We packed up the car and drove to Siena to meet Mindy (Corey’s sister) and Mark (her husband) and their family. The drive was gorgeous, through Chianti and the Tuscan hills. The girls even abandoned their Leapsters instead tuning into When You’re Engulfed in Flames, the audio book by David Sedaris that we were listening to in the front seat. We had no idea they were listening until they started cracking up from the back seat. I don’t really think they understood everything he was talking about, but they loved him. I guess it’s never too early to introduce your kids to sardonic wit.
We arrived in Siena only to spend the next 20 minutes trying to figure out where the hell to park. We tried following the big blue P signs, we tried to follow the GPS, but inevitably at some point we ended up driving through the pedestrian only area. I now think that this is just the way of things when you’re dealing with medieval towns that have restricted zones. We got out pretty quickly, unlike 10 years ago on our honeymoon when we pretty much would our way through the entire walled city looking for a place to park. Eventually we found a lot outside the walls. Was it pay or free? Who knew? Where were we in relation to where we wanted to be? Who knew? We followed the masses of middle-aged tourists who had disembarked from a tour bus until we saw the signs for the Piazza Del Campo and could finally figure out where we were going with some measure of certainty.
This all paid off of course when we arrived in the huge circular piazza and saw our meeting point, the clock tower… And there we finally met up with Mindy, Mark, the boys and baby Lila. The girls are gaga for baby Lila, as is every person in Italy who encounters her. Italians have a reputation for adoring babies, but until you witness the doting in action its hard to imagine.
We decided to navigate our way towards the Duomo since it feels like if you’re in Siena you at least have to do that one major sight. The Siena Duomo really outdoes put the Duomo in Florence. I had forgotten how opulent and incredibly full of tiny artistic details it was. (Maybe the problem is that all those Duomos start to blend in your mind after a while)
The girls both wanted to do the audio tour; its their new favorite thing though most of goes over their heads. Still, it keeps them engaged and makes them really want to hit as much of the art and architecture as they can. The big delight in the Siena Duomo was the newly restored library. We spent the bulk of our time in there. The girls (and I) marveled at the large hand-scripted books, illustrated in gold and beautifully displayed all along the walls. Then there was the bright, richly painted ceiling and walls that looked like they had just been freshly painted now that the restoration was complete. The best part was that you could watch them completing the restoration of the marble on the outside of the library through a window that was created just for that purpose. Three restorers were inside a little enclosed box painstakingly cleaning off the marble with q-tips and small tools. You could see the before and the after and it really put the restoration process into perspective.
We left the Duomo and headed out on our next intrepid mission, which was to find the restaurant where we had our lunch reservation. The nice thing about Italy is that it really doesn’t matter what time you show up for your reservation, as long as you have one. This is a hard concept to get used to for a New Yorker, but it makes for a much less stressful family scene when you have no idea where you’re going, or if someone in the group is taking their time.
After lunch we went to by far the best gelateria we have been to so far – Brivido. The gelato was much thicker and creamier than usual, and they had a fantastic array of flavors. All in all a great time in Siena and with family. The girls did not want to leave their Aunt, Uncle and cousins. I think it was a great feeling of home and comfort to be with them especially since some homesickness is beginning to seep into the girls’ hearts. Sophia told us that she missed the noise, the streets and the food of New York City, but I guess that is to be expected since this is their first time ever truly being out of their comfort zone while traveling.
We found our way back to where we parked thanks to both google maps and the GPS. Seriously. We had no idea where we were other than that we were outside of the walls. But since our parking structure had no real name we had no signs to follow. So, at last, between a map and our portable technology we made it back. Though the GPS quickly unredeemed itself by guiding back home through the slow roads. No Autostrada here. Although to the nuvi’s credit the scenery was spectacular; sunflower fields, vineyards, mountains and views of the hills and farmland that went on into the horizon. Though we had to turn off David Sedaris after we somehow got stuck on the most profane essay he’s every written – all about this terrible day he had where he was surrounded by profanity.
So, we ended up with The Beatles and Cat Stevens on the way home and the girls decided that they now loved grown up music. Bye, bye Laurie Berkner!!! (Although they still love that Disney, Hannah Montana, AJ and Ally junk)
It was great to be back home in Tuscania, even though Sophia’s fever was now a raging 103.6. Nothing like finally having a thermometer on hand. After a cross Atlantic medical consultation with my dad we decided to start her on the antibiotics we brought with us. Yes, that’s right, I packed chewable antibiotics in case this happened, primarily because my entire childhood I always got sick on vacation so now I just expect that my kids will too. 3 days straight of high fever, now a cough and giant puss-laden tonsils – and the diagnosis was start the medicine. Hopefully she’ll be feeling like herself again in no time at all.
Gelato Scoops of the Day:
Sophia: White chocolate
Isabel: cioccolato and frutti di bosco
Me: Bacio and Stracciatella
Cor: Stracciatella and cioccolato
This is an original beccarama.com post