February 7th, 2016
~The Girl on the Train~
~The Woman with the Girl’s Spirit~
The stories I have are few
but well remembered
begin on our short journey
to Siena from Orvieto.
The train is late,
but listed on the board as such,
so we don’t worry
~we are chill~
Different now than when we first landed in Rome
nervously second guessing each action.
When seated on the train
trying to understand the announcements in Italian
-a language we don’t speak-
we start discussing what we think
this means to our connection time in Chiusi,
where we have plans to buy train tickets
for another leg of travel later on in the trip.
The fresh-face blond girl
sitting across from me puts down her book
and tells us in perfect English
why the train is late
what that means for our connection
and the rest of our journey.
Forget about train travel
…I want to know her story!
What is a young woman
~who looks like a beach bunny surfer girl from California~
But who can understand
the Italian announcements
while reading a book in Italian
Doing on this train?
Turns out she is from California
but not a beach bunny surfer girl.
She is one of those people who know what they want out of life
is going for it.
And what she wants
is to surround herself in all things Italian.
She came to Rome out of high school
and has never left
-not for holidays-not for summer vacations-
-not even to visit her family in California.
Rome is her home now.
She is studying renaissance literature at the University in Rome
with plans to continue her studies in a PhD program.
She is today on her way to Florence
to rendezvous with other students.
I gush over her.
I am amazed at her clarity.
We reach Siena and it is a smooth transition via taxi to Hotel Chiusarelli.
Siena is the meeting point for the walking tour of Tuscany
which will begin tomorrow
I settle my things quickly in my nicely decorated room
as it is our plan is to go right out to get some lunch
and explore as much of Siena as we can in our short time here.
My room is comfortable,
overlooks a soccer field which could be loud if a game was in play,
but today, no game
just a nice view of green space.
The lobby for this floor is right outside my room
and is not just any hotel lobby
…it is dreamy
While sitting in a chair waiting for G&T
I get pulled into the art
on the wall to wall, ceiling to floor
of a serene countryside scene in soothing pastel colors.
I sit here long enough to become serene myself
then the thought comes which jolts me back into 2015
I probably mixed up our meeting place
they are waiting in the main lobby.
We grab a map of the city at the front desk
and in a very short distance
I have transitioned from the calm of the imaginary space of the countryside
into the hustle bustle of the city
which is Siena.
The streets are filled with people,
tourist and locals alike-as today is Saturday.
We join the flow heading towards the Duomo
only stopping to admire a street chalk artist
to take a turn around a flea market set up on a square
The more we walk the busier it becomes.
We have a list of restaurants which we quickly abandon
after we turn down a street and cannot find the first one.
We settle on a place off the main street,
a little niche
with outside seating,
mostly locals, quiet
but within sight of the flow.
Lunch for me is pasta cacio e pepe
(pasta with cheese & pepper)
my favorite dish from my last time in Tuscany.
…It was delezioso.
Fortified with food
an uplifting Aperol
we are off to find the Duomo.
I absolutely loved this Duomo my last visit
and I am still in love with it.
The black and white marble is so striking
such a pleasing combination against the blue sky of today
it mesmerizes me
I delay going inside.
Once I do I am again struck by
the striping of the massive and numerous columns in this Duomo.
I am just in love with the way the black and white stone can appear so soft.
I will see this again and again on this trip
especially in Florence
-Massive stone that takes on soft shape.
Before we leave the Duomo we stop for a bathroom break,
strategically located so that you have to pass thru the gift shop.
I buy a tube of royal grape lip balm.
If I would have known how yummy it was going to be
I would have bought out the store’s supply.
Later on the trip I see this brand a lot
-which I now know can be ordered on line-
It is made with the herbs, flowers and fruits of the Tuscan region.
Everything I bought was beautiful from the packaging to the feel.
Next up on our agenda in Siena
is the Campo
My aim is to find the small bar that I had read about
which overlooks the Campo
and sit myself down
to enjoy the comings and goings.
We head to the middle of the fan shaped Campo,
look around and spy people
sitting on this narrow balcony on the second floor.
Yes that is it, we found it!
Now how to get to it?
We head in the direction of the bar,
up a small street to where there are people spilling out the door
and decide this must be it.
We squeeze our way thru the crowd
whose attention is on
yelling at the box
hanging from the ceiling,
not the Campo,
-they don’t seem bothered by us
practically sitting on their laps,
as we snake our way
to the fresh air of the outside.
There are maybe eight barstools and three are vacant
-just what we need-
Once the broken glass on the floor gets cleaned up
we are in right where we want to be.
One more trip back thru the crowd for our drinks
and we are set for hours
watching the people below as the afternoon light fades
from day to evening to night
and the crowd changes
from tourist like us
to the dogs who come with their people
to do the Italian passagerio.
At one point a small group is below us
looking up and pointing
…we start hand signals directing them on how to reach us.
We are now a jolly group on the balcony of eight.
They are from Vietnam.
Some are siblings, some are doctors
all like to have a good time.
Their leader and our new friend
~A woman with the
the Spirit of a Young Girl~
who is fearless in being true to herself
with a beautiful result.
We sit here wanting to be nowhere else
darkness descends on the Campo
it is time for the changing of the guards
We leave as the young begin
their watch over the Campo.
We make our way home
now going in the opposite direction of the flow.
passing people heading towards the center of town,
tourist interspersed with fashionable Italians out strolling
in this old world city
on a fabulous Saturday night.
We go in and out of just a few shops
but mostly we just window shop on the way home.
G&T go to the hotel restaurant for what they report was a good dinner
& the sharing of stories with other Americans.
I head straight to my room skipping dinner,
anxious to get in bed after this full day in Siena
wanting be fresh for tomorrow’s first walk
on the white ribbon roads of Tuscany.
I learn about St Catherine of Siena,
who in the 1300’s was destined to marry her sister’s widowed husband,
fasted in protest,
then when pressured by her parents
to dress the part to capture a husband.
she cut off her long hair
became steadfast in making her own path.
She became a philosopher and theologian,
who is still looked upon today.
Her written words are said to have
persuaded the Popes’ return to
Italy from Avignon, France
Where since a conflict between French royalty and the papacy
they had resided for 67 years.
At the time of this power struggle the newly chosen Pope happened to be French
so he and the next subsequent 7 Popes
stayed in Avignon, France
until Catherine began writing letters.
Catherine was canonized a Saint in 1461,
Co-patron Saint of Rome in 1866,
Co-Patron saint of Italy in 1939 along with St Francis of Assisi
a Doctor of the Catholic Church in 1970
~along with Saint Teresa of Avila they were the first women to receive this honor~
In 1999, she was declared one of the six
patron Saints of Europe.
A woman who lived by her words,
“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the World on fire”
I think of the woman I’ve met in the past few days who are following St Catherine’s words.
Maybe not in the grand way as Catherine of Siena.
But in that quite way of following their own North Star.
as I set out to walk a path that I have been yearning to do
setting my own world on fire
in my own way.