Friday, July 9, 2010

FIVE GUYS & ME - Rome via Siena - Goodbye Europe

Rome via Siena
Goodbye Europe

The next morning, I reluctantly crawled out of bed and started to pack, leaving behind my sweet dreams of Michelangelo’s David and the Ponte Vecchio bridge and cheeseburgers w/ Leo at Harry’s Bar. It was time to leave Florence. I didn’t want to leave Florence… but since I was an unemployed American freelance writer w/ no prospects of employment in a city where I couldn’t speak the language, I saw the handwriting on the piazza wall!

Richard and I met my remaining guys downstairs where we bid farewell to Jason and Jim. Their European adventure was not ending. The Food Network had commandeered them for another show being shot in Ireland, so they packed the Mercedes equipment van and left for the Emerald Isle. I wanted to stowaway, but if you’ve ever seen the inside of a TV equipment van, you’d know I’d have to be as thin as one of Jason’s light poles to fit in… I’m not.

After we waved goodbye, Richard and Charlie packed the Passat and we took off for Rome – well, actually the Hilton Rome Airport Hotel.  Because we wouldn’t have time to “see” Rome in the couple of hours we would have if we drove straight there, we decided to enjoy the ride through the beautiful Tuscany hills and stop for lunch in the small, ancient town of Siena… (duh – name one that isn’t).

A piece of trivia: Siena is the home of the world’s oldest banking establishment which was founded in 1472 – 20 years before Columbus discovered the “new land.”

Since no cars are allowed in Siena’s city walls, we parked below and walked up to the town. We were definitely not in Kansas (well, in our case LA). Charming. Quaint. Medieval! Picturesque! Did I mention old!?!? So old in fact that the Lombards, the city’s oldest aristocratic family dates back to 774 A.D. when they surrendered to Charlemagne… I’m assuming the city was built long before then. Who knows – maybe Caesar slept there.

As we walked by the Mediterranean-style homes and buildings, some w/ laundry drying on clotheslines outside the windows, we decided to eat first and sightsee later.

We found our way to the city’s famous Piazza del Campo, a shell-shaped, sloping town square surrounded by buildings and outdoor cafes.

We chose the first cafe we saw and grabbed a table under the burgundy colored canopy.

I wish I could remember what Charlie or Richard or I had for our lunch entrees (I had left my notepad in the car), but I do remember that we loved every bite of cheese, proscuitto, olives and bread we found sitting on our table. AND, I do remember that the red table wine we ordered was pretty fine. As we chewed and swallowed and sipped and swallowed and talked between chewing, sipping and swallowing, we gazed at the piazza and people-watched.

At a nearby table, two priests communed over a carafe of wine.

Lunch over, we walked the town square and found a station wagon housing owls and falcons for a flying demonstration later that day…

We explored the beautiful Duomo, the Cathedral of Siena completed in 1380 and the ‘spit and image’ of the breathtaking (literally, in my case) 15th century Il Duomo (the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore) in Florence...

it even has a similar (albeit smaller) bell tower…

We discovered history-filled ancient buildings ...

and alleyways...

 and streets.

On one street, the pigeons were so happy to see us that one you know what on Richard’s shoulder.

An old wives’ tale claims that’s a sign of good fortune, but all Richard knew was that he wanted to take off his tee and pull off one of the shirts drying on a nearby clothesline. He didn’t, of course, so he chose to believe that old wives’ tale and that good luck would follow him back to the States.
Our time in Siena was over. Back at the car, Richard changed his shirt and it was off to Rome – well, our airport hotel.

We checked in, had a nice dinner in the hotel’s Le Colonne restaurant, said good bye to Charlie who wasn’t going home w/ us, and immediately went to bed. We had to be at the airport at 4:30 – 5:00 a.m. But no problem. We chose the Hilton Rome because we didn’t want to deal w/ finding a cab or Rome traffic. We could walk to the airport – really! So in the wee morning hours, we just walked right through hotel doors and onto a ‘conveyer belt’ sidewalk that took us directly into the terminal where we easily found our gate. I don’t think I’ve ever had an easier “going to the airport” experience.

Sad as I was to leave Europe, and I was really, really sad… it was the perfect ‘exit’ for my 5 guys & me Food Network adventure. Well, that and upgrading our tickets to business class for the plane ride home.


Richard said...

I want to go back... despite the bluebird of happiness...

ilona saari said...

Oh, so do I!!!! I could live there ... Really!

Stu said...

Terrific. Very entertaining. Fun, as usual.

Anonymous said...

Well done.

Brought back wonderful memories of my times in Siena.

They say if you sit at a cafe in the Campo long enough, you'll see everyone you know. If I had sat longer, I would have seen you at the first cafe. Wouldn't that have been grande!


ilona saari said...

Very grande indeed