Wednesday, September 12, 2012
This morning in Siena we were on our own, free to wander the streets, sit at a café in the Campo, shop in the many storefronts and market stands in and out of the twisty, turning cobblestone streets. Anne and I wandered in and out of shops with purses, bumping into Amy and Laurie here and there.
The group plan was to meet at the hotel by 12:45, get our bags and walk two blocks to the bus station, where we would board the bus for Florence. Plans went smoothly until I had everyone on the bus and realized I had left my carry bag/purse behind the desk at the hotel “for safekeeping” . . . so Mary and Sue assured me the group would find their way to the hotel in Florence (they all had their StreetWise Florence maps, indispensable for easy wandering), and I would take the next bus an hour later.
Three hours later, checked into our rooms at the lovely Hotel Pendini, we again gathered together and headed out in taxis to the Piazalle Michelangelo and the church of San Mineato, high on top of a hill overlooking all of Florence. The views from up there are spectacular!
San Mineato not only has a beautiful church, but the grounds house a cemetery full of family crypts, sculptures, and decorated gravestones. At 5:30, we quietly walked into the church, settling ourselves in the lower level so we could hear the monks chanting the Mass. Two of the monks settled themselves on time, and then began to look at their watches and exchange mystified glances as the minutes clicked by. By 5:45, one of them left by the side alter, and ultimately, the rest of the monks entered, followed by . . . surprise . . . (see Rome/Pantheon entry) another ancient priest who was apparently supposed to say the Mass. His wavering voice began a thin, watery chant, and his shaking hand could barely turn the page of the Mass book at the pulpit. Where DO ancient priests go when they no longer really belong in front of people?
By 6:30 we were on our way back down the hill, walking this time, following a path full of students, locals, and cats. Eventually finding ourselves on the street in the Oltrarno district, we came upon a Capoeria session inside one of the doorways on our path. Capoeria is a Brazilian martial art that combines dance and music with their “fight” motions. Adults and children moved beautifully to the drum beats of several members of the group. A perfect example of “stumbling into magic” that comes with wandering the back streets in another country . . . I was able to video just a bit of it before one of the Capoeria members asked me to stop. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to load it here, so I’ll have to get better instructions!
We wound our way to the Arno River, and ultimately crossed at the Ponte Vecchio (more on that later).
Our evening ended with dinner at Il Porcospino, well taken care of by Franco and the rest of the staff. I love beginning my time in Florence at this restaurant, where everyone is happy to see me and whomever I bring along for a great meal!
I walked 7.66 miles today.