Italy with My Son 2012 – Sunny Siena

On any trip, or truly with anything in life, it is important to roll with the punches and adapt to changing circumstances. . We had gone to bed the night before looking forward to a private pasta cooking class with Pamela Sheldon Johns, but awoke to discover an email telling me that she had to cancel the class because she was ill. My son is a budding cook who especially enjoys cooking pasta and had been looking forward to this , as had I. Needless to say, we were disappointed, but we had to change our plans on the fly and decided to make the best of it. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day, so I decided that we would go to Siena. By the time we got there and parked it was already 1PM. We found a spot at the Il Campo parking area by the Il Tufo gate, which fortunately wasn’t far from Il Campo itself.

We arrive at the Piazza del Campo to find a swarm of people filling the central shell-shaped, concave piazza, where the famed Palio race is run twice per summer, pitting Siena’s various neighborhoods against each other.

We were hungry and found a restaurant recommended by Pamela – Osteria Le Logge. This was a nice, upscale place that served contemporary Italian food. My son and I each ordered a first course and a main.

His first course was potato gnocchi with fried artichokes and black cardamom. The result resembled shredded beef. The artichokes had been shaved into bits and perfectly fried such that they had body and were neither greasy nor burnt. The gnocchi were pillowy soft, the way good gnocchi should be.

I enjoyed a burrata with asparagus, asparagus cream, shaved radish and chestnut crisps. The crisps and the radish offered good contrast to the silky and creamy burrata while the asparagus added a flavor boost.

For his main course, my son had roasted local chicken with green apple sauce, while I had pigeon with greens and an orange sauce. Both dishes were good without truly excelling. The birds themselves were well prepared and tasty, but the accompaniments did little to further their causes. The orange sauce on the pigeon was very one-dimensional. It was tasty, but nothing special. The apple sauce sounded somewhat exotic in Italian, but the bottom line was that it was still just apple sauce. I enjoyed a glass of the restaurant’s own production Brunello. We passed on dessert, but they brought some tasty cookies with the check.

From the restaurant, we waded through the crowd to the incredible Duomo di Siena. We bought tickets to se all the various aspects of this magnificent Renaissance Cathedral.

We marveled at the interior of the black and white marble striped Duomo. Though the bulk of the inlay floors were covered, there were enough uncovered areas to get a real sense of their grandeur.

Most marvelous of all , though was the fabulous Piccolomini Library, filled with color and precious, hand inscribed manuscripts.

We also visited the Baptistry, the Crypt area under the main church where we viewed Titian’s St. John the Baptist, and a museum of many works of art from the Cathedral.

We waited a short time to get up to see an overlook over Siena, but our time was short and the wait was going to be too long. We left and eventually made our way back to Il Campo and the amazing Torre del Mangia. It was getting late an we found the line to have dissipated. We still had to wait, but it was a manageable length of time, especially for such a perfectly beautiful afternoon. The views from the top of the bell tower were as fabulous and the climb to the top as long and treacherous as I remembered them to have been. I was glad that my son got to experience both the Duomo and the Torre. He really seemed to enjoy them.

We had made plans to have a rustic Tuscan dinner at a cheese making farm near Pienza, but the coordinates that we had plugged into our GPS led us to a private road, that petered out into nothing. We eventually gave up and made our way back to Poggio Etrusco and out again to Pizzeria Saloon, a nearby pizzeria reommended by Johnny Johns. My son’s Bufalina pizza was good, while my “Classico” calzone with mozzarella, ricotta, cooked ham and jarred button mushrooms was relatively tasteless. Nevertheless the pizzas hit the spot. The odd thing was that we had asked for frizzante water. Our bottle was flat, but the waitress refused to exchange it or take it off the bill. The price was not significant enough to argue over, but it was strange.

We returned to the agriturismo to pack, write and settle accounts. I bought some of their house olive oil and a book for my son that Pamela signed for him. We would be off to Florence the next day, but not before a quick return to the fair city of Siena to see a couple things we ween’t able to get to today.

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