The MidLife Adventuress

Seeking Breathless Wonder in the World

Stories of Siena

February 7th, 2016

~The Girl on the Train~


~The Woman with the Girl’s Spirit~


  ~Saint Catherine~



The stories I have are few

but well remembered


begin on our short journey

 to Siena from Orvieto.

The train is late,

but listed on the board as such,

so we don’t worry

~we are chill~

Different now than when we first landed in Rome

nervously  second guessing each action.


When seated on the train

trying to understand the announcements in Italian

-a language we don’t speak-

we start discussing what we think

this means to our connection time in Chiusi,

where we have plans to buy train tickets

for another leg of travel later on in the trip.


The fresh-face blond girl

sitting across from me puts down her book

and tells us in perfect English

why the train is late


 what that means for our connection

and the rest of our journey.


Forget about train travel

…I want to know her story!


What is a young woman

~who looks like a beach bunny surfer girl from California~



But who can understand

 the Italian announcements

while reading a book in Italian

Doing on this train?


ca. 1955 --- Mrs. William McManus, VOGUE fashion editor, seated in train reading, wearing coat, sunglasses, and hat. --- Image by © Condé Nast Archive/CORBIS

ca. 1955 — Mrs. William McManus, VOGUE fashion editor, seated in train reading, wearing coat, sunglasses, and hat. — Image by © Condé Nast Archive/CORBIS

Turns out she is from California

but not a beach bunny surfer girl.

She is one of those people who know what they want out of life


 is going for it.


And what she wants

is to  surround herself in all things Italian.

She came to Rome out of high school

and has never left

-not for holidays-not for summer vacations-

-not even to visit her family in California.

Rome is her home now.


She is studying renaissance literature at the University in Rome

with plans to continue her studies in a PhD program.

She is today on her way to Florence

to rendezvous with other students.


I gush over her.


I am amazed at her clarity.


We reach Siena and it is a smooth transition via taxi to Hotel Chiusarelli.


Siena is the meeting point for the walking tour of Tuscany

which will begin tomorrow

I settle my things quickly in my nicely decorated room


as it is our plan is to go right out to get some lunch

and explore as much of Siena as we can in our short time here.


My room is comfortable,

 overlooks a soccer field which could be loud if a game was in play,

but today, no game

just a nice view of green space.


The lobby for this floor is right outside my room

and is not just any hotel lobby


…it is dreamy


While sitting in a chair waiting for G&T

I get pulled into the art

on the wall to wall, ceiling to floor


of a serene countryside scene in soothing pastel colors.

I sit here long enough to become serene myself

then the thought comes which jolts me back into 2015

I  probably mixed up our meeting place

…sure enough

they are waiting in the main lobby.


We grab a map of the city at the front desk

and in a very short distance

I have transitioned from the calm of the imaginary space of the countryside

 into the hustle bustle of the city

which is Siena.


The streets are filled with people,

tourist and locals alike-as today is Saturday.

We join the flow heading towards the Duomo

only stopping to admire a street chalk artist

Italy Swiss Land 2015 (62)


to take a turn around a flea market set up on a square


The more we walk the busier it becomes.

We have a list of restaurants which we quickly abandon

after we turn down a street and cannot find the first one.

We settle on a place off the main street,

a little niche

with outside seating,

mostly locals, quiet

but within sight of the flow.


Lunch for me is pasta cacio e pepe

(pasta with cheese & pepper)

my favorite dish from my last time in Tuscany.

…It was delezioso.


Fortified with food


an uplifting Aperol

we are off to find the Duomo.


I absolutely loved this Duomo my last visit

and I am still in love with it.

The black and white marble is so striking


such a pleasing combination against the blue sky of today

it mesmerizes me


I delay going inside.

Italy Swiss Land 2015 (66)

Once I do I am again struck by

the striping of the massive and numerous columns in this Duomo.

I am just in love with the way the black and white stone can appear so soft.

