Day 76 - Siena

26 February 2022

Sleep in. Broken sleep. We are in the heart of town and it was Friday night. To be expected. Breakfast of oats and we head out before it gets busy. It is overcast and freezing. There is a chilling breeze. The temperature is about 2 C. We grab a coffee. Head home, pick up the camera, and head to Duomo di Siena.

First, we head to the local ASL. Shell is relentless in her pursuit of our third vaccination. Siena will be the difference. I do not mind. Siena is a city for walking. Every street has something to offer. We stumble across some baths. They are not on the tourist guide. In any other country, they might be the sole attraction.

ASL proves unsuccessful. We are given a place to go tomorrow. Same old story. We are now someone else's problem. We will be there tomorrow I am certain. Shell’s determination is relentless.

“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” ― Leonardo da Vinci

Duomo di Siena. It is a masterpiece of medieval architecture. White marble from Africa and the more unusual dark marble of Tuscany. There was a time when Siena was the second-largest city in Rome. Duomo di Siena was planned to be larger than St. Peter's Basilica. The plague put a stop to that. Siena lost 70% of its population and the cathedral was scaled down. You have to wonder why God didn’t intervene.

“Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn't care to, or he doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil, or imaginary. Take your pick, and choose wisely.” - Sam Harris

Designed and completed between 1215 and 1263. It is one of the oldest Roman Catholic Churches. Dedicated to Mary. Jesus Mum. The virgin. If you can work that out I will be impressed.

I love to hate these buildings. More likely I hate that I love them. Undeniably beautiful. Stunning in architecture and artistic brilliance. They are breathtaking. No expense was spared in the construction. That is the catch. The disgraceful display of wealth in the name of religion. Raping the wealth of the people to build shrines of worship. Oppose them, you are a heretic and they are free to torture and kill you. Marvel at the wealth of the humble church while the peasants and serfs can do nothing. People starved to death in Italy while this building was erected in the name of supernatural virgins, their sons, who are their fathers who are the God. Fairytale stuff that still exists and protects pedophiles in its ranks.

Rant over.

“I suppose that one reason I have always detested religion is its sly tendency to insinuate the idea that the universe is designed with 'you' in mind or, even worse, that there is a divine plan into which one fits whether one knows it or not. This kind of modesty is too arrogant for me.” ― Christopher Hitchens

We head out for lunch. The streets are busy with tourists. We head out of the centre to Osteria Nonna Gina. It is popular with locals for cooking traditional Tuscan food. It has a homely vibe. The Chianti Rosso comes from a wine barrel poured into a traditional fiasco.

“As a recluse I couldn't bear traffic. It had nothing to do with jealousy, I simply disliked people, crowds, anywhere, except at my readings. People diminished me, they sucked me dry.” ― Charles Bukowski

We order the antipasti, slow-cooked beef, and chingale, wild boar. The food is delicious. The chingale is the pick. This is the second time we have ordered here and both times it has been delicious. I have no idea what I did to the wild boar I cooked, but it was catastrophically disgusting.

Dessert is a certainty. I go with tiramisu. Just to check yesterday was not a one-off. Today’s is different, yet no less delicious. A hundred bad experiences in Australia with this desert. I am a fan. Shell orders the crema bruciata, Crème brûlée. Equally delicious.

Walk home for a siesta. The fiasco was one litre and we were delivered a complimentary Ameretto when we asked for the bill.

Lay about for the afternoon. Soon it is evening and the noise builds outside. I consider going out for something to eat but I am not hungry. I might just read my book.

I head out for panini. Shell's eyes judge as I leave. Not really. It is my own guilt I can feel. I am not hungry, I just want to eat. I have a terrible relationship with food. I am in a permanent state of hunger yet I eat so much, so often, I am rarely actually hungry.

“I lurched away from the table after a few hours feeling like Elvis in Vegas - fat, drugged, and completely out of it.” ― Anthony Bourdain

We leave Siena tomorrow. Some wine tasting and a farm to stay at. I look forward to the silence. Siena, beautiful without question, is full of tourists.


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