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Report 1997: Farm Stay in Tuscany - Tenuta di Spannocchia

By fivediggs from Italy, Spring 2012

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Page 4 of 7: Siena

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Gelato in Piazza del Campo

During our first week, we traveled to Siena. It is about a 25 minute drive from Spannocchia. It is an easy trip and we found ourselves returning there on one Sunday when all the local grocery stores were closed. Upon entering the city, we followed the signs for centro and parked near Porta San Marco. Our group was famished when we arrived so we did not travel far into the city before searching for a place to eat. We ate at a small alimentari on Via San Marco. I lost the name but it was a great lunch spot with plenty of Italians so we knew it would be authentic. I had the Ribolitta for lunch which is a Tuscan must-have. It is a traditional dish originally served by the contadini (farmers) that has become increasingly popular in modern cuisine. The original recipe was created to utilize day-old bread in another meal. Bread is the staple of the Tuscan diet and the culture of food in the region dictates that nothing is to be wasted. The bread is added to a vegetable minestrone to give it a thicker, richer texture and topped with olive oil. It is a hearty, wonderful meal that foodies shouldn't miss. I would also suggest going to a local food shop in the city and purchasing some panforte. It is the traditional Sienese dessert that resembles a fruitcake. It is filled with nuts, fruits and spices and has been a local favorite since the 13th century.

The vin santo in the region is also spectacular. You don't need to spend a lot to find a good bottle either. Make sure to purchase some cantucci (biscuit cookies) in Siena to dip into the vin santo. This is another savory dessert that shouldn't be missed.

Since we were traveling with five children, our goal was to do a short walking tour of the city. We walked to Piazza del Campo and took in the sights. The children had gelato in the square and chased pigeons. From the Piazza we walked to the Duomo. You must purchase tickets now to enter but the children were gratis (free). The Duomo is one of my favorites - not quite as domineering as Florence's but so unique with its black and white marble stripes. The children were enthralled with the pulpit by Nicola Pisano. I did my best to recall what I could remember from art history class about the scenes from the Life of Christ. They were mesmerized by the last judgement scene.

We left the Duomo and headed to the Basilica of San Domenico to see the relic of St. Catherine's Head. Aside from the nightmares the following night, it was more than worth the trip. The inside of the church is very simple, especially when you contrast it with the Duomo. St. Catherine's head can be found in a small chapel to the right of the altar. Though St. Catherine died in Rome, her head was smuggled to Siena, carried in a procession through the streets and entombed at San Domenico. The children were fascinated and a little terrified of this small, mummified head. They did want to know the entire story of who St. Catherine was and what she did to become a Saint. I wish we had done some preparatory reading before going.

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