April 11, 2024

Hotel Executive in Siena, Italy

We settle in for a few days at the Hotel Executive in Siena, and start our Road Scholar program of "Living and Learning in Siena".

Hotel Executive in Siena, Italy

We went to the Camiral golf shop before heading out to buy another shirt. Mitzi visited the restroom and loved the tile. And that glass door is what goes into the toilet! Fancy!

We left Camiral at noon and got a ride to the Barcelona airport.

They had an Argentinian Empanadas, a delicious treat!

We found the Barcelona airport light, roomy, and quiet. So different than pretty much every other airport we've ever been too. Great design!

After a short flight we landed in Florencia. That kitchen was a huge advertisement on the wall of the airport.

We got a ride from the airport down to Siena, about an hour long.

Our Road Scholar group is about 14 people. Here's Erika, the group leader, giving us an orientation.

It's pretty warm. By law they can't turn on air conditioners until April 15th. Interesting!

It's beautiful country here from what little we've seen so far.

First full day in Siena

Our day started with a lecture on Siena with Prof. Mario. He explained a high level of history and pointed out some of the prominent places.

We then drove to the city center and walked around with Erika. It's a beautiful medieval city that is amazingly preserved. It's clean, no graffiti, beautiful shops and restaurants. You wind through narrow stone streets to find beautiful churches, fountains, statues, the city wall and access gates. Many roads lead to the Piazza del Campo. A type of town square that is stunning!

I love this statue of the guy looking exasperated. I'm also fighting a cold currently:)

There are lots of paintings and statues of a she-wolf and two twins. Siena has a legend similar to Rome. Thus this forward facing she-wolf with human cubs, have become the symbol of Siena.

I took a few 'street' photography pictures.

Back to our exploration.

A whole rabbit for sale in the meat department of the little market. And a creative display of sheep cheese :)

We so enjoyed strolling the streets! One narrow ally ended at the stunning Cathedral of Siena. We got to see the inside via a special tour April 24th. By 6p we were pretty tired. We laid down in the Piazza del Campo to rest until dinner at 7p.

That roasted beef was the most tender and flavorful I've ever had. And that's not an exaggeration. Mitzi even ate it!

It was a long day, but full on interesting things to see and learn. We are exhausted. We walked 6.5 miles and were gone from our hotel room for about 12 hours. Which is a lot for us haha.

Next day...

We divided and conquered. I've been feeling under the weather with a cold and cough and stayed in the room most of the day, venturing out for lunch and dinner with the gang.

Mitzi went to several museums and a church and enjoyed learning more about the history of this area. The people are very proud of where the come from.

Mitzi here: Siena is divided into 17 districts. They have been divided this way since the middle ages. They each have a symbol, colors, and pattern. They take great pride in maintaining their part of the city. Their competition and rivalry make the Utah / BYU rivalry look like child's play :)

Each district has their own museum containing their most treasured possessions. They are closed to the public. You must be invited for access. Erika got us access into two of the museums. Both had elderly men as our hosts. They showed us their district's treasures in the most authentic way. It was really cool.

The owl district: Ancient Etruscan crypts (6th to 3rd century BCE), and medieval pottery (1200 - 1500 AD). We went down, down, down into these excavated ruins.

They both displayed immaculate clothing used for the parade during the Palio celebration. Watch this short video to get a bit of understanding.

Inside Il Palio di Siena: Italy’s Oldest Horse Race
Now the subject of a new documentary, Palio, Italy’s 800-year-old horse race is steeped in tradition and drama. Gaia Squarci filmed this year’s competition f…

And then they display the Winning Banners! The prize awarded to the district who wins the horse race!!! They are hand painted and always display the Virgin Mary along with other significant representations of Siena. Some of the oldest dated back to the 1700's. Fun fact..... only 10 of the 17 districts race. The race is in July and August. If you are lucky enough to race twice that year and win them both...... they hang both banners side by side and call it a "Coat." Very very rare!!!

The way they bring the horse into their district church for a blessing before the race..... that's incredible! And if the horse happens to leave droppings..... it means "Extra Good Luck!"

There is a chocolate festival happening in the Piazza this week!

Damon caught a cab into town and met us for lunch. He told me....."I captured the moment you saw me waiting outside the restaurant for lunch. It was so good to see you."

[Damon's again] "That's my person" I thought when I saw her.

[Mitzi] After lunch I ventured onto the Ram district and Damon went back and rested. This district is near the south city wall. It was a much more modern building. The horse whips are made from a Bull's penis. Quite interesting. The views from their terrace were amazing. They also had many winning banners.

On our way back to the Piazza we stopped by a church. It's hard to describe how many churches are in such a dense area. This one was completely empty and so stunning! The painting on the right was done by a Florence prisoner of war in the 1200's. He literally painted for his ransom release. So cool to see it so many years later!

And the sun lit up this cat and its colorful surroundings just perfectly as we strolled back to the Piazza.

There are a lot of widowed people on this trip. At least 1/2 of the group. It's very interesting to chat with them. All 20+ years older than us. None of them remarried. This afternoon I sat in the square with a darling asian woman named Shar. We shared a coke and life stories. Priceless.

At 7pm Damon met us for dinner. Delizioso!

Siena is an amazing city!!! Tomorrow we move into an apartment where we'll be for about 45 days. We are looking forward to getting settled :)