Monday, April 1, 2013


Siena has turned out to be a favorite stop for many of us, if for no other reason than it was the only place we've visited on the entire trip where we never got any rain!  Siena, much like the smaller and less well-known Lucca, is another of those wonderful Italian cities that is both ancient and modern at the same time.  Like Lucca, we strolled through narrow, winding streets to shop, eat and sightsee.  (Unlike Lucca, my wife and I didn't get lost!)  On the way into the city, a pizzeria owner entertained us with some skillful pizza thowing, so a lot of us ended up back there for lunch to show our appreciation.  After our free time, our three bus groups took a guided tour of the city, including yet another breathtaking cathedral.

Siena is best known for the Palio, a horse race that takes place twice each summer.  There are seventeen different 'contrade' (neighborhoods) of Siena, each with its own flag, colors, animal mascot, fight song and pre-race parties and traditions.  Each Palio features ten horses representing ten of those contrade.  (Subsequent races feature the seven that weren't included in the previous, and three chosen by lot.)  The horses race around the Piazza del Campo, the open circle in the center of town.  That's normally an area of shops and restaurants, and tourist foot traffic, but twice each year, a bunch of dirt is hauled in to created a horse racing surface.  There are sharp angles, and the path is not remotely level, so the race (bareback, no less) is a harrowing and dangerous event.  Some horses have won the race without their jockeys!

Here are some pictures of Siena.  Since switching from group to group proved so tricky in Lucca, it was strongly suggested that we stay with our original group for this trip. Therefore we don't have a wider variety of shots.  We're hoping to have more tomorrow when other photographers weigh in.

Some of our gang in the middle of the public square.  It seems almost incomprehensible that a horse race takes place there.
 Our students have been very attentive to our tour guides for the entire trip.
Like Lucca, Siena has many narrow and winding streets with a very little amount of vehicular traffic.  Lucca, however, is relatively flat, while Siena's roads can sometimes be quite steep.

 Another picture of the Piazza del Campo, the shell-shaped and only vaguely circular public area.  That's right, the horse race isn't even done on a traditional oval track!
Following Siena, we settled into our buses for our longest drive of the entire trip.  More than three hours to get to Rome.

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