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  • Angela Louie and Allan de la Plante

Siena: a rich and cultured city

We were finally coming into Tuscany. I had heard so many romantic stories about this part of the world and in fact, had been looking forward to this part of the trip the most. Driving into Siena was like driving into many mid-sized cities. It was old, the streets were narrow and we would never have found anything without Martha. We were stopped by an Italian policeman who told us that we were driving in a pedestrian area and if we didn’t leave, we would be fined. After pleading our case, he let us through (as our hotel was in the pedestrian area) and let us drop off our luggage before trying to find parking. (Good luck!)

Our hotel had everything we needed and nothing more. Clean, two bathrooms for all 11 guest rooms and large tea towels for bath towels. They were actually very efficient. They dried you off yet dried off quickly before the next shower. I’ll have to try stitching together 5-6 of them at home. There was no air conditioning (and it was hot!) but there were 2 ceiling fans and 3 beds! We were here for the Palio and being on assignment made it feel very Ernest Hemingway-esque. All we needed were whiskey and bourbon bottles around the room and ashtrays full of cigarette butts to complete the ambience.

We opened our shutters to this scene. Hard to beat.

Our first dinner in Siena was delightful. I had pasta for the first time in years. It looked like ordinary spaghetti with clams and mussels but the taste was much more flavorful than I expected. The pasta here just tastes better. It’s fresh and the sauces are more subtle and sophisticated. And the Chianti was much better than I imagined too. It’s Tuscany after all.

We wandered the streets the first evening armed with our city map. The streets were all made of cobblestones and they were steep! We had to catch our breath several times along the way. We knew we were only one or two streets away from our hotel but do you think we could find our way back? One block turned into several. Round and round, up and down. Where are you Martha? Luckily we bumped into another couple from our hotel trying to find their way back too. They were here from Quebec! They had a better map and together we were able to figure it out.

Enough fooling around. The Palio was on Sunday and there were practices each morning and evening prior to it. For us that meant Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings were going to be dedicated to the Palio practices. Sunday evening was the big race day. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

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