Friday, August 26, 2011

Ahh Siena!

Italy's Hilltop Treasure

This isn't my first trip to Siena. And, God willing, it won't be my last. It is a complete delight. The summer edition of the famous Il Palio was run a week or so ago, and the streets and Campo still bear the trappings of the world's only true horse race. No offense meant to Santa Anita or Churchill Downs, but in those venues for a horse to win there has to be a rider on it's back. 

In Il Palio the first horse to cross the line - with or without a rider - wins.

Now that is truly a "horse" race!

I arrived into Siena by train from Venice (via Florence.) The 1 hour 28 minute trip from Florence costs all of 6.3 euros. But, unless you know this medieval town like the back of your hand, flag down a cab between the train station and your hotel.  

I then met up with old friends to enjoy a Bellini al fresco on the Campo before dinner. From there we watched a recently wed emerge from City Hall and get showered in rice (nice to know that there is a place where you can still throw rice!)

A Wedding Party in Siena

There was a free band concert on the Campo featuring a well volumed and eclectic mix of music.

From dinner we descended into the ancient brick basement of Guidoriccio for an amazing dinner. Since we were early, the owner fawned on us. He started us out with pureed veggies and bruschetta (I’m serious the bread was part of the puree). He then poured the best chianti I have ever tasted (a 2007 Rietine). That was followed with prosciutto and melon, risotto with saffron, pappardelle with wild boar, and pork tenderloins marinated in balsamic vinegar (I know it sounds odd, but was great). Desert was fig, raspberry, and blueberry (the best ever) sorbet from Grom. I loved it so much I did a total face plant in my blueberry sorbet. Took numerous napkins to fix that.

Siena's Center of Community Life
The Campo

And Home to A Magnificent City Hall!

Rant Warning!

I came away realizing that Siena offers a timeless lesson to elected officials and city planners. Yet, it is a lesson completely ignored in virtually all modern North American car centric cities.

Any real city needs some sort of vibrant center of community life. Sorry, shopping malls rarely suffice. 

And vibrant centers of community life should include fine, timeless, durable public buildings that a community can point to as a source of pride for the ages.

After sitting though endless City Council meetings all over North America - I can tell you in most places any decision where to locate a new public building will almost always descend to selecting land that is cheap, poisoned, behind something, hard to build on, and incapable of ever providing any tax revenue. 

Our priorities have become fiscal and strictly short term. 

Siena elegantly proves the deep flaw in embracing short term goals, rather than a more timeless vision. 

Conversely, could it be that we have unconsciously come to view our modern cities as disposable?

Roadboy's Travels © 2011


IniquitousFish said...

Always lovely!

But who was the guy in the medieval dress at the wedding party?
Is that common?

Roadboy said...

Have no clue why he was dressed that way since everyone else was dressed in contemporary duds. But he does make it kinda cool!