On our first full day we drove to Siena. We entered the Piazza Del Campo, the urban center of Siena, and were immediately overcome with its beauty and uniqueness. This walled city was beautiful. The smell of fresh food and café from the outdoor restaurants called to us. Our drive into the city was not that long, but we all felt the need to sit and have a quick lunch before meeting our tour guide.
Travel Tip: If you are going to Siena or Florence, get yourself a tour guide. There is no waiting in lines and the information is invaluable, even if you do not retain it all.
The tour guide explained how the Council of nine commissioned the spoke-like paving pattern that divides the piazza del campo into nine sections. There are animal symbols that relate to all of this somehow (info I did not retain) and of course that relates to the very famous horse race each summer called the Palio. This is where thousands of people come and stand in the center and watch the chosen horses race around the piazza. It is a very great honor to win. There is also the Palazzo Pubblico, which has been Siena’s town hall since the 14th century and the Torre del Mangia, the famous bell tower. Just sayin’, I’m no tour guide, so do yourself a favor and get one if you decide to go to Siena and really want to understand a bit of history.
The highlight of the tour was Siena’s Duomo, one of the first Cathedral’s in Italy, with bands of black and white marble. The façade was designed in 1284 by a Pisan sculptor, Giovanni Pisano. Like I said, get a tour guide.
Here are some of my favorite street scenes, along with shots of the interior of a really fine mid-size market.
Siena at night
The streets filled with people at about 5:30 p.m. and everyone was headed to their favorite café bar. We explored the market and some other shops before heading out of town to return to our villa. But WAIT…our day is not over yet…..its dinner time! Oh boy, more food and wine!
Heading back to our villa, we chose to stop for dinner at La Piccarda Osteria & Pizzaria, in Ponte A Bozzone. This is a place with a good reputation and is Trip Advisor worthy!
We shared Antipasti-Starters of stuffed squash blossoms, sheep cheese pudding and a Bismark asparagus pizza-with egg on top.
Fiori di zucca ripieni con ricotta e pomodori secchi –courgettes (zuchinni) flowers stuffed with ricotta and dried tomatoes and s formato di pecorino – sheep cheese pudding
We ordered many Secondi-Main courses
Il branzino al cartoccio-baked sea bass in parchment
Tagliolini al tartufo fresco-thin tagliatelle with fresh truffle
Coniglio in porchetta – rolled and stuffed roasted rabbit
& pici with sage pesto
We also ordered many Dolci-Desserts to share.
Bavarese di yogurt con le pesche bianche (Bavarian yogurt cream with white rose peach sauce) – Creme Brule – La crostata (the tart) – and Panna cotta ai frutti di bosco (cream pudding with forest fruits)
We also got into the Limoncetta!
A toast to the Chef!
Last, but not least, the Chef.
I was the last person to receive my Secondi dish of Coniglio in porchetta – rolled and stuffed roast rabbit. From where I was sitting, I could see the chef in the kitchen, bending over my plate and artfully placing the sauce right from the pan over my plated dish. It was the best flavored meat juice sauce I had tasted in a very long time. The textures and flavors of the meats comingled to give me an almost out-of-body experience. Others watched me and decided to give me some space and to think about our dessert order. After finishing, I said, rather loudly, “I WANT TO KISS THE CHEF!!” The young waitress waived her hands and said “no, no, no.” But the Chef was informed and did venture out… and I grabbed him!
Everyone was happy with their meal and we had a great time. It was a day and night to remember…and it was just our first full day. I was beginning to wonder if I could keep up the pace!
We were up and on the road early to get to the train to Florence. This was a tourist-art day, not a fun-food day. We met our tour guide at the train station and walked through the outdoor market area to our first stop – Galleria dell ‘Accademia, the home of Michelangelo’s “David.” Of course, you could not take picturesin the Accademia, and I saw one man try it and he was immediately approached by security.
This work of art was unbelievable-the smoothness, the detail – and any picture does not do it justice. Seeing “David” is a must and can be an emotional experience. I believe it was truly a magical moment for all of the Happy Travelers. It was spectacular!
Florence, or “Frienze” is a beautiful city full of incredible art and architecture – the Duomo, the Piazza del Duomo, Battistero, Michelangelo’s David and the Galleria del Uffizi-full of Italian Renaissance art-which would be our next major stop. We stopped on the way to Uffizi to observe and learn about the Duomo and Battistero. As I previously mentioned, a good tour guide is well worth the Euro.
Battistero-if born in January you can be baptized here.
Our next stop was the Galleria degli Uffizi. Our tour guide was excellent in giving us the important facts and history, plus she told us stories with such passion. We saw unbelievable artworks of Botticelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, Rembrandt, Michelangelo and others of the Renaissance period.
After four hours of art and history, my eyes were glazing over and we were all thirsty and hungry. We had a late lunch outside in the Piazza Santa Croce, near the Savoy hotel, rested and did some people watching.
After refueling our bodies and resting our minds and feet, we decided to shop. We split up into two groups and proceeded to walk through town, shop in some beautiful boutique shops along the Arno River with an agreed time to meet to catch the train. We only worried for an hour when we couldn’t find each other, as darkness fell and cell phone connections didn’t work.
Florence was our second full day and we were all tired, but happy, as we took the train back to our trusty van to drive back to our lovely villa. Little did we know that the next day was going to be so exciting and death defying!
Next to come, Part 3-“Life on the Edge!”