Sunday, 29 November 2015

Siena, day two: Jesus' Inner Chianti - Would You Like Fava Beans With That?

Siena, Italy (Siena, Italia)
With just one day left in Siena, we made the most of the Via di Città. 
Requiring coffee and pastries, we breakfasted at Nannini. It was immensely popular, having a huge line and nowhere to sit, so we ate our tasty morsels at a standing table. Not quite full enough from our cornettos and cappuccinos, we also sampled the local almond biscuit Ricciarelli di Siena (mmmm). 
As OPA passes are valid to be used for three consecutive days, on our second day we visited the sights we handn't yet seen. Entering the Battistero di San Giovanni, we were awed by the ornate decoration. It seemed almost more impressive than the duomo, as the ornamentation was condensed tightly into a smaller space, whereas inside the cathedral everything was massive and spread out. In the centre of the battistero was the basin in which babies are dunked headfirst, and directly behind that was a painting portraying Jesus pouring some water over himself. Yannick assumed that the painting was showing the story of Jesus inventing baptism, and that's why the priest next to him looked so confounded. 
Much of our time in the baptistery was spent angling the mirrors provided to visitors in an attempt to create interesting photos. We got there in the end!
One painting in particular that drew Yannick's attention was the above, in which some dude probably becomes a saint. What my ever immaginitive parter saw, however, was a dove beaming down a lychee to an elderly gentleman, who welcomed it with suitably agape mouth. 
Down a flight of stairs we visited the cripta, which was amazingly only discovered in 1999. It's situated right under the duomo's pulpit and boasts paintings from the 1200's (these aren't frescoes, but rather 'dry paintings' - a fresco is paint applied to wet plaster). They illustrate scenes from the messiah's life, death, rebirth and...death again? Many were in unbelievably good shape, probably because they had been forgotten for so long. 
One particularly weird part of the crypt was a kind of temporary exhibition showing a painting in which Saint Catherine of Siena is "drinking the blood from Christ's wound". Um, what?! Yes. Apparently the blood holds a source of salvation, so at the request of Jesus she starts suckling away from his corpse's ichor. I cannot fathom how people think this is not some cult-like behaviour. Seriously, wtf Jesus. 
Needing to be "nourished by love" ourselves, we returned to Pizzicheria di Miccoli for a repeat on the sandwich awesomeness of the day before and saw that other customers had ordered wine to go with their panini. (We also saw that some had ordered antipasto platters with a variety of cured meats and cheeses, but the quantities were enormous! With the relatively high prices (~€8 for a sandwich, much more for a platter), we would settle with bead stuffed with cheese and salami). Our sandwich was a bit more expensive than the day before, as you pay for the weight of cheese and meat inside, and our moustachioed vendor explained (in a stereotypical Italian accent) "I made you a big one!"  
We enjoyed our large sandwich with a small bottle of Chianti while standing outside the shop. With no tables whatsoever, lunchgoers either take their food away with them or are given wooden boards placed upon barrels at the shopfront. Standing there nomming, we made a great advertisement to passersby who may have been looking for a lunchtime panino and tipple. We were also under the close eye of a boar's head wearing spectacles - that's the kind of place di Miccoli is! A bit quirky, but overwhelmingly in favour of all manner of meats. (Also note my scarf - this was the pesky runaway who I recaptured the day before.)
Full to bursting, we needed to wait a while before dessert (gelato!). We sat on the Campo for a time, though it was much cloudier than the day before and a wind made the usually sun-soaked bricks unfavourably cool. Wanting to breathe warmth back into our legs, we wandered into the courtyard of the Palazzo Chigi-Saracini, which dates back to the twelfth century and contains a sweet well. 
This moody photo we snapped of the duomo shows just how cloudy it was. Luckily it didn't rain, but I definitely required that errant scarf in order to stay warm!
Once our bellies had enough space, we visited what could now be referred to as our usual stomping ground: Venchi. This time around we opted for sorbets and fruit-based gelatos to test out their skills - were they only good at making the chocolate-based flavours, as that is their main product? Nope! Their sorbets were excellent, proving to us that Venchi (though a prevalent chain) were damn fine gelartisans. Yes, I made that word up. What of it?!
The last sight on our OPA pass was the Oratory of San Bernardino, where we took in a cornucopia of Madonna del Latte paintings, in which the Virgin Mary breast feeds 'our lord and saviour'. It was so bizarre! And the artists clearly had never seen a naked woman before, as quite often the breast in question was emerging from the centre of her chest, and was altogether too close to her neck to be anatomically realistic. 
Outside on the piazza, we were treated to an art installation of several obese women in various poses. I suppose it ain't over til the fat lady sings. As the piazza is shared with the University of Siena, we theorised that it may be a student's doing. 
So, did I prefer Siena or Florence? Well, it's too early to say. You'll have to stay tuned for my Florence posts. 

Today's post was almost called: Under the Spell of the Bespectacled Boar