Today marked day 6 of our Tuscan vacation and we headed to historic and beautiful Siena. It is a medieval town and its center has been declared a World Heritage Site. We parked away from the town square, Piazza del Campo, which gave us an opportunity to see some of the historic buildings and homes on our way to enjoy the more well known sites.
Once you enter the center of town, you find yourself on narrow cobble stone streets lined with both old school shops like the local butcher and modern stores selling the latest fashion forward trends (I scored a fantastic deal on a Stella McCartney purse ). One of the sites on the way to the town center is the Palazzo Salimbeni which was built in the 14th century and houses one of the main offices of the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, one of the oldest banks in Europe.
Piazza del Campo is the huge, shell-shaped town square that houses the Palazzo Pubblico and it’s Torre del Mangia as well as the Fonte Gaia water fountain. The square is surrounded by restaurants and stores that offer a view of the square that is filled with merchants, tourists and pigeons (including our children chasing the pigeons).
After a long relaxing lunch, with lots of pasta and wine of course, we headed to our last stop, the Siena Cathedral, otherwise known as Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta. Construction began in the late 12th century on the site of an earlier structure and took almost 200 years to complete.
The pulpit, sculpted by Nicola Pisano in the 13th century features intricatly carved Carrara marble and is one of the many focal points of the Cathedral. However, what stood out in this Cathedral from all the others we had seen so far in Italy (and trust me, there were a lot), were the ornate inlaid mosaic floors covering virtually every inch of floor space. The exterior was equally breathtaking and was constructed of white and green marble featuring mosiac religious scenes and detailed carvings.
On a completely unrelated topic, the morning before heading to Siena, I decided to break out the mystery meat. First let me explain: Upon arrival in Italy, we were sooooo amazed by the low cost of food, particulary meat, as compared to Switzerland that we might have gone a little crazy when grocery shopping for the house. We essentially bought any and every meat that we could get our hands on and this strange massive thing of meat on the butchers block was not spared. From a distance, it looked marbled like your typical salami but in larger scale. The hunk of meat itself was the size of the largest watermelon you could imagine. We asked to buy some and brought it home. I sat down at breakfast that morning with a hunk of bread, some Italian olive oil and the neatly wrapped package from the butcher. I didn’t yet have my contacts in so I didn’t look that closely. At first, the meat tasted good and slightly interesting. All was good until I bit something a bit hard but still chewable. Against my better judgment, I put on my glasses and got a good look. It was marbled all right, marbled with meat, animal hair, cartilage…. It was as if they threw an entire cow in, ground it up and pumped it into a massive sausage casing and called it a day. Lesson learned.