2/29/18 and 2/30/18
Siena and Florence used to be known for their competition. Once, they were so against each other that when Florence built a bigger church than Siena, Siena made plans to double the size of theirs. In retaliation, it is rumored that Florence deliberately spread the black plague to Siena. Over these two days team Italy got to compare these famous rivals for ourselves.
Day 1, Siena
Breakfast was at 8:30 this morning to give an extra hour of recovery to everyone that was sick. Thankfully everyone has made a near full recovery and only one student stayed back from Siena. Then we got on the bus and although most of us fell asleep during the long ride, if you were lucky enough to stay awake the view of the mountains and Italian countryside outside of the bus windows was positively breath-taking.
Since our tour guide, Andrea, was sick today, we were lucky to have his sister Ariana step in and show us around Siena. Our first stop was the Duomo (church) which was incredible. What made this church unique was the vast amounts of black and white: you could see the colors of Siena not only chasing each other up the pillars, but also in beautiful images on the floor. After the breathtaking church, we were able to learn more about the amazing history of Siena.
Siena has always competed with Florence, but interestingly enough, Siena also competes with itself. There are 17 different neighborhoods that all compete with each other within Siena. Each neighborhood has a lot of pride, and that pride also comes with individual mascots, flags, and beautiful statues or fountains. My personal favorite was the turtle, but I know the unicorn, horse and snail neighborhoods were big hits with the team.
We also learned that on a larger scale, Siena stopped competing with Florence so heavily after the black death wiped out half of their population. This is why they never finished constructing a larger church, but the one they have now is beyond incredible already.
Despite all the death, today the city is alive and bursting with people bustling in and out of shops. With everything from spices to high-end fashion, Siena was a marvel to see. All the different neighborhoods and winding streets provided something for everyone. Becky Young bought some beautiful flags, the Coulsons purchased an elegant tablecloth runner, Wills bought himself a very Italian button down shirt (which he immediately changed into), and most of the team invested in some killer gelato. e discovered lots of new flavors like melon and blue vanilla. Maddie Rahe discovered that after today her favorite gelato flavor is mint.
To end our beautiful day of sight seeing, we all went back to dinner at the Clitunno and the different shopping groups intermingled to talk about their adventures.
Day 2, Florence
Breakfast this morning was at 7:30. Everyone is nearly fully recovered and we were all pleased to discover an Italian off-brand Nutella to put on our bread. Then we all headed on the bus for the long drive to Florence.
As usual the view of the mountains was breathtaking, but to get through the 3 hour drive we stopped at a gas station to get some coffee and paninis. The team is still not over how amazing gas station food here is.
When we made it to Florence, Andrea was back to being the best tour guide ever (we all legitimately adore him)! He happily grabbed the mic on the bus and told us about Dante and all the artists the ninja turtles are named after. He talked about the Medici family, their roles in Florence, and showed us where to stop the bus to get a great picture of the city.
Then we saw the Duomo (church) before we split up into our usual shopping groups to go explore Florence. The city was incredible, and so were the sales. Becky found another amazing flag that Andrea loved, Ellie found herself a gorgeous Italian blouse, Lance and Joe bought fancy socks, Jin found Italian fingernail clippers for her grandmother and bought 4, and Mrs. James found a pantsuit that she is positively in love with. The highlight of the day was definitely watching Tommy bargain down the price on his beautiful Italian leather jacket.
For lunch in both Florence and Sienna, we were packed sandwiches from Spoleto, fruit and bottled water. None the less, multiple groups stopped to grab some fantastic Florence cuisine because the food here is so good it’s hard to only eat 3 times. Groups also saw David and other incredible artwork. There were also lots of pictures taken by the river, which is the second largest in Italy and has multiple beautiful bridges running across it.
We left Florence with our hearts full, but our wallets slightly empty. It rained a bit on the way to dinner, which was a reminder of how lucky we have been with the weather here. Tonight was the first time it has rained all trip.
Ultimately, although some of us preferred Siena, and some of us adored Florence, both cities had incredible things to offer.
Quote of the day: “Don’t touch the leather!” -Tommy Green speaking to the rain about his new jacket