Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I would like to begin this story by sharing an email I sent to family and friends right after my return from Siena.....this is how THIS adventure began..
Last week..........ya'll would have laughed your butts off if you could have seen me tuesday morning! Pouring down rain. Took the city bus to the bigger bus stop below town...when I say bus stop, I mean a place to sit or stand by a sign! I'm sitting there way early cuz you know me....don't wanna miss that bus.....with my backpack on, a plastice bag covering it cuz don'tcha know my rain cover for backpack was one of the things I threw out when trying to find more room when packing...duh. we call that dumbass in texas! So I've got a plastic shopping bag over my backpack and the umbrella that I bought in Pisa for 4 euros that was so cute and lasted for about one pop open! But I'm still using it, cussing it every time the wind blows cuz I'm that old lady with her umbrella all going backwards!! hahahahah....even I'm laughing about it right now! Get on my bus....only to be told that I have to change buses in, home of the Amanda Knox trial.....  so.....change buses....everything is ok. but all the scenic views I was hoping for on my bus rides....nada. cuz of the rain. Jumped into a cab when I got there.....oh yeah, I went to Siena!!!! for three days! I stayed right in town by the palio where the big horse race is....vera cool. Loved that town.  I walked and walked and visited churches.....and learned all about St Catherine, which elaine, I hope you looked up! So far, I've not met anyone from the south....until the day I'm sitting on the concrete in the middle of the piazza and who is sitting right beside me??? a couple who go to LSU!! It was like a breath of fresh air from home. And one more town where the shopping was TO DIE FOR. as soon as my grandbabies all get born and can stay with their daddies, I'm coming back here with my daughter-in-laws and we are gonna shop till we can't shop no mo!! So, it's time to come back and I get on the bus again at 5:30 pm. only bus that comes this way once a day.'s raining again and guess what breaks down???? Yep. so here is janey, once again, sitting on the street in the rain, waiting for another bus to come.....THAT NIGHT GOT JUST A WEE BIT CRAZY......but I just took deep breaths and adjusted my attitude and finally got home late that night. I had called Paolo, the taxi new best saviour and begged him to come get me and take me home. I couldn't stand the thought of waiting in the rain for 45 more minutes to catch the next local bus into town. There was NOWHERE to stand covered around that area......    
Located in Tuscany, Siena is known for its medieval architecture, art and culture and its medieval horse race that is held twice a yr.
Tall tower is the clock tower found in Il Campo, the main piazza in town.
The dome and tower to the left of that tree is the Siena Cathedral (Duomo) which was begun in the 12th century. The black and white tower can be seen from anywhere in the town.
The beauty of this church is undescribable.
Besides my love of taking pictures of their clothes hanging out to dry...I was amazed that even one step back and look what you could see behind this house...
the cathedral tower!
Then, there is the Il Campo, the main piazza and the home of the Palio horse race. The race is held twice a yr and all other times, this piazza is the gathering place for everyone.
See the gray strip all around the edge of the central area?  The horses actually race around the street area there.  Read this!
The Palio
The Palio di Siena is a traditional medieval horse race run around the Piazza del Campo twice each year, on 2 July and 16 August. The event is attended by large crowds, and is widely televised. Seventeen Contrade (which are city neighbourhoods originally formed as battalions for the city's defence) vie for the trophy: a painted banner, or Palio bearing an image of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For each race a new Palio is commissioned by well-known artists and Palios won over many years can often be seen in the local Contrade museum. During each Palio period, the city is decked out in lamps and flags bearing the Contrade colours.
Ten of the seventeen Contrade run in each Palio: seven run by right (having not run in the previous year's corresponding Palio) together with three drawn by lot from the remaining ten. A horse is assigned to each by lot and is then guarded and cared for in the Contrade stable. The jockeys are paid huge sums and indeed there are often deals and bribes between jockeys or between "allied" Contrade committees to hinder other riders, especially those of 'enemy' Contrade. For the three days preceding the Palio itself, there are practice races. The horses are led from their stables through the city streets to the Campo, accompanied by crowds wearing Contrade scarves or tee-shirts and the air is filled with much singing and shouting.
Though often a brutal and dangerous competition for horse and bare-back rider alike, the city thrives on the pride this competition brings. The Palio is not simply a tourist event as a true Sienese regards this in an almost tribal way, with passions and rivalry similar to that found at a football 'Derby' match. In fact the Sienese are baptised twice, once in church and a second time in their own Contrade fountain. This loyalty is maintained through a Contrade 'social club' and regular events and charitable works. Indeed the night before the Palio the city is a mass of closed roads as each Contrade organises its own outdoor banquet, often for numbers in excess of 1,000 diners. On the day of the Palio itself the horses are accompanied by a spectacular display of drummers and flag twirlers dressed in traditional medieval costumes who first lead the horse and jockey to the Contrade parish church and then join a procession around the Piazza del Campo square. This traditional parade is called the Corteo Storico, which begins in the streets and concludes in the Piazza del Campo encircling the square. There are often long delays while the race marshall attempts to line up the horses, but once underway the Campo becomes a cauldron of wild emotion for the 3 minutes of the race.
This event is not without its controversy however, and recently, there have been complaints about the treatment of the horses and to the danger run by the riders. In order to better protect the horses, steps have been taken to make veterinary care more easily available during the main race. Also at the most dangerous corners of the course, cushions are used to help protect both the riders and horses.
(courtesy of Wikipedia)
I was sitting on the concrete just like everyone else, enjoying the day, when I could have sworn this foursome was Il Divo...the boy band!!  Wasn't!
Lunch this day was a delicioso minestrone soup, eaten right on the edge of the piazza
Even tho these pizzas were everywhere!!  do you see the size of that pie in comparison to the coke can??  that's a big-a pizza-a! be continued!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Taking in the sites and meeting new friends!

