Settling in for 5 weeks in Siena

After a series of misadventures by train — broken air conditioning, delayed arrivals, sprinting through the Florence train station with luggage that breaks in the process, and nearly missing my connection — I finally arrived in Siena.

I’ve been here twice before: once for just an hour or so on a tour, and once for a few days that I almost entirely spent working in my hotel room, but as soon as I saw the familiar streets I felt a sense of relief… and then I saw my Drago flags, and was literally hopping up and down in the taxi.

Drago flags, welcoming me back!

And THEN I got to my apartment.

The apartment itself is nothing fancy… It’s technically two stories: two bedrooms, a bathroom, a living room, and a kitchen on the first floor, and a loft above that has a fold-out couch and a television. The shower is a small confined box, the toilet is monstrously loud when it flushes, and only the hot water works on the sink. There’s a fridge that’s older than I am, probably, but it’s cold. There’s an espresso machine that defies my understanding, but I’ve got time. In short, everything is fine if not luxurious — which is pretty much the experience I was aiming for.

I was exhausted and disgusting after my trip in, so I needed to unpack a bit and shower. I finally ventured out to go pick up some groceries, and managed to get myself good ‘n lost on the way there and the way back. These streets are hilly and winding and have no discernible grid system, having evolved naturally as the town built itself centuries ago, and just stayed that way ever since. Even Siri couldn’t seem to figure out which street I was on half the time, so I did a bit of wandering with two bags of groceries.

That’s okay, though, because I got to see more of the town than I had previously. And, on two occasions I turned a corner and found myself in the middle of a contrada (like an extended family you are born into, based on historical neighborhoods in the town) march with its newly-selected (today!) horse for this week’s Palio horse race, on their way to the Piazza del Campo.

The horse for whatever this contrada was, leading the way

The beginning of five minutes of a nonstop crowd of contrada members, singing their contrada song in unison
Setting up the Piazza del Campo town square for the Palio horse race

I didn’t go to watch the first Prova (practice run) race, as I had two bags of groceries and was once again a sweaty out-of-breath mess. (These Tuscan hills don’t mess around.) Besides, last year I went to one of the Prova trials, and the race itself, so I feel like I have a good idea of what to expect.

I went back to my apartment, unloaded groceries, chugged some water, peeled off my soaked-through clothes, and took a damned nap.

To be continued!

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