On to Siena
Orvieto – Monte San Savino – Siena - Lucignano, Italy
Anne and I got up early to take an exercise walk around the top of the rock. People are opening their shutters and raising their metal store doors, bon-giorno-ing others they obviously greet each day. Gnarled hands offer freshly picked zucchini flowers from under temporary tarps attached to trucks that just scaled the cliff from a farm down below.
Next stop is Siena, where we park below the Church of San Francesco and take 5 or 6 consecutive escalators to street level, then walk down a steep street to a favored neighborhood osteria, Da Trombicche, for a point and eat lunch of panzanella, faro salad, crostini with porcini mushrooms, roasted eggplant, pasta al pomodoro, and some other unnamed delicacies. Behind the bar, Dave and Mark are part of life in this contrada (quarter of town) catering to tons of regulars and the occasional visitor from out of the country. They seat about twenty for lunch on mostly packed wooden benches at long wooden tables and there are always two or three short timers at the bar.
We mosey to the main square called Il Campo, which is the D-shaped site of the twice annual bareback horserace between 10 of the 17 contradas, an event that defines Sienese culture year-round. Under the Torre di Mange, we enter the town hall’s art collection admiring among other priceless treasures, the ancient frescos in the town council room depicting the effects of both good and bad government.
Now it’s gelato time and we find just the right flavors to please everyone at the artisanale gelateria across the Campo. A mime in a red beret is following unsuspecting tourists as they walk by, copying their gait and actions to the delight and applause of about a hundred people seated at outside cafes. In August, this whole area will be covered in several inches of sand while 40 thundering hoofs provide 90 seconds of passion and excitement to eager Sienese cheering on their contrada’s horse
Anne relaxes on the cathedral steps while we three enjoy a cool stroll
Walking through the medieval gate, we find our restaurant, Il Goccino (the drop – as of wine) on the edge of the tiny snail-shaped village overlooking a sprawling valley. We enjoy a tremendous meal while we watch the lights of the farmhouses twinkle on below. I had a selection of 8 antipasti, and a rabbit rollup, but the most memorable tastes came from the pot of warm chocolate into which I dipped biscotti and pieces of fruit from a skewer. Anne had a little chocolate cupcake with a surprise inside – warm soft chocolate oozed from its heart when pierced by a fork.
Back at our hotel, I drop everyone off then have to park the car outside the walls because tomorrow is Market Day here. There’s no room for cars – only stalls selling fruits, vegetables, meat, cheese, olives, clothes, purses, everything a hilltop town in Tuscany needs to make it through another week.