Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Sienna, San Gimignano, Florence

Sienna Cathedral
We woke up a Wednesday morning and got ready to start school when we realized that the internet was out.  So much to the kids delight, Justin and I decided we would go do a field trip to Sienna and San Gimignano.  We headed to Sienna first.  Caleb had read up on Sienna and told us that each district within the city has its own mascot.  Once a year they pick a rider to race around the campo (Main Square) on a horse, bareback, that does not belong to them.  I thought this was crazy, but then Caleb further explained that the race is 3 laps long and in order to “protect” the rider they place mattresses against the wall of the most dangerous corner.  Also, if the rider falls off during the race and the horse crosses the finish line first the rider still wins. Once we arrived in Sienna we had a great time looking at all the different flags for each district.  We all tried to decide which district we would want to live in based on its mascot.  Caleb chose the phoenix, Joel selected the eagle, Danielle chose the unicorn of course and Eden picked the hedgehog.  We got to the campo and walked around trying to imagine this crazy horse race.  Luckily, we came across the tourist center that had a video of the current year’s race that we were able to watch.  It was even more insane then I imagined.  These riders are brave, and by the way, the mattresses come in handy.  We walked over to the cathedral then found a pizza place to eat at.  We ordered a few delicious pizzas and I asked the waiter what this fancy, orange drink that I had been seeing everyone drinking.  He told me that it was called an Aperol Spritz, so I ordered one.  I was not disappointed.  It was tangy, orange flavored with a slight tartness.  After our great lunch we continued to explore Sienna.  The city itself is very pretty and the streets are quaint. 

Sienna Campo
Caroline enjoying Aperol Spritz

We eventually headed back to the car and Justin asked me to drive to San Gimignano.  Once we got back on the highway there was literally no one in sight, so I decided to drive like an Italian.  I went from one lane to the next, then back to the other a second later.  I straddled the lane marker, because one lane just isn’t enough, while speeding up and slowing down for no reason.  Let me tell you the kids were quite amused and I think Justin was rethinking asking me to drive.  At some point I might “blent” (blog vent—Caleb came up with that one) about Italian drivers.   In San Gimignano we got lucky with the parking because there were no spots left but true to my parking karma someone pulled out just as we were coming in.  We walked all around San Gimignano and came across a small shop that had some really pretty water colors of Tuscany.  Justin and I chose a couple and the shop keeper told us he was the artist of these particular pieces and that his brother did the others.  I was excited to buy something I loved and be able to meet the actual artist.  We walked over to the Piazza del Duomo and I inquired in the tourist office about climbing up one of the towers that surround the city.  We decided against it since the cost was a little more than we had hoped and neither one of us really want to haul Eden up all those stairs.  We continued on our way and by this time Eden started to remind us that it was time for our daily gelato.  We ended up at Gelateria Dondoli, which won the award for “World’s Best Gelato”.  It did not disappoint and was mighty good.  I have decided that if my careers as puzzle picture photographer or Lego builder don’t work out then I would like to be a gelato quality control taster.  Who knows this could be something.  We walked over to the old city wall and took in the view.  The landscape is composed of rolling hills, such a lush green, and dotted with vineyards and beautiful Tuscan homes.  We stood there for a while just taking it all in.  We continued to explore the city and lucky for Eden found a park.  Give that girl an ice cream and a park and she is in heaven.  Afterwards, we headed back up to the topmost spot in San Gimignano and found the Rocca de Montestaffoli (fortress).  We took in the view and snapped a few photos.  A nice gentleman came over and asked if he could take a picture of all of us.  We said yes and then he asked where we were from.  We told him Colorado and he laughed and said that he and his wife were from Silverthorne. This is the second couple that we have encountered from Colorado.  We talked to them for some time and told them about our adventure.  They thought it was amazing and told the kids to take it all in and remember as much as they can.  We slowly strolled back towards the car to head home to Ficulle.  On the drive home we noticed a McDonalds and since Eden yells French fries every time we see a Mickey D’s sign we decided to surprise her and stop for a quick dinner.  Well, during our meal the song Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio came on and it totally felt like we were back in the States eating a burger and shake, instead of the middle of Italy where we should have been eating a great lasagna or carbonara.  By the way, I have never heard this song while sitting in a McDonalds in the Fort or any other McDonalds, for that matter.  

San Gimignano (We bought art here from artist in background)

View from high point of San Gimignano

Street artist in Florence painting for Caleb
A few days later we headed north to Florence.  I have always loved this city, just walking around it has a great vibe. We stopped at the post office and Justin realized that he had forgotten his wallet so I drove, which I didn’t mind, until we got into Florence itself.  I got off the freeway and luckily stayed to the right.  There were no lines on the road to let us know how many lanes there were, but much to my surprise a car was coming towards us head on.  He moved to his right and we both realized that this was a two direction road.  Come on where are the lines!  It got worse from here.  The traffic was crazy and my GPS was acting like Daniel again.  He sent me down a road that is only for residents.  Once we figured out where the parking garage was it was closed due to construction.  I headed towards a different garage and ended up parking at the Mercato Centrale.  The parking garages in Italy are tight to say the least.  We headed into the Mercato Centrale and had a delicious lunch of eggplant parmesan, pizza, fries with mayo, chicken, beer and wine, all of which was amazing.  I love going to places like this because it is along the line of a gourmet food court, so it is easy to try a little bit of everything.  We headed out of the Mercato Centrale and into a street market of goods, lots of leather.  Just at the end of the market we encountered a spray paint artist.  We had been seeing this type of artist in various cities and I am very impressed and what they are creating in about 10 to 15 minutes.  Caleb is very intrigued by it and we had him request a piece and 15 minutes later we walked away with Caleb’s masterpiece.  We headed over to the Duomo, the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower with Brunelleschi dome.  The dome is the largest in Italy.  We visited the interior and stood beneath the enormous dome.  The dome is intricately painted with colorful frescos. We then headed to the Piazza della Signora and saw the Fountain of Neptune, and the statues of Perseus with the head of Medusa, the Rape of Sabine, and the copy of David, to name a few.  The original was moved into the Accademia Gallery and replaced with a copy.  Even the copy was incredible.  Eden commented that “I see a lot of peepees and everyone is looking at them”.  I chuckled, I guess to a 3 year old art should be more clothed.  Even Danielle blushed a few times.  She commented that she “never wanted to see those again”.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the piazza and the art.  We headed towards the Ponte Vecchio and stopped for a gelato along the way.  Once on the bridge we walked across it and had fun browsing at the shop windows.  The shops are mainly jewelry shops and Danielle and I ooohed and aaahed a lot.  We headed towards the Piazza Republica and then to the Basilica de Santa Maria Novella.  It was neat to see the ornate façade and surprising to see that the sides and back were, well, pretty ugly.  The façade is made of black, white, pink and greenish stone in some very intricate patterns.  By this time in the day we had walked about 7 miles and we were all tired so we headed back to Ficulle.  We had a pretty amazing day seeing the sights and enjoying the food.  

Florence Duomo

Frescos painted in the dome of the Florence Duomo
Joel with David (or a replica at least)

Ponte Vecchio in background
On Ponte Vecchio with Arno River below

Basilica de Santa Maria Novella

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