thursday was an easy travel day. we got all packed up and left the flat aroud 9h15. our train to siena was at 10h10, and only an hour and a half long. out host in siena was a super cool, hipstery italian guy named giuseppe. he met us at the station and led us up the EIGHT escalators that brought us from the station at the bottom of the mountain to the city at the top! they had just finished building the escalators a few months before.. until then, you had to wind your way up the streets! no thank you. once we got to the top, he led us around the corner to his beautiful tuscan villa of a building. we dropped our stuff off in the flat and then went out or a walk around ton. talk about winding streets!! yeesh. that place was super confusing.. i never even tried to navigate with a map. there is an awesome tradition in siena called il palio, and rachel and i were lucky enough to be there literally 2 days before the event. for il palio, 10 of the 17 city neighborhoods, called 'constrade', participate in a horse race in the city centre. the race is crazy - a bareback, no holds barred (except eye gougin), frantically fast-paced frenzy.. three laps around the square, as literally thousands of spectators look on. i highly suggest you read the article i linked.. it's so interesting!! we walked through a few constrade on the way to lunch, and i loved seeing all the different flags. giuseppe brought us to his favourite little restaurant for lunch.. the outdoor tables were on a hill that is SO steep.. the front legs of the tables and stools were on stilts! i had a little bit of vertigo while we ate, because i felt like i was going to tumble over the table and down the street. my penne pasta was so good! after lunch, we walked with giuseppe over to his university, taking the scenic route to check out some great views of the city. he brought us all the way to the library, which is housed in an old church and is therefore awesome! we left him to study for a while as we walked around some more. the first thing we did was stop by an internet cafe to look up where to find a tourism office and check our emails, etc. once we had all the information we needed, and a little map, we set out. we ended up walking the entire length of the street which supposedly had the office on it, but we never saw it! instead, we ended up at the university of siena's school of social and political sciences. it was so hot that we decided to go inside, just for kicks. great decision! we got to use the free bathrooms, AND we bought ice cream for student prices! that ice cream cookie sandwich was truly excellent. we eventually tore ourselves away and continued on our wandering. we eventually came across the duomo cathedral, so we took the opportunity to go in and see it. the church is really unique as far as cathedrals go - it's all black and white horizontal stripes inside, plus an absolutey unreal marble floor. we also visited the baptistery, which i recognized from ap art history in high school. i've REALLY enjoyed getting to see all of the art that i've studied.. it makes my schooling seem more worthwhile and applicable. after the duomo and the baptistery, we headed back towards the main plaza, called piazza del campo. we stopped in a book shop, but not too long afterwards, we heard crazy loud singing coming closer and closer to the plaza. we went outside to check it out, and saw one of the constrade leading their horse to the plaza for practice! they were following it, singing the neighborhood fight song, looking like football hooligans. all the followers were separated - men first, then women, then children. i loved it. it was the turtle neighborhood, which i knew because there was a turtle shaved into the hair on the horse's flank! rachel and i followed the parade to the plaza, because we had to meet giuseppe at 18h30. we sat around on the plaza for a while, waiting for the practice runs to start. but then it started to rain.. which washed away the dirt layed down for the track. so the horses couldn't run. :( we left around 19h30 to buy stuff for dinner. giuseppe made an awesome quiche with potatoes, zucchini, and ham. we rested while it cooked and then ate together. around 22h, giuseppe's friend osman came over and we all went out for a bit. we walked back to the main plaza, where we sat and hung out for the night. some other friends of theirs came over for a while, and it was cool to talk to them. i was so tired and spacey at around 1h30 that giuseppe decided it was time for us to go. i skyped my mama for a minute before collapsing into bed, pretty much dead to the world.
friday, 1 july 2011