October 8, 2012

Up and out this morning with no real definite plans except to get a bus ticket to Siena on Tuesday and come back on Thursday afternoon.  Because the bus ticket office was at the basilica end of town, I decided to  walk all the way to the other end close to the wall of the town. What a walk it was.....I'm telling you, if one didn't have calf and thigh muscles before this town, one does after!  I'm talking steep slopes that take your breath away each and every time you walk one.  But I found lots of new churches, galleries and views.
saw an elementary school and it sounded exactly like an american school....lots of loud, happy children!
loved this wood carving of the all-american--oops,scusi, italian family!
and this sculpture, appropriately named...The Ascension!
  As I was about to find a chair with a cool one, I get a call from Andrea.  She was the one who happened to walk past Anne and  I on my first hour in town....She is from San Diego but spends several months of each yr in Assisi and traveling around. She is taking Italian language lessons and has really become fluent on this trip. So, even tho I met her, it was a week later before we  finally got  together.  For pizza on this afternoon. And we clicked instantly. Even tho we are on different sides of the political fence, we have so much fun together that we immediately agreed to just not talk about it......oh sure...a dig here and there....but  no real political talk!  She took me to her favorite pizza place and it was yum-yum!
thin crust, so much cheese and arugula!
so crazy that we only met on this day and we immediately became fun friends!
really neat place
Next, we walked to her apt....she's in the know about places to stay!  This is a 4 bedroom beautiful apt with a terrace and a killer view!
just when I'm loving the view from her terrace, I  look behind the apt to see this!
I've never seen blue skies like I've seen in Umbria!
After I left her place, I walked to LaFontanella, Franca's cafe to use her internet.  She had spent 3 hours this day hunting for serve her guests. Here was the bounty of her hunt.
and her cleaning them.  She cooked for just she and I this night.....grilled pork chop, some of the best spinach I've had and those mushrooms, grilled!!  It was truly a home cooked meal! YUM!
Up early tomorrow to catch a bus to the bigger bus stop below the city to go to Siena!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mass at St. Francis Assisi Basilica! Oct.7

Yesterday, Saturday, was spent washing some clothes, finding a closer internet hotspot, finding the best place to buy bus tickets to Siena. Made breakfast in apt.....scrambled eggs!!! these people don't eat many eggs...all I've seen so far are hard boiled so it was a treat to have some good ol' home scrambled eggs, minus the tony chachere, of course. :( Went out to see the Minerva temple which is a very cool roman building with architecture that you just don't see anymore. Will do more research on this when I can........Inside was beautiful. Also checked on a play I would like to see while here.
Sunday, Oct 7
Mass at the basilica at 10;30. Wow. All I can say. I just remember watching midnight mass on Christmas eve when I was a little girl and the pope said it? That's what I felt like this morning...of course, the Pope wasn't there but the massiveness of this church and the people and the Italian music.....this was the first time I'd been inside this church so you can just imagine my awe!
You see this sign?  They are not kidding......they mean no take-a no pictures-o!  That means, ms.jmac don't even think you're gonna try to sneak some in.....nada.  Ain't happening!
a musical concert they were preparing for in the lower part, which I went to!
a statue that I need to do research on that was on the front lawn
Molta Bellisimo!
  I was lucky enough to communicate enough with one of the friars to make arrangements to have mass offered up for some of my friends.....I think that will be a souvenir worth its weight in gold for these buddies! After mass, I went to the lower basilica and visited the tomb of St Francis.
 Walked all thru the church, admiring the frescoes and just the pureness of it all. Great experience. Afterwards, walked the grounds.........seems like everything has meaning here........guess that's why its such a religious place. But not just for catholics........for all people who have faith.
Then, I walked down the path and had lunch at the Ristorante San Francesco.
 Thought it would be a cheesy touristy place but man, oh man...............did I ever have some good food there. Duck breasts in balsamic vinegar and spinach cakes floating in a three cheese fondue!!!
 And as I told my daughter in law............if Jesus didn't come visit me in that church earlier, then He sure as h*ll came to my dessert plate!! You'll see from the pics!
Frozen chocolate mousse stuffed with a chocolate filling, surrounded by fresh mango and pomengranate fruit and syrup....accompanied with caffe gellato!!!!!  A serious religious experience there!!
After lunch walked down to the main piazza to watch the people.....and walk off that lunch!

