How many english speaking conversations we over hear is a good indicator of how touristy an area is. Either english, or an oriental language. Another indicator is the number of street vendors. These are the guys that sell those little Eiffel towers, and other trinkets of that sort. The more vendors, and english speaking conversations we hear, the more touristy the area. Let’s call this the “EC factor”, english conversation factor. We went to Siena, Italy today. The “EC factor” went from very, very high in Florence to pretty low in Siena. This is a good thing.
We took a bus from Florence to Siena. As soon as we got off the bus we were able to take advantage of a nice overlook of the city. Andrea asked the question, “How do you think Siena got its name?” She knew the answer, but she quizzed us. Immediately my mind flashed back to high school art class where the foundation of the paintings we would work on would always be burnt sienna. That is exactly what the town looks like. Almost monochromatic, but in a beautiful way. Hardly any green which you would think would be unsightly, but it really isn’t. It’s really very beautiful! The terrain that you see around the city looks very much like what you would see on the cover of an “Olive Garden” menu. A gorgeous Place! We have a nice view from our room.
Probably the highlight of the city is the square. It is called the Piazza del Campo. The central square is where they have a bi-annual horse race. There are 17 neighborhoods in this city, and 10 of those neighborhoods enter a horse in this race. Not sure how they determine which ones get to enter a horse, but there are 10 horses and they race around this square. There are mattresses on the walls to reduce the casualties I guess. It’s bareback, and the winning horse doesn’t necessarily have to have a rider on it’s back to win. No holds barred, dirty fighting all the way. This is the biggest deal in Siena, and all the locals seem to think and dream about. The reward for the neighborhood that wins this race is simply bragging rights until the next one comes around. I have a strong suspicion that we are living in the neighborhood that won last time. These guys are partying all night long! They have drums beating, and this is a block away from us. Keeps us up at night, with loud raucous behavior, but not much we can do about it. Out of curiosity I went down one night to take a peek at what was going on. There was a whole block of long tables set up, covered with those plastic table coverings that come on a roll. These stretched all the way down. When I got there they happened to be finishing up their dinner. It was about 11:30 and they were ready to start a parade. So they removed all of those table coverings, and sliced a slot in the coverings about every 3 feet or so. Just big enough to stick their heads through. So they all put these table coverings over their heads, and started marching through town with a big bass drum beating in the front, and shouting, and screaming. It reminded me of those dragons in China town, only it was a crude version of that. They were three sheets to the wind. Quite a sight to see.