Saturday, June 25, 2011



Siena is a wonderful medieval city. Except for the dark red-orange tile roofs, the entire hill town is that stone color called in English, 'burnt sienna'. 
They’ve eliminated cars from the entire central core (about 40 square blocks), making walking a pleasure. The center of town is dominated by a fantastic fan shaped piazza and the delightful city hall. I counted eleven streets entering the Piazza del Campo

Yearly, the renowned Palio (horse race) is held there. 
I did not know it before I travelled to Siena, but the very day I visited, the entire piazza was being set up for the annual race. The preparation was exciting. There were many people laboring to set up the event: erecting bleachers, reorganizing the outdoor restaurants, establishing souvenir stands, and already selling flags of the various Palio competitors and food from carts. They busily were covering the entire piazza with dirt for the event. I had lunch at a ristorante that had temporarily set up tables and chairs, right on the dirt track. While I was sitting there, waiting for my pasta and Insalata Caprese, I thought to myself, this chair sure is low, when it became lower! Finally, it collapsed into the dirt. My waiter came rushing up to help me, quite embarrassed. It was very funny, and I was not hurt.

Walking back to the train station, I stopped at a sweets shop. Spotting an unusual looking large cake-like shape, I ordered a few slices. Panicifio de Sienese turned out to be a unique Sienese treat, a dense confection made of nuts, citron, raisins and flour with a thick layer of marzipan on top—delicious. Another nice day trip. (I now wish I had taken more side trips.)

Soon after moving to Firenze, I had seen some cats in the courtyard beneath my window. Even before I went to Venezia, I had noticed a particular black feral cat that seemed particularly scared and hungry. After returning from Siena, I began feeding it by dropping scraps from my window. He soon came to the window when l called, 'Kitty'. One day, while walking home from shopping, I detoured into the courtyard and called his new name. He appeared, but would not come any closer. It took several visits for me to get him to approach me. But I never got beyond a quick pet.

I called Bill Murphy. He seemed glad to hear from me, but sounded rather down. Bill told me that Bruce Goff had just died. 
Price House, Bartlesville, OK.
Bavenger House, Norman, OK. The bedrooms are hanging pods in a jungle.
Bruce was an Oklahoma architect, world renowned for his creativity. Bill had studied with him at the University of Oklahoma. And Bill worked for him in Frank Lloyd Wright's Price Tower in Bartlesville, OK. I said it just shows that we should enjoy life, while we can. He said he thought it was super that I was living in Italy doing just that!

One afternoon I was sitting at my usual spot at the Rivoire, having my fragole con vino rosso when a young American woman at a table adjacent to mine said, "You seem to be settled-in here." (I guess she had heard me order my strawberries in Italiano!) "What sights are important to see?" she asked. Well, she could have inquired about anything else, and it would have been a short reply. I could see she was truly interested for she was laden down with books, cameras and tourist guides. I gave her a long dissertation on what the critical stages were in Florentine architecture, art and history, and explained that I had been living in Firenze for four months. I was listing for her, in order of importance, the various sights and their fine points (such as the Ufftzi's prominence and its morning hours) when I asked how long she had to see Firenze. She replied, "Oh, I have all afternoon!"

I, in turn, replied bemused, "Just sit here, have a red wine and watch the people." She evidently thought seeing closed museums was more important than soaking in the atmosphere, so off she went.

I went back to the Piazzale Michelangelo trattoria for a visit to my black and white domesticated cat friend. She was there all right, but this time she would have little to do with me. Just fickle, I suspect. Oh, do I miss my wonderful Abyssinian cat, Liza, back in Washington.

Next, Returning Home.


Caliban said...

I love the story of the collapsing chair.

Equally amusing is the lady who had set aside an entire afternoon to see all of Florence. Mercy!

I also like the cat references and cat awareness! Cats rule! (Dogs do, too, but we can't let the cats hear that.)

Don Voth said...

Yes, all those references are among my favorite memories! of my wonderful trip.