We went on our first field trip today! I wish the weather would have started off better but I guess that means we’ll just have to go again! We looked outside before going and literally saw blue skies. By the time we got to school, it was cloudy, and by the time we reached Siena, it was raining. And since we don’t have internet, there was really no way to check the weather besides doing it the old fashioned way (looking out the window). I was lucky enough to bring a cardigan (and no umbrella) but it wasn’t quite enough so I, along with several others, bought a pretty scarf from a street vendor (the legal kind). It was pretty cute, did it’s job, and now I have a pretty orange and black scarf that I know I’ll use again.
We all made our way through town and saw the Siena Cathedral first. It was very intricate and ornate inside but beautiful in its own way. There was this room that was painted very brightly and had gold leaf of some sort everywhere. Inside the room were original choir books from hundreds of years ago. It was very bright and beautiful. They also had on display the mosaics on the floor. These are usually covered up 11 months out of the year and are only available for viewing for about 3 weeks (or something like that); so we were really lucky that we got to go and see them when we did. Afterwards, we got to see their main piazza where they hold the Palio horse races twice a year. It was really interesting how large it was and the angle of it to drain water; it sort of reminded me of an amphitheater. We also went to the Civic Museum inside the “City Hall” type building, that was similar in a sense to the Palazzo Vecchio. It had some really nice frescos inside and it was nicely empty (crowd speaking). We finished our tour and went to a Trattoria behind the Civic Museum that our school tour guide recommended (it turns out that it was also recommended by Rick Steves). I had a yummy ravioli with butter and sage sauce. Very satisfying on a cold day; but then again, I just really like ravioli. We then went back to the main piazza for a gelato snack. I opted for a coffee over the gelato since it was a little cold. We sipped macchiati (which is different that a macchiato in the states) and talked with the owner, who personally makes the gelato for the shop (he told us the secrets to finding good gelato places).
Everyone hopped on the bus again and set out for San Gimigniano. We passed the real Monteriggioni, as featured in Assassin’s Creed, and from the road, it looked just like the video game. Someday I’ll have to actually go inside the city’s walls. San Gimigniano was also just like Assassin’s Creed. As nerdy as it is, it’s super awesome to play these games and then get to see what they modeled it off of in real life. San Gimigniano was fantastic. It was full of tourists, which is always annoying, but the city itself was small and manageable. It was nice not having to dodge cars, vespas, or buses for once and just be able to walk down the street in peace. We spent about 2 hours going around the city exploring the crooked streets and enjoying the panoramic views of Tuscany and savoring some tasty gelato. I would definitely go back again.
Next on the itinerary, was Machiavelli’s house. It was up some hills and down some roads in who knows where in Tuscany. The weather finally cleared up and gave us some pretty clouds (and eventually a nice sunset) over the countryside. Machiavelli supposedly hated it there, for reasons that no one really knows (probably his political fall from grace). We got to explore the scantily furnished quarters that he called home nearly 500 years ago, and even saw the desk where he wrote one of his most famous works, The Prince (I think the candle on it was probably fake). Below the residence was a wine cellar that his current decedents keep running. We even got to take the secret passage under the road to the inn where he would play cards and socialize with other folk. We received a great multiple course meal in the inn that Machiavelli would frequent. We had costini with various toppings, an assortment of meat, the house wine (made onsite), and a strange liqueur that you were supposed to dip your biscotti in. It wasn’t my or anyone else’s favorite, but it was worth the try. The table that I ended up sitting at was fantastic. I made some new friends and we all had a good time singing songs and getting to know each other (this was before they served the wine; which actually mellowed everyone out). The night was memorable in more ways than one.
The bus rides in between destinations were a lot of fun too. We all played childhood games like telephone and learned a new card game. It was fun to be with people I wouldn’t normally hang out with on a regular basis at school. This program has a great way of breaking down some of the “clique” barriers that naturally form in social situations. All in all, despite the weather, the field trip was a success in my opinion. I had a lot of fun, got to see a lot of new things, ate a lot of good food, experienced Tuscany outside of Florence for the first time, and made a few new friends. I can’t wait for he next trip!
Field Trip to Siena, San Gimigniano, and Machiavelli’s House, a set on Flickr.
A day exploring the Florentine rival regions of Tuscany