November 23, 2001 Ė Siena by Derek White

Woke up Florence with a view of the Duomo. It was cold, my sleep broken by the French girls jabbering all night. I never really get used to the time changes. My internal clock just keeps ticking so it doesnít matter whether itís dark or light. We had Capuccinos and caught a bus to Siena. Beautiful ride through the Tuscan countryside, vineyards and villas everywhere. Got into Siena and walked through all of it looking for a hotel. Settled on Hotel Duomo. Once again had a great view of Sienaís Duomo. Very comfortable room. The benefits of traveling in low season when you can just show up without a reservation and get the best room in the hotel. There were other tourists around, and there were times where we were annoyed at the tour groups, but I canít imagine how this would compare to coming in the summer. Besides the Duomo, we could see down in the surrounding countryside around the town perimeter. Everything half-dead from autumn, persimmons trees that were just bare branches with bright orange persimmons hanging off. Cats walking through the dead leaves. Fires burning in peoples homes.

We had pizza in Il Campo. It was cold in the shade, but with the bright sun, warm enough to sit outside in the open with nothing but a t-shirt on. Il campo is a hemispherical shaped piazza where they have the infamous horse races. Canít imagine watching the races right there in the middle of the town. Now, people just lounging on the smooth sloping cobblestones that form a natural amphitheatre whose view is itself and the facades of the surrounding buildings.

Sienaís Duomo was awe-inspiring. My favorite church thus far. It was dark and gothic, striped in black and white. The tile work on the floor was amazing, even though a lot of it was covered up. The library had some great murals. There was one sub-altar with plaques and memorabilia, and amongst it were modern motorcycle helmets with Italian designs, like they were given up as some sort of offering.

After that the Battistero which was down below. Wandered through the old streets and saw some more churches. Siena is just a great little town to walk through. Stopped for Sambuca at some bar, and then went to another bar for wine and people-watching. Woman decked in furs. Even the guys are fashion-conscious, checking each other out head to toe and commenting on their attire. It struck me that the redneck cowboy was truly an American phenomena to be proud of. Sure, Germanís have their own militaristic clean-cut rednecks, but Iím talking the Lynyrd Skynyrd Southern Man with the handle-bar moustache and long hair, and the attitude. Or the backward-ass WWF-watching hicks from Nevada. European guys are just not like that. Seeing the vanity and self-consumption with appearance displayed by the Italians made me appreciate America with itís freedom to be fashionable or just be a slob or just be whatever you want to be.

We had dinner at Il Marisili which had local Tuscan types of food, grilled vegetables and cheese, guinea fowl, Chianti classico, etc. another great meal. We have yet to be disappointed with the food, besides having to inhale cigarettes while eating.

to pictures of Siena ....