Ode to Tuscany: Siena & San Galgano

So I’m in Florence on New Year’s day, where everything relevant to a foreign visitor is CLOSED! So what does my accommodating Couch Surfing host Riccardo say? “Let’s go to Siena!” So after stopping for a scarf-it-down-at-the-counter breakfast in a typical small and delicious cafe, we were on the road! Transversing miles and miles of scenic Tuscan highway, blasting Michael Jackson the entire way. The ancient known rivalry between Florence and Siena was amusing to ponder as I left one for the other, anxious to see any city that promised a fair competition to the wonders of Florence.

Siena! A luxurious marble masterpiece with a harmonious blend of Italian Romanesque-Gothic architectural. The red brick buildings cascade one behind the other, assembling the most perplexing medieval layout of this classically charming Tuscan town! Between the Unesco World Heritage historic center and the famous bareback horse race that takes place twice a year in the heart of the center, Siena ain’t no boring place! The city has a lot to look at, as well as extraordinary cuisine! Riccardo and I spent hours eating under our personal blankets at a fancy restaurant along the edge of Il Campo.. complete with white wine and the most delicious almond panna cotta for desert.  Feeling that we had spent far too much time eating and people watching as we lounged under our blankets, we decided it was time to explore! Hours were spent in awe over the sights of Siena.. once again the immaculate details of churches, frescoes, and history flooded my brain..

***

I’m so grateful for my CS host, Riccardo for being so accommodating during the length of my stay in Florence! Aside from our Siena trip, Riccardo also took me to visit San Galgano’s abby, a breathtaking work of architecture in the middle of nowhere surrounded by the rolling green Tuscan countryside! It was marvelous! (I only had my film camera that day, so I’ll have to post the photos in the future). A short walk up an adjacent hill is Montesiepi a small church housing a sword in the stone. THE alleged sword in the stone :)  The story goes that Galgano Guidotti was a knight born to rich parents and wanted to renounce the material world and also the arts of war. As sign to renounce violence and as a token of faith, he miraculously thrust the sword in the stone, creating a Cross. Ooooooo!

So for good Italian measure there is also a cafe and cantina on this mystical property.. and being proper Italian’s we stopped for a bite (RIBOLLITA!)  and drink. Not yet ready to go home we decided to drive to the nearest, smallest hilltop town we could find! It was an extremely dark steep drive. We had to stop along the way to yield to a tiny deer whose path we crossed.. adding even more mysticism to the adventure as it stood there staring into our eyes from behind the creeping fog.. this was Riccardo’s favorite part :)

The hilltop town was the most medieval I’ve seen since my arrival in Italy. It felt as if a giant stoneworker had a massive rock ball and carved a town in the top of it and buried the rest into the ground. It was reminiscent of a labyrinth with an abundance of tiny passageways confined by the most claustrophobic stone walls jutting up along side you. The archaic maze was intricately constructed with stone stairwells, steep inverted streets, tunnels and wide open views on the stone terraces that welcomed the seemingly endless back night… we stopped in the one bar, next to the one gas pump, next to one of the two restaurants in town. The hill was mostly made up of homes for the town’s residents. I seriously sized up and contemplated the idea of inhabiting this secluded medieval hill, perfectly livable by all of my standards! One day..

On the ride home after a yummy Tuscan dinner I found myself in utter disbelief of the night sky! Riccardo stopped so we could take a better look, I don’t think my reaction warranted otherwise. Never in my life have a seen the stars, moon and planets like that! They shone like spot lights jumping right out from their surrounding black infinity.. it was a wonder light so bright could ever be hidden from view. Once I was able to realize the bitter cold air again I jumped back in the car.. this time snoozing as Riccardo played his beloved Beatles all the way home..

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