Tuesday, August 31, 2010


We took a bus from Siena up to Florence which took just over an hour and was accompanied by a strong dose of Massive Attack which made for a particularly atmospheric approach into town.

After disembarking and rolling our belongings along the bumpy sidewalks for a bit we were delighted to find that our hotel had a commanding view of the Arno River. It was a stunning day and our first vision from the hotel was of the Ponte Santa Trinita.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


Before we head North to Firenze, let's pause here in Vermont to savor the deliciousness of the local heirloom tomatoes.

This year more than ever we've been enjoying not only their funky and flawed appearence but the hearty texture and mild flavors. I tend to take the easy availability (though not necessarily affordability!) of such things for granted here in the Upper Valley and I definitely should not.

I took this image in the bright sunlight of a beautiful August day...

Friday, August 27, 2010

More Siena Texture...

Before we leave Siena, I couldn't help but post one more "texture and color" shot. We were wandering around a slightly more modern section in Siena and came across this courtyard. There were beautiful trees as well as a small playground. Somehow that juxtaposition with the texture of the building made the courtyard even more fascinating to me.

Next, we'll hop on a bus and take the short ride north to Siena's longtime rival Firenze!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Siena back street...

All through Italy, it was eye opening to realize that the local folks live in these amazing settings so different from our own. The narrow streets, vibrant colors and physical intimacy (we're so spread out here in Vermont for example) seem like things conjured up by a theme park developer for our enjoyment. But no, these folks live here. They have laundry hung outside and basil plants on the windowsill. Oh and these streets and buildings are old.


I felt this recently when a new friend excitedly chattered about entering a real New England General Store which is an unheard of commodity in his familiar urban setting. We have something familiar here that we take for granted that is exotic (that might be just a bit strong) to our friends from several states away.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The art of doing nothing...

After descending from the heights of the Torre del Mangia, we took a seat on the piazza, ordered a delicious pizza and a bottle of wine and watched the folks - many of them clearly locals - enjoy themselves.

It was definitely educational.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Summer Color...

Taking a brief break from our trip through Italy I wanted to post this image of some flowers in front of the house. This year, for some reason, the deer have not decided to munch our brown eyed susans. They are finally coming into their own while we try to protect them from the onslaught of bee-balm and rugosa roses.

I took this image yesterday in the early evening as the sun neared the horizon. The light was warm and shadows long. Vermont has been showing off lately.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Siena from City Tower...

After visiting the Duomo in Siena, we walked back to Piazza del Campo, waited in line and climbed the claustrophobic steps to the top of Torre del Mangia, the clock tower adjacent to Siena's town hall featured in a previous post.

Torre del Mangia means Tower of the Eater and is an homage to the first guardian of the tower who must have been a prodigious eater indeed! The view of the surrounding town and countryside from the top was intoxicating.

Here is the Duomo from the Torre del Mangia. Apparently the tower was built to be taller than the tallest building in Florence (Siena's bitter rival) but also the same height as the Duomo's tower signifying equality between church and state. I hope this story is true because its a damn good one.

It was dreadfully hard to get a view down to Piazza del Campo from the top of the tower without actually crawling out to the edge of the tower. Here was our best shot at it.

After reluctantly descending from the tower, it was time for some food ... and wine.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Siena Duomo.

The Duomo in Siena. It is yet another magnificent church in Italy. The layered white and green marble is distinctive and striking. The interior is overwhelming. This happens so often in Italy it is easy to take it for granted.

We caught the Duomo on an equally striking morning with deep blue sky and lots of sun.

The day was actually too nice at this point to go inside so we made our way back to Piazza di Campo and the City Tower...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Catamount of Siena...

This cat actually represents the "Pantera" neighborhood (or "Contrade") which is one of the groups that race in the annual Palio horse race around Piazza del Campo in Siena.

Still looks like a Catamount to me...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Siena storefront redux...

Later on in the day as Siena sunk into the stupor of the daily siesta, we strolled by this wine shop. All indications were that the owner had turned control over to this small dog for a couple hours.

