Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Parking Woes

Yup, one can't be a woes when it comes to parking here. We had an awesome nights kip and woke up slowly before heading off to Sienna for the day.

Arriving in Sienna there was no, and I mean NO, parking to be found. All the parking garages were full and we drove around for at least an hour looking for parking. Needless to say that I was less than amused so my views on Sienna may be a little tainted. Just a tad! We eventually found a parking only to be told that it was for residents only although I couldn't see any sign but there was an ancient hag leaning out of her window shouting the odds so we moved on. The next parking was for 60 minutes only and I must say that the entire day went past as if it was only 60 minutes. It worried me a little that we might find the car missing or the wheels locked but the Italians, like in so many respects, missed this one.

First stop on what turned out to be a day full of culture, way too much in fact; at least for me anyway. By the end of the day the culture had ripened into gorgonzola gone off but it started off well enough with a light lunch on the Piazza del Campo at the restaurant recommended by Andre which was a very nice meal indeed. I like the way they have a first and a second main course and now I know what a bruschetta is and I'm keen to try making some when I get home. The Piazza is a bit difficult to capture in a photo but this is the view from our table which was nicely shaded luckily for me. I took the photograph below to show all the sun averse sitting, like pigeons, in the shadow of the Torre del Mangia

From the Piazza we went to the Duomo which, you guessed it, is a cathedral but quite unlike any others we have visited. This one looks like a giant made it of liquorice allsorts.

Uncharacteristically, photographs were allowed inside as long as one didn't use a flash or a tripod. Talk about making it as difficult as possible but nothing serves better as a rest than the sign stating 'No flash, no tripod'. I think that the most interesting part of the cathedral was the mini library where we could view musical scores which were richly decorated. I, of course, couldn't read a thing; they may as well have been in Latin but I'm sure the more musically versed would probably appreciate it.

The interior of the church is particularly ornate and beautifully crafted and proportioned in every respect and is worth a visit. Really!
The last part of the Duomo we went to is not specifically part of the Duomo but we had mistakenly purchased tickets which let us into several individual sights so one sort of feels that one should see them because the tickets are pretty pricey; and I'm not one to waste money easily. The last part was a museum with lots of 11 and 12th century religious iconry which thrills me not but it also had a staircase up to a view point which gave a fantastic panoramic view of Sienna. It was interesting that there are actually tilled fields within 500m of the centre of town which I wouldn't have expected.

From the liquorice church we went to ... another church on something of a pilgrimage. Apparently Caron went to St. Catherines and St. Catherine, at least her head and some other odd bits are interred in the church of San Domenico. Seeing her gaunt head, they assure the faithful that it really is her head although I have my doubts, made me realise why dogs are not allowed in churches - period. It's a simple case of economic expediency. While saints are alive they kind of have to be in one place at a time but once they're dead, but not buried, their future value can be significantly increased by dismemberment. The more parts, the more places pilgrims can come to pay their dues and please pardon the pun. So back to the dogs; dogs are a significant danger to the odd thumb and thigh bone lying around and if the dog happens to get hold of them; that's it - no more pilgrims. And no more pilgrims means no more revenue for both the church and those that profit from the pilgrims in other ways.

But before one jumps to the conclusion that I'm anti-catholic, which I guess I am, let it be said that the same applies to the modern equivalent of relics. Things like Michaelangelo's David; anything that will get people to cover vast distances and spend hard earned money on nothing more than the ability to say that one has done the pilgimage. Harsh but true I think, I'll have to dwell on this some more.

That is enough philosopy for now, apologies for the diversion and back to the story; next up was a wine tasting experience which we only found a part of and it is definitely something that would really work in South Africa in the Western Cape. What they have done is to get a collection of all the Italian wines which they display and allow people to choose to taste; it's a bit intimidating choosing from several thousand wines but it looks great.

I managed to get Caron to pose for one more photograph before we went in search of the icecream van and headed off home for supper and a drink. I made myself some crostini with olive tapenade topped with parmesan cheese and washed it down with a local red wine. Pretty damn awesome if I say so myself.

While we were having supper we started a conversation with some Americans who are cycling around Italy 100km at a time. Very interesting and very friendly which makes a bit of change from the, I don't want to insult any one nation, europeans in general although I think it really does help at least being able to converse easily! American is not so different to English after all.

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