Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 19

We began our day at a caffe where we had cappuccini and buccellato, a local local sweet flavored with baked grapes and anise before we set out to explore Lucca. After our adventures in the Tuscan countryside we were ready for some city trekking. With only a couple of hours available Professor Alchermes led us on a walking tour of the city. Although the cathedral of San Martino was under restoration, we were able to visit a side chapel where we saw the Early Renaissance tomb of the noblewoman Ilaria del Carretto, demonstrating the beauty and fashion of her time as well as the high artistic skills of the sculptor Jacopo della Quercia - everyone wanted to take a nap on the marble pillows! We continued our afternoon with some window shopping on the main strada stopping at the mercato to pick up our usual pane, prosciutto, e formaggio for lunch.


The streets rumbled with our mass exodus as we made our way to the first of many train stations on our way to Siena - three trains, a bus, and a long uphill trek later we arrived in that bustling city! A few pellegrini were taken on an introductory tour of the city by Professor Alchermes while others took advantage of the shopping Siena had to offer - scarves galore! Ditching our dowdy pilgrim uniform of black leggings and white t-shirts we were decked in Sienese cashmere for a night of medieval dining.
Upon arrival at the Gallo Nero, our restaurant of choice for the night, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the medieval atmosphere and food was matched by the authentic tunics of the waiters.

The cozy, cavelike atmosphere at the Gallo Nero

We began our meal with a primo servizio of vino speziato, fagottino ripieno di ricotta (a delectable puff pastry filled with melted cheese), torta di Re Manfredi, torta di cipolle e porri, and an interesting combination of soppressata and orange. Next was a soup, zanzarelli in brodo, followed by guinea hen and a medieval vegetable tempura. The lengthy candlelit dinner ended with ricotta and pear cake and biscotti. In addition to the authentic medieval meal we shared our experience with young architecture students who were celebrating the completion of a big drawing project that integrated into the historic, once tower-filled cityscape of Siena a series of internationally known skyscrapers.
In true Sienese fashion we then strolled the strade flooded with young students celebrating the start of the weekend. Along with hundreds of others, we lay on the Campo brick pavement taking in the moonlit view of the Palazzo Pubblico while enjoying gelato and people-watching.

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