Well, since I last wrote, we're up one Mama Bear, freshly arrived from Mandeville with a suitcase half full of things we begged her to bring. We're leaving in just a couple of hours for Torino and points north and Piedmonty, so let's see if I can put up a post about Siena before we go, shall we?
A post that's REALLY heavy on the pictures. Didn't have time or the werewithal to edit down the numbers...
With Nana in tow, we hopped a bus and wound through Chiantishire towards Siena. We arrived and checked into our hotel and immediately went in search of panforte, the Sienese yumminess that's basically a fruitcake, if a fruitcake was delicious.
Two types, panpepato (spicier) and fig and walnut. Only one type of grandmother in this pic, though.
Then, we walked over to the Campo, Siena's main square. It's where the Palio takes place every year, that frenetic 90 seconds of dashing horses and flailing jockeys into which the Sienese pour a lifetime's worth of neighborhood pride. When we were there, it was just full of people sunning. I'd put this up there with the prettiest sqares we've seen in Europe. (And I'd say we've seen a good number, at least here in Italy.)
There's a fountain with panels by Jacopo della Quercia, whose works are all over Bologna and Lucca. Pigeons balanced precariously, fluttering and drinking at the same time.
Then, over to the Duomo, continuing our greatest hits tour of Siena. A fruit stand caught our eye on the way - you would not believe the amount of fruit Nana consumed while she was here. (Well, perhaps if you knew her, you'd believe it.)
The Duomo in Siena is impressive. No, that's not the right word for it... it's huge, and twinkles as the sun hits the mosaics above the doors. Plus the sides are striped with marble. They weren't going for "understated" with this building.
But it's when you get inside that the building really shines. I've never seen another church this big with striped columns - and they're all marble, too.
(This one supports the enormous pole that held up the Florentine standard during the Battle of Montaperti, captured by the Sienese in oh, 1260 or so...)
There are so many treasures in this building. For one, there's a small statue of Paul that Michelangelo carved early in his career for the Cardinal Piccolomini. And off to the side, in a small chapel, is a John the Baptist by Donatello - reminiscent of his Mary Magdalene here in Florence.
There's also a crazily detailed pulpit by Nicola Pisano, which has at its base these very detailed lions and lionesses feasting on sheep and horses and such. It's apparently supposed to be a metaphor for the Church devouring paganism, but it does look a bit strange on a pulpit.
Even Bernini, the Baroque master whose works are scattered all over Rome, is represented here. Here's his St. Jerome playing the crucifix. Bernini's one of my favorites - what that man can do with a chunk of marble...
The floor of the Duomo is also intricately decorated, though most of it is usually covered with protective sheeting. Since we were there the day before Easter, even more of the floor was covered than usual because of the number of chairs set up for Easter Mass, but here's a taste - a detail of the Slaughter of the Innocents.
Then there's the Piccolomini Library, a huge frescoed room dedicated to the life and exploits of Aeneas Piccolomini, later Pope Pius II.
Here's the bit that shocked me - these are the original colors! Because of the amount of light coming into this room, candles were rarely lit, so soot didn't cover up the original brilliance of Pinturicchio's paint.
We were just amazed.
Leaving the Duomo, we walked around the side of the building to the Duomo Museum. On the side of the church, you can see the beginnings of an ambitious expansion project that would have made the Duomo just absolutely enormous. The modern nave would have become the transept (that's the long middle part becoming the crossbar). But then defeat by Florence, and the plague, forced abandonment. Today, if you buy a ticket to the Duomo Museum, you can climb to the top of the unfinished facade!
Guess what we were about to do.
Don't worry, Nana kept great track of us. Actually, she climbed up to the first level - not too shabby for 84! (This involved a big spiral staircase being used simultaneously for ascending and decending, not an easy feat on a spiral staircase!)
The views were worth the climb, I thought.
From the top, the Campo looked just beautiful.
Speed up! Low on time!
The Duomo Museum itself was interesting, but not... mind-blowing. Duccio's pretty window was there.
DINNER! Husbear's birthday dinner, to be exact - thanks Nana and Jenny! Hostaria il Cartoccio. (A cartoccio, I learned, is a medieval Tuscan battle cart - priests say Mass from it, it carries trumpeters and the battle standard, etc.)
Crazy antipasta. Cup of liver, anyone? No? How about seventeen cured meats and a selection of delicious toasted topped breads?
Nana really wanted her some stewed veal, and that's what she got. Though we think it was vitellone, or old veal. (Italians differentiate between types of veal.) She was hoping for some stewed veggies in there, but... nope. If the Italian menu says stewed veal, that's what you get... just stewed veal.
Luckily, she ordered a sformato di spinaci for the side - a spinach pudding. We ordered one too.
Husbear and I, of course, did some coursing...
Primi - a risotto with lettuce, gorgonzola, and nettles! Sounds tastier than the execution really was, I think. Though I could just eat a wedge of blue cheese.
And a dish of pici, that famous Sienese pasta, here their house version - ham, mushrooms, onions, creamy, yummy. Not homemade, I don't think - the shapes seemed a little too regular for that.
We split a secondo, a sliced meatloaf in peppercorn cream sauce. Good, though too salty, I thought.
Dessert - "Do you have amaro?" No. "Limoncello?" No. GRAPPA.
Theirs was in a bottle with pear and coffee - a really good idea, though it was time to change out the flavorants. Husbear is really liking the grappa. Yurch.
Next morning - back to Nannini! Not for panforte this time, but for breakfast. Can you believe we did this to my grandmother? I'm kind of embarassed showing it, but it's too funny not to share.
The morning was spent first at a Chagall and Miro' exhibit, which we enjoyed. I'm a big Chagall fan (the museum of his works outside of Nice is well worth the trip, if you find yourself in the area), though not so much Miro'. Sorry, guy.
No cameras here.
So, how about food stores instead? Siena has some great ones!
Here's one with a bike in front that Nana wanted us to document for my uncle Erik. Cool wicker bicycle, though I was more impressed with the prosciutto hanging in the window. But that's me. Always.
So, you know the color Sienna? Named after the town, which is all that burnt orangey-brown because of the color of the soil surrounding the place.
We took a midday bus out of town, feeling pretty good about what we'd seen. Goodbye, Siena - we liked your wisteria! And your church was pretty cool, too.
And, we're off! We don't get back until Tuesday, so please cut us some slack at least until then...