Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Can't get enough of Siena

As I mentioned in the previous post, our room at San Francesco is right next to the communal breakfast dining area. You literally walk out the door, and three feet away, there are complete strangers eating cornettos and drinking cappuccino and talking about where they’re from and what they’re doing today. It's weird. I'm not a very social person in the morning, so this was a challenge. 



At any rate, although cloudy, it only rained a little bit, so we were able to tromp around the city unimpeded, for the most part. Even with moldy, grey wash-rag skies, this city is stunning. We bought the all-inclusive ticket for the heavily frosted wedding cake Duomo, the Duomo museum (with access to the arch with 360 degree panoramic views), the baptistery, and the crypt. The whole thing costs 10 euros – Florence, please take note. Siena’s Duomo is one of my favorites. I love the heavily decorated facade and byzantine-stripe exterior. It’s so excessive, and yet it works. Where things really get cuckoo, though, is the interior, where there is so much going on (disembodied Pope heads, more byzantine stripes, patterns and illustrated stories all over the floor, sculptures and tombs lining the walls, etc…) that it pulls your attention in a dozen different directions at once. The museum is nice, but I admit what I like most about it is the access to the top of the incomplete fa├žade of the Duomo enlargement that never happened. The views from there are stunning.





After lunch we went back to our room and tried to do what we normally do after lunch, which is to kind of take a break, take a nap, decompress, re-engerize, etc… except that we had to do this with the San Francesco staff/proprietors having lunch/conversing loudly in the communal breakfast dining area right outside our door. Hmmm.

After some afternoon strolling and oohing and awing over the scenery, and over how you can walk 10 feet in this town and suddenly turn a corner and get these unbelievable views...



...we decided to eat dinner at a place really close to the hotel called L’Osteria. I actually ate here on my last trip to Siena, and came away thinking it was just merely decent. But the place garners rave reviews from seemingly everyone, and it’s incredibly popular with the locals, so I just assumed I’d ordered the wrong dishes or something. It’s a really small, informal place, with that classic trattoria look: dark, old wood-paneled walls, coat hooks everywhere, and really cool, old and grainy, enlarged b&w photos of Siena on the walls.

The food was decent overall, and the highlight was an antipasto of bruschetta with melted gorgonzola and black truffle shavings, which was a party in our mouths for sure. It was really cheap, too, especially given that an appetizer like this would cost a small fortune in the US. I ordered (once again) tagliatelle ai funghi porcini, which was, well… decent. The main problem is that it was kind of under-seasoned and the porcinis were a bit bland. Gallo Nero’s pappardelle with porcini dish from the night before kicked this one’s butt. Terezia ordered ribolitta, a traditional Tuscan soup made with bread and vegetables. She liked it more than I did (kind of bland, mushy, comfort food). Overall, the food was good and simple, but I don’t think we’d come back.

Directly across the street from L’Osteria, however, is Gelateria Kopa Kabana. I ordered cioccolatto fondente and nocciola again, while Terezia had a chocolate mouse with nocciola. Both were wildly exquisite.

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