March 21, 2011

Siena, Italy. October, 1986

The Piazza del Campo, the expansive bricked open space in the center of Siena, was paved in a fishbone pattern in 1346, divided by ribs of travertine into nine equal fan-shaped sections to honor the nine Sienese leaders who guided the city to its peak of early splendor. One of the outstanding medieval squares in Europe, it is the site of the famed horse race, the Palio, each year. The air was a bit chilly this autumn morning, but the sun provided just enough warmth for locals to sit and chat, enjoy a coffee, catch up before the tour buses arrived. Though I’d briefly passed through Siena five years earlier with a friend, this time I was on my own, wandering at my leisure, even taking some meals in the cafeteria of the 13th-century university to make sure I had some good, cheap food and some animated company. Siena is home to the first “striped” churches I’d seen in Italy, towers banded in layers of black and white stone. It’s also the location of the Church of San Domenico where I’d found the chapel of Saint Catherine, one of two patron saints of Italy (the other is Francis of Assisi). So important is she that, due to popular demand, her head is buried in Siena, her body in Rome, other parts allegedly distributed throughout the country. I had not brought my dizionario with me when I visited San Domenico and had to write down some words to look up later. One such label, “pollice,” flanked a smallish, jeweled reliquary. Back in my room, I looked it up. “Thumb.”

1 comment:

  1. It's like my own personal little travel escape first thing in the morning. Your pictures are gorgeous!!