Started the day with a visit to the awe-inspiring Duomo a few blocks from our B&B. This cathedral is by far our favorite in Italy. Its green and white marble exterior is peppered with elaborate marble sculptures. The signature black and white marble interior (the colors of Siena) provide the backdrop for a rich tapestry of paintings, sculptures, and mosaics. The ceilings are painted a deep blue with gold stars. Any one of the side chapels would itself make for a spectacular church. The Duomo is renowned for its intricate in-laid marble mosaic floors. Jeff's favorite room: the Piccolomini Library, with its colorful 500-year-old frescoes.
Grabbed a make-shift breakfast from a market on the way to the car: bananas, juices, peanut M&Ms :). Grabbed water for the hot day ahead. Already in the lower 80s. Near 90 as we neared our first destination.
The drive to San Galgano Monastery took a bit longer than planned because Emily kept trying to route us through the heart of Siena...which only permits authorized vehicles. Funny if it wasn't so frustrating. Finally, we defeated her, and headed out into the rolling hills.
At San Galgano, parked in a huge paid parking lot in the middle of nowhere...with literally three cars in it. A 15-min walk in the sun to the ruins of an 13th century abbey. Impressive, but no interpretive assistance. Another 15-min walk up a rocky path to the tiny, round 12th-century Chapel of San Galgano.
Wound through Tuscany on the way back making a small pit stop at Chiusidino for some photos from the dramatic heights. Picked destinations along the way by spotting appealing towers or towns on nearby hills. Made our way to a second abbey south of Siena in the Crete Senese or "Sienese Crests"...this one a working abbey. Monte Oliveto Maggiore with a small but beautiful church and a complex of sunlit rooms and a cloister courtyard with famous Renaissance frescoes depicting the life of St. Benedict. Greggorian chants in the abbey as we were leaving.
Returned to Siena for dinner. Got some of my appetite back...enough for a wonderful pasta dish outdoors at Trattoria Papei...simple and classic spaghetti al ragu...I wanted rabbit, but I was worried about keeping food down. Jeff had paparadelle al ragu di carne, petti di pollo, and Tuscan white beans. Ricciarelli and cappuccini to finish.
We walked one last time through the Campo and up to the Duomo taking some final nightime photos. By midnight, the young folks were just beginning to emerge. Jeff woke at 3:15am and could still here revelry in the streets...definitely a university town...at least at night.