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1 June 2020 - Day 51 – Siena (Florence, Day 3)

Getting started at 7:30, my plan was to catch the 8:28 train out of #Firenze Santa Maria Novella. Downstairs for a quick breakfast of juice and fruit, I was out the door and heading to the station ahead of schedule. That meant I could stop at Pasticceria Deanna, just outside the station per Elisa’s suggestion. An Americano Cappuccino Grande with a cornetti set me back almost 10€, but it meant I had coffee with me for about a half hour before a train change in Empoli. At a quarter past 10 the train arrived in Siena.

My first order of business was to get a combo Museo Civico and Torre del Mangia pass at the tower box office. I was unable to get it online, and the daily number is limited. Tomorrow is National Day in Italy, so I was anxious that long-weekenders might grab all the tickets. I’d already got my Acropoli/Porta del Cielo pass. I’d checked Google Maps, and the 2+ kilometers to the tower, a half hour walk, looked complex, and public surface transportation still left me walking about a third of the way. So I decided to take a taxi, which had me there in 15 minutes. And I didn’t get lost.

After purchasing my ticket, setting my time for the Torre and Museo to 2pm, I headed to the cathedral. Five minutes away, I was only 10 minutes late to activating my Acropoli pass. I’d taken a few shots on my way to the door, but I know this is one of those buildings that would probably be best photographed from a drone. I really did need more time to examine the facades for each side, as they had all been a focus of the Opera del Duomo, the ruling body for the cathedral.

Entering the nave, I was overwhelmed. The use of black and white marble in stripes (carried from the exterior) recalls the color scheme of the Siena shield and city colors. The color scheme carries upward to the arches and spandrels. Artworks abound. Plus, in addition to the cathedral interior itself, there are the Libreria Piccolomini (holding religious books and musical manuscripts under fabulous frescoes) and the Opera della Metropolitana (originals of statues, stained-glass, mosaics and frescoes removed for preservation), plus the Battistero di San Giovanni Battista in the crypt. I had planned a bit more than 3 hours, and probably could have used a whole day!! And half that time was on the Porto del Cielo guided tour – half on the floor and half above, including the roof. So there are many pictures in no particular order.

The plan had been to take a short break for lunch. That couldn’t happen. Rushing from the cathedral to the Museo, I arrived a minute or two late for the 2pm entry. (Yes, I know, it’s only older “Americans” who are punctual.) With the sun (and clouds) overhead, I decided to climb first, to avoid having the sun behind the cathedral.

A square brick tower, 87 meters tall, it took 400+ steps to reach the top, which is a cap of stone and marble. (A flashback, verified on Wikipedia, to the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, MA – it was patterned on the Torre.) They predicate a 40-minute visit, but it took me closer to an hour.

Once back down on the plaza level, I headed into the museum. The building, the Palazzo Pubblico, has maintained its original function, that of civic offices for the city, during the three phases of building.

Large tapestries hang on the walls. In the Sala del Mappamondo is the fresco cycle the Allegory of Good and Bad Government. A chapel has gorgeous artwork on the walls and arches. Probably a dozen chambers over two floors, the museum contains some of the finest paintings, sculptures and frescoes of the renowned Sienese School. But after 90 minutes, I was tapped out on museums and art for the day.

There were 2 hours before my train to return to #Florence. The half-hour walk would take me an hour, as I knew there were some places along the way to check out. I decided to return to the cathedral and survey the exterior. I was able to make my circuit, study each façade and take my pictures. Mission accomplished!

Heading back to the Siena station, I had a 10-minute walk to the San Domenico stop, at which point I could catch any of 4 buses for a 6 to 13 -minute ride, all arriving before 6:10. And the Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico was near the stop. The directions bypassed a return to Piazza del Campo, and took me through commercial streets lined with clothing shops or restaurants, plus a few lodgings. At the corner where the orthodox Chiesa di San Pellegrino alla Sapienza sits, I turned left and continued to Piazza San Domenico. I had 25 minutes before the first bus as due.

A large church associated with a convent; it is set on a ridge. A very simple door, it open onto a very empty nave. A very high beamed wooden ceiling, most of the windows over the shrines were clear glass. I found the chapel where St Catherine of Siena are venerated. Mystic and author, she convinced the pope to return from Avignon to Rome. She, with St Theresa of Avila, is a Doctor of the (Roman Catholic) Church. She is the patron saint for Europe.

A quick visit, I was heading back up the slight inclined as the bus approached. I was able to board, and 8 minutes later, at the station with 15 minutes to wait. After checking which platform, I ducked into the Racaniello Bar and had a quick glass of house red and got a bag of chips. I boarded the train and found a seat with a table. Pulling out my journal, I spent the 75 minutes recording what I remembered.

Alighting at Firenze Santa Maria Novella, I had 10 minutes to get to my dinner reservations at Ristorante Sabatini, which was a 5-minute walk away. No changing again tonight.

Let’s see. Breakfast so long before dinner that I can’t remember. A bag of chips on the train home. Nope, didn’t really eat all day. Break the rules. To start, I ordered a fresh pasta: Pappardella al matarello in battuta di cinghiale off the specials board. Then Risotto ai Carciofi e pecorino di Pienza, because I love risotto and I love artichokes. To be followed by Tagliata di cranio con gorgonzola e noci, because one eats beef in Florence, right? Oh, and vegetables: fagioli al fiasco and spinaci aglio e peperocino.

Okay, they had a water menu – six different bottled waters. All fizzy. Way too much hype, I went with the Acqua Panna because it was Tuscan. I laughed away the pricey wine menu; what, I’m going to order a 1967 Chambertin at 40K euros? A chianti classico tonight would be fine. So the pasta starter comes, and the noodles are perfect and the boar melts in my mouth. Good start. The risotto was perfection: the rice al dene, the cheese creamy, the artichokes young and fresh. And the steak was a delight; I’m a big fan of most blue cheeses, and gorgonzola goes so well with a good piece of cow cooked correctly. Medium rare, juicy, tender. And they shaved a new truffle on top and I think I orgasmed from the perfume. The beans and the spinach (especially the spinach) were wonderful.

A divine dinner. Hard to think what might top it, but I’d read that the cheesecake at Sabatini is to die for, so I got a serving. Not your typical cheesecake by any stretch of the imagination. A crumble topping, drizzled with a honey-nocello sauce, it was truly awesome. So the staff, the kitchen and the ambiance were all 5-star. My #ViaHero Hero Elisa was spot-on again with her excellent advice.

Leaving, it being a cool and pleasant evening out, I walked over to the Duomo and took another night picture before heading back to the hotel.

Different staff at the front desk, they were still curious about my dining. I got thumbs up for tonight, and for my day in #Siena. Up a flight of stairs (I needed to start working that dinner off) I got to my room and began relaxing as I went through my nightly routine. I had an email from Viator confirming my day of touring tomorrow. Once I’ve proofed this, I can upload and then put the photos in and this post goes live.

One thing occurred to me: the city is Siena, and I remembered spelling something sienna – well, the latter is a color in the orange-brown family.

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