Italia: Endeavour Language Teacher Fellowship


Friday, January 20, 2006

The tour begins!

January 18th:
Hi...I'm back! My good mate Salvatore at Hotel Cellai has just set up the computer for despite it being one in the morning. Okay, what's been happening?

Well, to begin with, it was a cold and drizzly morning when we set off from Hotel Giardino after farewelling our little "family" there with a short gift-giving session. By the way, well done Carmelina for all your efforts organising the presents, no small job. The bus was packed quicky with the bulging cases, some packed to a capacity far greater than 20 kilos, but hey let's worry about that later. We had the same driver, Gianlucca, who drove us from Rome to Prato. We had plenty of room, two seats each to ourselves. Goretti kept everyone entertained or tortured as the case may be with her renditions of songs like Cucharacha.

It wasn't long before we arrived at San Gimigniano. A once thriving town due to its location on the main pilgrim route was sadly brought to its knees after the devastating plague of 1348. We had a two hour tour with Gastone. We climbed to the highest point to enjoy the panoramic views, even though Goretti upstaged the tour guide with her dramatic trip up the steps. They were very narrow and slippery. The view from the top was spectacular; an amazing medieval town enclosed within walls. The twin towers dominate the town. Whilst there I bought a few Pinocchio figures and also a yummy gelato with Deb and Rosemary.

Then it was on to Sienna. Okay in Sienna we walked up and down steep, narrow, cobbled roads. By the way Adriana has joined me in all her splendour, the patty cake pjs dazzling and astounding clients as they enter the foyer of the hotel. So we are actually writing a joint blog today. Meanwhile Goretti and Cecilia are stocking up their bidet with beer. God knows what assumptions cleaners now have about Australians.

In Sienna I learnt about the Palio race ( a bare back horse race)which is held twice a year in the centre piazza and acts out the ancient rivalries of the city's seventeen contrade( a series of parishes). Well actully only ten of the districts get to be represented after the drawing of lots. The parishes' animal symbols repeated on flags, plaques and carvings are dotted throughout this inspiring city. A few days before the officials prepare the road with sand and water it down to compact it. The spectators stand inside the piazza oval and cheer on the race whilst the jockeys who represent the different districts do three laps, about a mile. Above in the photo you can see Gastone explaining the whole deal. (Adriana is now whinging that she wants to go to bed. So it looks like I will have to go it alone.) After the race is finished the victorious contrade launch themselves into preparations for the cena della vittoria which is the culinary victory feast. And of course the winning horses are given their own special meal after the races.

Lunch lasted for two hours and then it was another marathon listening session of data, dates and detail. As the darkness fell we meandered towards the bus drugged from information overload. I would have liked a little more time to explore this fascinating university city.

Two hours later the bus pulled into the narrow street outside Hotel Cellai. I found that I had a matrimonial bed with Antonella. A few others found they too were to have an intimate night. Giocamo discovered a few other interesting things as well. Salvatore who takes the night shift in reception is a barrel of laughs and very friendly. I retired early after another huge meal. Jeans still fit, a miracle really. Adrianna also had an early night after mangiando troppo. She was still emotionally overwhelmed at finding a shop name after her in Sienna, even if it was only a corsetry shop.
For more on il palio you might like to visit this site...

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At 12:17 PM, Blogger Elitre said...

Hi, I've just read your post. If you're interested in Siena (and its Palio) take a look at my blog with lots of 2005 pics and a link to see the last Palio movie (free). Ciao...


Ps. If you like it, please feel free to link to me through any word in this article or wherever you like.


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