There has been a rivalry between Florence and Siena for hundreds of years and it continues today, with many tourists weighing in with strong feelings about their preference. Gord and I are not going to visit Florence on this trip, but we are very impressed with Siena. We have always leaned towards the Gothic over the Renaissance and Siena is a gothic gem.

 We are staying in a small apartment only two blocks away from Il Campo, the main square, and yet we are tucked away in a residential area without the tourist hoards a stones throw away.  It appears that the contrada in our area is Tower, as we have a meeting hall across the street that is dedicated to that group.  The city is divided into 17 contrada, which date back to the medieval period when they were involved in raising troops.  The contrade continue to dominate social life in the city, as we have been told that most important social rituals, such as marriages and baptisms, occur within one’s contrada.  Competition between the contrade is played out each summer with two horse races around Il Campo.  These are not merely recreational events, but are of considerable importance to the contrade.  By the way, our guide states that Tower is the only contrada to have two enemy contrade, making it the most contentious contrada in the city.  No wonder our room was so reasonably priced: we’re staying in a bad ‘hood.
We spent our day exploring the Duomo and a number of museums located within the Cathedral area.  The Duomo not only houses exceptional paintings and sculptures by leading artists, including Bellini and Donatello, but also the most amazing inlaid stone floor.

Perhaps the best sight of all, however, was my new rack. The back rack on my bicycle had broken in a number of places and no amount of bondo, zap-straps and hose clamps were making it withstand the off road riding that we have been doing. I was so happy when we found a  repair shop that said they could set me up with a new rack that I did my happy dance right in the store, much to the amusement of the elderly lady manning the till.  Speaking of racks, my other set is now settling into a new smaller sized bra.  It seems that with all the fat on my body that I would happily sacrifice, I just lose in one area.

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