatrix Potter? The theme song that plays at the beginning and end is “Perfect Day”. Every time I went into the breakfast room for my sugar dusted, freshly baked croissants with cherry jam, that song played in my mind. The views over the Elsa Valley, while having breakfast were just so spectacular.

A magical day in Siena came after this glorious start. We had the Duomo mostly to ourselves. Donatello’s little David was not there this time, which was sad – but at least I have seen him half a dozen times before. The façade was under scaffolding but it didn’t dim our visit at all. We made a point of focusing on the beauty of the interior, and with so few people inside, we could see everything, including the famous floor tiles – clearly.

Other highlights were window shopping at the Louisa Spagnoli store and a cappuccino at the celebrated Nannini Bar. We lunched at Bar Palio in the Campo where I have eaten several times before. I’m pretty sure a scene from John Mortimer’s “Summer’s Lease” was set there and every time I am in the Campo, I stand and look up to try to figure out which balcony they used in the movie, for the scene where they watched the Palio horse race on a hot summer’s day. My traveling companion always gazes out at the villas perched on the hillsides around Siena, looking for the yellow villa from the mini series of The Winds of War, where the character Natalie stayed.

Bar Nannini, Siena

Do watch out for Monteriggione, which appears briefly on the left before you know it, as you return to San Gimignano from Siena. Sometimes I like to take the turn off, and go right up to it. There are bars and shops, cafés and hotels there now. To quote Alessandra Federici of Cortona (Slow Travel, 7 April 2007) – “What I find strange is that almost all of the ones that complain about how touristy places have become, are themselves tourists.” One of the highlights of my trip was meeting her the week before as we visited Cortona.

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