Some days at work I try to imagine a daily siesta where the entire office leaves work for a couple of hours to go home and nap - or perhaps slips out to spend some quality time with a good friend or a loved one. When viewed from the perspective of living well rather than the corporate bottom line, it seems a remarkably civilized approach to me.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Siena storefront...

Meg made this wonderful reflective image of an especially busy storefront in Siena. The streets there are filled with small storefront selling panforte, dried meats and wine. The fox and the bird were an added bonus. I was clearly entranced!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Night Statue in Siena.

After stumbling on one of the best meals of the vacation (ossobuco at Taverna di Cecco), we walked home to the hotel. On the way we passed this empty courtyard and Meg made a wonderful late night image which I aggressively converted to black and white.

This is the way the place felt to me. Quiet, extraordinary and alive. We were guests.

One of the wonderful things about the transition from Rome to Siena was the decrease in the tourist quotient. It's not just the number of people (Siena was actually quite popular) but the tourist culture of people hawking everything from camera tripods to umbrellas (they seemed to magically transform when the sky darkened) to the crazy guys in gladiator suits that surround the Colosseum. It just gets tiresome.

Siena didn't seem to have all that and the tourists seemed like us to be drinking deeply from the medieval well of beauty this city has to offer. Sometimes late at night, there was nobody around at all...

Monday, August 9, 2010

On to Siena...

It was time to move on from Rome to Siena and we were traveling by bus. The bus was a somewhat less performant version of the bus that we take from the Upper Valley down to Boston when taking such trips as this. It had the habit of very gently and rhythmically bouncing along the narrow (compared to US interstates) A1 heading north to Siena. I was tired and was resting my eyes but Meg would periodically wake me to show me scenes of classic Italian beauty along the way.

As we neared Siena, we remembered that there were four stops in Siena and suddenly it became import to choose the right one. A very helpful local businessman gave us all the info we needed in perfect English before departing and wishing us a good time in Siena.

We checked in and immediately walked down towards the city center to find out what is meant by a medieval city. Narrow streets with slits of sunlight were everywhere.

We settled at a nice bar in Piazza del Campo, enjoyed an adult beverage, and watched the sun set of city hall reminding us of why the crayola boxes have a burnt siena crayon in them.

Friday, August 6, 2010


Across the Tiber River from Rome proper is the area of Trestavere. It's a charming, funky area and was a favorite on our trip to Rome.

The combination of textures and colors in Italy are completely new to me.

While in Trestavere, we found this alley that led up a hill to a gorgeous old church.

There was a wonderful view back over the river towards Rome from this vantage point. The big white building with the chariots on top is the monument to the King that united Italy Victor Emmanuel II. The immense size and burning white marble of the monument has made it a bit punching bag earning names such as the typewriter and the false teeth. It definitely makes an impression.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Return of Son of Rome...

There are so many pictures to post from our time in Rome, let alone the entire trip to Italy, that it's hard to choose.

That said, ere are a couple more shots from different locales in Rome. The first is of course the Pantheon. Sadly like much of ancient Rome, it's face is marred by reconstruction but this actually did little to reduce it's fundamental awesomeness. A place of worship, for all religions for over two thousand years. This was by far my favorite building in Rome.

The next image is of Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers in Piazza Navona. Piazza Navona was a blast, full of life, art, music and perhaps most importantly cold beer. This amazing fountain is the centerpiece of the piazza.

But perhaps my favorite place/experience in all of Rome was Largo Argentina. These ancient ruins lie in the heart of Rome and continue to be under active excavation. But what makes the place so amazing is that it is home to a cat sanctuary! This group feeds, neuters, and cares for the cats while opening every day, here among the ruins, working to get these cats adopted into good homes.

We wandered by late at night twice and both nights this fellow had staked out his (rather large) area for a good nights sleep. Ruins and cats? How awesome is that?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

More Rome...

The Roman Forum on a hot Rome afternoon...

This is Capitoline Hill including the Mayor's Palace and the Museum. This square, including these steps and the statues, were designed by Michelangelo.