Wednesday, December 27, 2017


It was our first day of bad weather. A dull grey hung over the vista from our room. A light rain splattered the stone patio surrounding the pool. It was the day after Christmas and in Italy a day of equal importance. It's called the Feast of St. Stephen in honor of Santo Stefano believed to be one of the first Christian martyrs. It's a national holiday that closes up government offices, banks and schools not to mention most everything we wanted to do starting with grocery shopping and including some gift exchanges.
Our hosts had suggested we go to either Siena or Arezzo to see the holiday lights. Unlike in the United States where the day after Christmas is another major shopping day filled with sales and drastic discounts the Christmas holiday in Italy actually extends to January 6th and lacks the frenzy of post holiday shopping we find in the US.  Lucky us.  We flipped a coin and decided on Siena for a late afternoon visit. With the weather in Buonconvento still looking ominous we grabbed our umbrellas and headed out.
Our lucky streak seemed to still be with us. About half way to Siena the clouds miraculously parted and a rainbow formed so close to our car we felt as if we could touch it.
The rainbow followed us all the way in to Siena and then disappeared along with the rain.
By the time we reached Piazza del Campo, the main square of Siena, the clouds had evaporated like ice cubes in summer.
It was nearing four in the afternoon, about the time shops would begin to open again for the afternoon-evening hours and to our surprise many of the stores in Siena were opening up. Most Italian commercial areas run a civilized schedule of opening from ten to one and then closing for an afternoon meal and nap before reopening for the evening from four to eight.
The three of us made our way up the narrow stone streets
to the Duomo, Siena's main Cathedral.
The sides of the exterior of the Duomo are predominately clad in alternating bands of black and white marble with the banding continued around its inspiring tower.
The front of the Duomo carries most of the ornamentation in a Gothic Romanesque style laden with exquisite fret work and amazing sculptures.

Rick and Emmy weren't too interested in going inside so we split up deciding to meet an hour later. I purchased my four- euro ticket and went inside. Normally during the summer months entry is limited to designated time when you purchase your ticket. The lines are long and you might have to wait hours to get inside.
At this time of the year there weren't any lines. I got in without any waiting. The stanchioned corridor for entry was empty. Once inside I had the Cathedral virtually to myself. It was another gift to see a space so incredibly gorgeous.
Magnificent frescos and paintings adorned the walls. Everywhere you looked a new set of angels fluttered skyward.
The Corinthian columns soared to unimaginable heights supporting vaulted ceilings and coffered domes.
The altar was still set up for the Christmas service with rows of poinsettias and a small baby Jesus rested at the head of the altar.
A full-scale nativity scene was set up to the left of the altar. It is customary for Catholics to visit the ornate nativity scenes in many Italian Catholic churches on St Stephen's Day.
By the time I left the Cathedral to meet back up with Rick and Emmy the light was beginning to fade.
It was then that the streets began to turn into fairytale corridors of twinkling lights.
There were streets with themed sun burst designs
and others where it appeared as if Christmas trees had been reimagined in lights and hung overhead.
Beautiful real trees covered in millions of tiny lights took over little squares where statuary would normally be the principal draw.
As we made our way back to the main square we stopped at several shops to pick up a few additional items for dinner.
There was prosciutto, pecorino cheese and a giant loaf of Italian bread. We also added a bottle of red wine to our dining menu.
When I found this gelateria I wasn't going to be denied since in the smaller towns the gelato shops seem to close for the winter . I got a double scoop and enjoyed every cold spoonful.
By the time we returned to the Piazza del Campo night had set in, the sky had turned black and the lights of the holiday had been turned on.
We made our way back to our car by climbing back up the steep and cobbled streets of Siena while
leaving Babbo Natale clinging to the side of a building still delivering gifts to the citizens of Siena. We left Siena with one more perfect day under our belts on our European Holiday Adventure.

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