In two weeks, these mountains will be orange and gold!
for Lisa!
the cafe where I often sit in the Piazza to watch the people!
 Saw two of the girls from one of the previous tour days and we sat for awhile to talk about all of our experiences so far. It started to get a lil cloudy so I headed back home and read about Siena, which is my next adventure! Cooked some pasta for dinner with cheese while the rain drops hit the skylights and listened to music. A wonderful day today!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Bevagna and Spello!

Bevagna and Spello! 10-5-12

This was a very cool day! Joined Anne's tour group today......hey! she provides transportation and this is huge around here. think there were 7 or 8 of us. This is where I met billie and ladies!  Our first stop was Bevagna, but along the way, we saw many things....                                                    

a shrine with a  copy of Rafael's Lady of the Chair...just want to show you the beauty and intricacy in this side of the road place to worship...
Beautiful!!  and isn't that the fattest baby ever??
Next, we came upon the shrine to St. Francis where he spoke to the animals..
Anne read to us the whole passage that is written in stone under the altar...I'm going to make a synopsis of what it said.....she's gonna kill me because she is a stipler for details of history...sorry, anna!
"the birds gathered and Francesco said to them..Sister Birds, the Lord has given you fields of green to feed in and mountains to protect you and fresh springs to quench your thirst.  All flew off to the four corners of the world to preach his word, just as Francesco had done."
a mental image I will keep in my mind for those rainy, winter days ahead!
a fave butcher shop where we were treated to a tasting of meats and cheeses
rosie with her plate of wonderfulness!
be still my heart....while the rows and rows of Pecorino cheese call my name! Had to bring a bit of this back to apt.  Umbria is the home of pecorino perfection!
also visited a frescoed theatre that dates back to 1886. Absolutely gorgeous
loved this......while walking down street, I noticed the "old man" chairs......they have even put their names onto their own chairs!!
Also, saw a mailman and asked him to mail the postcards that the grandbabies received!
An image from the gates entering Bevagna....a reflection..
  Anne is very knowledgeable of all the history of these towns so it's nice to hear her stories. We saw a beautiful theatre....we visited a place where a home of those times was rebuilt and re-enacted to give us a view of what it may have been like.

   Next, on to Spello....ok...may I just tell you that this was a day of perfection. Let me set the scene for you; a very cool wine restaurant with a table set outside for us, with no less than 4 wine glasses set at each place. You see where I'm going here, right? The sun is out and we're under the shade of a terrace, slight breeze blowing and the air smells crisp and clean. The table is round so it's easy to talk to everyone. Magically, Roberto and Lucca, his son, appear.........and OMG....may I just say they are both beautiful in the most masculine way! They are the wine connoiseurs and owners. First, comes out a plate of bruschetta of 4 or 5 different varieties.....and a wine to match. Now, these are full servings of each wine, not just a taste. Next, comes a white lentil soup....with a wine to match. Next, the freshest salad with fresh mozzarella, of course, and a piece of tuna.....with a wine to match. Finally, a dessert of different cakes....with a dessert wine to match. And with each course, Lucca is describing each wine and showing us how to swirl, smell and taste. No spitting allowed! It was all swallowed down.....which leads to everyone getting just a wee bit tipsy and having a ball!! Roberto even brought out an extra bottle for us to try--it was the same wine that Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones had for their wedding reception. Oh.........and I forgot all about the olive oil!! They make their own and we tasted that as well. What can I say?? A whole afternoon of gorgeous food, delicious wine and stemware of every different size and shape?? Like I said....a day of perfection!  Let the pics begin.....

how much in heaven do I think I was when I saw all this stemware???
name of the place
MY place setting
learning to swirl and sniff from roberto!
and of course, taste!
and smile!
first to watch the olive oil be poured!
then taste!!
first the bruschetta....white and black truffle! pesto and tomato
then, a white lentil soup
and the salad....notice the balsamic being dripped on.....rachel, you would love it!
First, bianco.....all the next ones were red...mmmmmm!
Yep!!  we drank all of these...and a few more!!
Father and Son........a spectacular team!
and if you think this is just a wine and olive oil cellar?? Oh no! They also make skin products made with their olive oil!
On our walk thru town, the "men who sit" asked us to take a pic with them!!
Whew!!!   What a fun day!!!