I will see this again and again on this trip

especially in Florence

-Massive stone that takes on soft shape.

Italy Swiss Land 2015 (67)

Before we leave the Duomo we stop for a bathroom break,

 strategically located so that you have to pass thru the gift shop.

I buy a tube of royal grape lip balm.

If I would have known how yummy it was going to be

I would have bought out the store’s supply.

Later on the trip I see this brand a lot

-which I now know can be  ordered on line-

It is made with the herbs, flowers and fruits of the Tuscan region.

Everything I bought was beautiful from the packaging to the feel.


Next up on our agenda in Siena

is the Campo

My aim is to find the small bar that I had read about

which overlooks the Campo

and  sit myself down

to enjoy the comings and goings.

We head to the middle of the fan shaped Campo,

look around and spy people

sitting on this narrow balcony on the second floor.

Yes that is it, we found it!

Now how to get to it?


We head in the direction of the bar,

up a small street to where there are people spilling out the door

and decide this must be it.

We squeeze our way thru the crowd

whose attention is on

yelling at the box

hanging from the ceiling,

not the Campo,

-they don’t seem bothered by us

practically sitting on their laps,

as  we snake our way

to the fresh air of the outside.

Italy Swiss Land 2015 (68)

There are maybe eight barstools and three are vacant


-just what we need-

Once the broken glass on the floor gets cleaned up

we are in right where we want to be.


One more trip back thru the crowd for our drinks

and we are set for hours

watching the people below as the afternoon light fades

from day to evening to night

and the crowd changes

from tourist like us

to the dogs who come with their people

to do the Italian passagerio.

At one point a small group is below us

looking up and pointing

…we start hand signals directing them on how to reach us.

We are now a jolly group on the balcony of eight.

They are from Vietnam.

Some are siblings, some are doctors


 all like to have a good time.




Their leader and our new friend

~A woman with the

 the Spirit of a Young Girl~

who is fearless in being true to herself

with a beautiful result.



We sit here wanting to be nowhere else


darkness descends on the Campo


 it is time for the changing of the guards

We leave as the young begin

their watch over the Campo.



We make our way home

now going in the opposite direction of the flow.


passing  people heading towards the center of town,

tourist interspersed with fashionable Italians out strolling


in this old world city

on a fabulous Saturday night.


 We go in and out of just a few shops

but mostly we just window shop on the way home.


G&T go to the hotel restaurant for what they report was a good dinner

& the sharing of stories with other Americans.

  I head straight to my room skipping dinner,

 anxious to get in bed after this full day in Siena


wanting be fresh for tomorrow’s first walk

on the white ribbon roads of Tuscany.


 I learn about St Catherine of Siena,

who in the 1300’s  was destined to marry her sister’s widowed husband,

fasted in protest,

then when  pressured  by her parents

to dress the part to capture a husband.

 she cut off her long hair


became steadfast in making her own path.

She became a  philosopher and theologian,

who is still looked upon today.


Her written words are said to have

persuaded the Popes’ return to

 Italy from Avignon, France

Where since a conflict  between  French royalty and the papacy

they had resided for 67 years.

At the time of this power struggle the newly chosen Pope  happened to be French

so  he and the next subsequent 7 Popes

 stayed in Avignon, France

until Catherine began writing letters.


Catherine was canonized a Saint in 1461,

Co-patron Saint of Rome in 1866,

Co-Patron saint of Italy in 1939 along with St Francis of Assisi


 a Doctor of the  Catholic Church in 1970

  ~along with Saint Teresa of Avila  they were the first women to receive this honor~

In 1999, she was declared one of the six

patron Saints of Europe.


~Saint Catherine~

A woman who lived by her words,

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the World on fire”



In reflection,

I  think of the woman I’ve  met in the past few days who are following St Catherine’s words.

Maybe not in the grand way as Catherine of Siena.

But in that quite way of following their own North Star.

Including me,

as I set out to walk a path that I have been yearning to do

setting my own world on fire

in my own way.


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