“It is solved by walking.” – Algerian Proverb
This past weekend I spent two days exploring Siena and Florence. Emphasis on exploring. It was glorious not to be ferried around these cities with twenty-four other college students by professors, looking like children at day camp. We left the monastery at 6:40 to catch the 6:50 cable car to take us down the cliff to catch our 7:17 train. We made it to the funicolare, only to find out that it doesn’t actually open until 7:20. Bummer. We decided that if we ran down the hill, we could make it. So off we ran, down the cliff, and rolled in with plenty of time before our train left. Success. On the train to Siena, successful switch to the bus, and within 2 hours we were dropped off at the Siena station.
Unfortunately, Siena is somewhat like Orvieto in the fact that the main tourist destination part of it is on the top of a hill. And the station we had been dropped off at wasn’t on any of the maps we had. So we decided to start walking. We figured the best way to go was up, and up we went. After taking some minor detours and being corrected by kindly Italian drivers and grandmothers, we finally found our way to their Duomo. Although we had been there before, we hadn’t had a chance to visit inside, so we took the opportunity to do so at the cost of 3 euros. The inside of the Duomo was gorgeous, if not a little museum-like. Busts of popes lined the walls up toward the ceiling.
The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging on the piazza. The piazza campo in Siena resembles a beach without sand or water—that’s the kind of attitude the people come to it with. By the end of the day, I am proud to say that I retained some semblance of sunburn. On my way to a tan in the Italian sun.
After a trek back down to the station, we boarded our next train to Florence. We checked into our hostel at 10 till 7 and were so tired that we conked out soon after dinner, ready to take on Florence the next day.
Our intended plan for the following day had been to hit the massive market in the morning and try to get into the Uffizi in the afternoon. We were budgeting a wait time of about 2 hours. Much to our dismay, by 8:30 in the morning, hardly anything in the market was set up. So, in order to kill time, we took off to scope out the Uffizi, just to see how long the line was. When we got there, we were shocked that there was in fact no line. Soon we had joined the crowds of people that were staring, enthralled, at the brush strokes of Botticelli, Michelangelo, Rafael, and Vasari. For 11 euro, I’d say that it was a ticket well spent. A couple of the girls in our group spent about 5 hours in the museum. I had reached my limit at about two and a half. So one of the other girls and I trooped off to the Mercato San Lorenzo, one of the biggest, all day markets in Florence.
I’ve decided that outdoor markets like that are one of my favorite places, no matter what country I’m in. A striking contrast with the fact that I hate malls in America. But it seems like markets like that are something that you can find almost anywhere in the world. Except America, ironically. I have yet to find something in America that resembles a market like the night bazaars in Thailand or the markets of Italy. And I really don’t think a market like that would work in America. There are too many health codes to deal with and licenses that have to be obtained, and regulations to follow. It’s too bad, because they’re great. You don’t get to hear people haggling over prices in a mall. The glass prevents you from actually looking at the product you’re selling. They have a lot less character than a marker. So, I think I will have to live in a country with a market.