We first traveled to the Church that houses the head and a thumb of St. Catherine of Siena, situated in the Plaza of Mother Teresa.
We were unable to take any pictures inside the church. The guide told us
this is the church where St. Catherine of Siena prayed and attended Mass. Only her head and one thumb are preserved here, other parts of her body are in Rome. She apparently walked from Siena to France and told the Pope to get back to Rome.... and he did. I lit candles for all my friends suffering from cancer and other health issues, especially remembering my former husband who faced surgery in Seattle today.
Anna Lisa gave us a great tour of this medieval city. We climbed lots of hills in this city. She explained along the way how people were born in sections of the city and remained loyal to their family and districts. Wikipedia: A contrada is a district, or a ward, within an Italian city. The most well-known contrade are probably the 17 contrade of Siena that race in the Palio di Siena. Each is named after an animal or symbol and each with its own long history and complicated set of heraldic and semi-mythological associations.ese districts were set up in the Middle Ages in order to supply troops to the many military companies that were hired to defend Siena as it fought to defend its independence fromFlorence and other nearby city states. As time has gone by, however, the contrade have lost their administrative and military functions and have instead become simply areas of localised patriotism, held together by the emotions and sense of civic pride of the residents. Their roles have broadened so that every important event – baptisms, deaths, marriages, church holidays, victories at the Palio, even wine or food festivals – is celebrated only within one's own contrada. Every contrada has its own museum, fountain and baptismal font, motto, allied contrada(only Oca has no allies) and adversary contrada, typically a neighbor (only four, Bruco,Drago, Giraffa and Selva, have no declared adversaries). Often the adversary contrade share borders.
Anna Lisa talked at length about the Palio race, when the 17 groups of families cram the CAMPO square for a horse race that lasts less than one minute on July 2nd and August 16. She said the race is a way to honor the Virgin Mary, but there are no prizes, no trophies, no real notoriety. Anna Lisa said she would never consider missing the race or being crammed in with 10,000 other people in the square.
We stopped at a bakery and sampled panforte, a type of fruitcake spiced with secret ingredients. I loved it and Paula and I went back searching for the generous baker, but bought it from another little shop. She had been searching for scarves in every little city and hit the jackpot in Siena.
From Rick Steves:
The provinces of Florence and Siena continue their competition, dating back to medieval times. When Siena realized the church in Florence was bigger, they began building on an extension or new outer wall, but it was never finished.Life was good for us as we enjoyed another great meal at 11 Bandierino.
On the way back to Montecatini Claudia told us about the importance of family in Italy. She said she could never consider moving far away from her family. And, Italy has only been a united nation for about 100 years. People consider themselves Tuscans or Florentines more so than Italians. There still exists a lot of competition between the provinces and people only get united when following a sports team.
Toni, Cindy, Paul, and I went shopping in the evening at a local grocery store, Conad. We found wine, beer, cheese, salami, pesto, olives, bread, and tiramisu. We watched the locals order salami and cheese and tried to figure out what might be best for our evening meal. Several Asian people approached Toni and asked her opinion about the beer and wine! Paul even spoke "Italian" to some confused young men waiting at the deli counter. It all added to the enjoyment of a great meal in the alcove on the 4th floor!