"To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom....Since our office is with moments, let us husband them."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Siena and the end

After a very easily hour and a half train ride south, Liza and I arrived in Siena, which is a small, kind of touristy town in the heart of Tuscany. Our first sight was cathedral of San Domenico, which was built in the 1220’s in completely red brick. The coolest aspect of the church is not its age, though, but rather the fact that it displays human remains. St. Catherine is the patron saint for both all of Europe and also Siena, and her head and finger are proudly displayed for all to see. Her actual head and her actual finger. I’m not sure if I’ll ever understand the Catholic concept of relics, even after taking a class in it at Carleton. We then headed through town, which itself is from the medieval times and only open to pedestrians to Il Campo, which is the famous town square. It is a huge opening surrounded by buildings and the town hall, that is covered in bricks, which quite surprisingly are burnt sienna in color. The square reminded me a lot of a gigantic bald spot, as there were people, mostly university student age, sprawled across it enjoying the late morning sun – just like Carleton during spring term.

We then enjoyed another fantastic lunch at a small hole in the wall place, where there was no menu. Liza and I split our pasta dishes, homemade tortellini and homemade ravioli. For the second course I had no idea what my options were so I told the waiter/owner to give me his favorite. After receiving translation help from an Italian customer, the owner understood and placed an order of lamb for me. It did not disappoint. It was a great last real meal for the trip, and a good way to remember Italian cooking.

Post lunch Liza and I headed towards the last major tourist sight in SienaSiena’s Duomo or cathedral. This was a stunning building regarding both the exterior and interior, which were both made of white and green marble that was layered in stripes. Perhaps the most dazzling aspect of the interior was the floor. Most of it was covered, but the parts left open for us to see were made of marble that was placed in various scenes. It was unbelievable. I can’t imagine seeing the entire floor at one time.

Our last “event” of the trip was buying Liza a new book for her trip back to Budapest. We found this cute little American bookstore of the main pedestrian road, run by a middle-aged American. Liza and I both had thoughts that that would be a cool thing to do as a job, if either of us ever wanted to spend any serious amount of time somewhere in Europe.

Upon leaving Siena, Liza and I had a long night of travel to look forward to. First, it was an hour and a half train ride back to a suburban Florence station. There, we enjoyed our dinner of salami and cheese sandwiches, which hit the spot perfectly during our hour layover. We then had a 2-hour train ride to Bologna central where we arrived around midnight. We then had a 4-hour layover until our next train. That was an experience. Luckily, we found a waiting area and were able to claim some seats for part of the time; however, the room was still freezing and definitely had a particular odor. Sleep was not easy to come by there. Finally, we had a 3-hour train ride back to Milan central, which was highlighted by seats not meant for sleeping and an incredibly cold compartment. We then had our last food in Italy at a little cafĂ© outside the train station after which Liza and I got on our separate buses to head to our different departing airports. Our trip was done, as was my three straight weeks of travel. My next post will have some overall thought about the entire time as well as information on other things happening in my life that find important, but haven’t yet shared.

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