Siena in May
May 25, 2016 Comments (0)
Day 4 of our Tuscan adventure on 2 wheels.
Daybreak brought a very crisp morning and a healthy wind. After a quick breakfast, we suited up in our warmest gear and set off to explore the town of Siena. What we discovered was history, decades-old tradition, and enormous hometown pride. The (old) city was built on three hills, and is surrounded by a fortified wall which has 8 enormous gates spaced around the perimeter, to ensure that only the right people were permitted entry into their fair city... What was most fascinating, though is that the population is divided into 17 contradas, or districts, founded in the early 1700's. Among other things, each contrada has its own patron saint, coat of arms, colors, animal (all represented on each contrada's fountain). The loyalty and emotion connected to these contradas is alive and well today. Contradas were originally determined by where people lived, but that has changed now that so many live outside the walls of the old town. There is an annual horse race, the Palio di Siena, where one rider from each district competes as the horses race around the perimeter of the Piazza del Campo. The winner takes a hand-painted flag of the Madonna dell'Assunta and bragging rights for a year. No money; just the honor of the victory. Each year there is a 4 day period of preparation, parades, elaborate velvet costumes, and then, finally, wild celebration. Picture a Siennese Mardi Gras and that should get you into the realm of what happens.
With all that learning and walking the hilly streets, we had worked up quite an appetite, so were very happy to see that our lunch menu had truffle specials on the front page. Before we ordered, mini bowls of steaming mini bowls of spinach and potato soup arrived, helping to chase the chill away. And then a glass of red house wine. Tagliatelle with butter and truffles and a generous sprinkling of Parmigiana Reggiano and gnocchi with a cream sauce and white truffles arrived shortly thereafter.
Cocktails were beautiful to the eye as well as the palate: Rossinis. Strawberries picked that morning, blended, and mixed with Prosecco. The ideal spring aperitif. Dinner was at the Poggiorosso restaurant on the Borgo San Felice premises. A more elegant setting than last night's Osteria, and equally delicious. Grissini (skinny, crunchy breadsticks), fresh bread, and olive oil greeted us. Starters of poached egg with truffles, asparagus and 24 month aged Parmesan, Tuscan chicken liver pate and white bean soup. Dinner brought local pici pasta with bacon, marinated lamb prepared with chicory and garlic, and risotto with peas, goat cheese and candied lemon rind. A 2003 San Felice Vigorello was poured in glasses that could have held most of the bottle. Proof that there is magic in Chianti.