Saturday we took a day trip to Siena. After a short bus ride I was transported to yet another beautiful Tuscan city.
We assembled on the steps of the Basilica Cateriniana Di S. Domenica, who is one of Italy’s two beloved patron saints, (St. Francis of Assisi being the other). She not only took part in religious life (being a member of the Dominican Order), she was also a philosopher, theologian, and politician, and worked her whole short life (Died at 33), to bring lasting peace to the city states, aswell as being responsible for bring the papacy back to Rome
After visiting the church, which incidentally houses her actually head in a gilt bust from bronze, we took the short walk to Siena’s Duomo (above). Here was yet another amazing cathedral, and I wondered how on earth anyone who lived in this country could be anything but devote. Religion was all around you, for better, or for worse.
After meandering through the Duomo’s Museum, (Museo dell’ Opera del Duomo), and more importantly climbing to the top of the museum to enjoy a fantastic rooftop view of Siena, I began to get excited about lunch!
Shawn, who has been to Italy just about every year for the past seven, knew of a great place to eat lunch. We ducked out of the Duomo early so as to secure a table at one of the most popular Trattorias in Siena (for those in the know at least…).
As we entered the Trattoria La Torre we arrived to a completely empty restaurant, the calm before the storm as it were.
The first thing I noticed was the giant pasta strands being displayed on a table in front of the small open kitchen. This was a very good sign.
We were greeted by a tower of a man whose easy, quiet charm permeated the room. I immediately felt at home, and found my place amongst our party of seven.
After the flurry of water and wine being poured, the same man, who turned out to be the owner of the Trattoria stood alongside our table and proceeded to list off what was available today for our first course. With the help of our friend Marco, and the little bit of Italian I was picking up (mainly due in fact to Marco, our Italian teacher!), I was able to figure out that I wanted everything being offered!
However, being that I did not want to make a pig of myself in public, I settled for some wonderful-sounding ravioli, and a bite from everyone else’s plate.
My dish was exceptional, and the fresh sage brought out the best of every other ingredient used. I also swooned over the Cinghiale (boar; my son’s new favorite thing!) with those giant colorful noodles.
I was in food heaven, and could not believe that this meal topped the one I had in Lucca the previous Saturday (see post Lunch in Lucca). I think it has been decided that each Saturday (over the next seven), as we visit a different city, I will be spoiled beyond imagining, in my pursuit of the best meal in town.
As the restaurant began to fill to the rafters, our second course arrived. I had a very simply roasted chicken, which I believe is the gold standard by which to measure excellent food. If you have been following my recipes at all, you will know that I cook chicken more than any other meat.
When a chicken is roasted perfectly, with crispy skin and delicately moist meat, I am completely won over. The chicken at Trattoria La Torre had all the requirements as far as I was concerned, and it was very hard to share a bite with anyone.
We ended the meal with espresso and were graciously thanked by the owner. When Shawn complimented him by saying it was the best restaurant in Italy, the man coyly replied, “no, in the world” We laughed at how his modesty was replaced by boastful humor, as we headed over to Siena’s giant Piazza del Campo for a lazy nap.
The campo was crowded with people taking a break from their day to enjoy the sun, and relax after lunch. The red bricks were warm, and there was nothing more pleasant than lying on them and soaking in the blue sky.
This Campo is also the site of the famous twice annual horse race; Il Palio. Ten horses are ridden bareback, decked out in the appropriate colors, representing ten of the city’s seventeen wards or districts.
This treacherous race lasts no more than 90 seconds, as the horses fly at breakneck speed around the piazza (which is filled with dirt for the occasion).
There is great celebration after wards, with the winning horse having top honor at the head of the table!
We spent the rest of the afternoon getting lost on the streets of Siena, stopping off for gelato before heading back to Cortona. What a life!