Italy 13: May 1, 2007 -- A day of enormous pleasure in Siena, mixed with difficult news from home -- notes from Bob and Sally

Bob Corbett's note:


All the people left Sienna so we could have it alone!!!! Well, it seemed that way this morning. This is the LAST day of the four day holiday, Labor Day in Italy, and this is the TRUE Labor Day itself. Little is open, no buses run. When went down to the hotel desk at 8 AM and the woman told us she was one of the few not getting labor day free, but we'd have no breakfast for a while since the breakfast place the hotel has a deal with across the street wouldn't open until 9ish. I said that was fine, we would take a bus to the train station to double check on our train for tomorrow. No, she said, no buses at all today.

So Sally and I sat for a while and the breakfast place opened. Decent cappuccino I had, but not too much breakfast. We walked into the central city. NO ONE. NO ONE AT ALL. We had Siena to ourselves. First we went to the marvelous church and property of St. Catherine of Siena, very touching and lovely. We were alone save for a handful of locals at mass in one of the chapels. Then we walked up to the cathedral of Saint Dominic. Again, a huge and gigantic church, perhaps 10 of us in it. Lastly we walked to San Francesco and that was really interesting. Gigantic 13th century church and great story about some communion hosts stolen in the 13th century and still viable and edible today after having been recovered from the thieves.

We next made out way to Il Campo, the gigantic massive semi-circular square. We were there yesterday and there must have been 10,000 to 15,000 people there. Today there were a few hundred. It was only 11 AM, but we sat in an outdoor cafe. Sally had an orange juice, I had a white wine.

We wandered around a while and finally settled back in Il Campo at the same restaurant where we had a PHENOMENAL MEAL yesterday and todayís was even better.

Yesterday we first split a large salad, then Sally had a lovely large cut of pork. I had rabbit and it was simply stunning. I had ordered the wild boar, but that was 'finished' as they say, but my rabbit was delicious. While we were eating a near by couple asked the waiter if he spoke German. He didnít so I offered to help with the menu. He had seen my bowl and wondered what it was. I explained it was rabbit and he just lit up. His wife chose the same pork Sally had. After his meal I asked what he thought, he told me it was delicious, but oh so many bones. He was definitely right.

So we went back today. Both days we a bottle of the house red wine, a simply delicious Chianti from the region and named after the restaurant. Today we got four items, and split all four -- first the salad again, it was marvelous and more than enough for two with great Italian bread. Then we split a STUNNING pasta with pheasant. Finally we got oven-roasted potatoes (weíd had those yesterday too) and we split the same HUGE pork tenderloin that Sally had yesterday, each piece must have been 1/4 lb. or more. Wheeeeee.

Very few stores open today, but we found a butcher store. We got some sausage and cheese for tonight in our room, and after leaving here we will pick up a bottle of wine and some limoncello, a delicious, if a bit sweet, Italian after- dinner drink. Party time on our balcony tonight.

Siena, is truly a wonder. A real favorite for me, only my second time here. It is a hill-side town like Assisi, and the train station is at the bottom in the valley, so we will have to take a bus tomorrow early to the station. We will catch an 8:30 AM train back to Florence, change trains quickly and go on to Venice, our last Italian stop. After two days in Venice we will train on to Budapest, Hungary via both Croatia and Slovenia.

Siena is a CITY OF BRICK. Florence, just 1 1/2 hours from here is all stone. But here the choice of building material, even for 13th century buildings is BRICK. That lights my board. My own home place of Dogtown, inside the city of St. Louis was a center of both clay mining and the making of brick. Sally and I had laughs in looking for any bricks marked with Dogtown factory names in old Siena. The only problem is these building are from the 13th to 16th century and the first Dogtown bricks were produced in the 1850S!!!! Oh well.... (Given all the churches one expects a few miracles.)

I can't believe the Italy portion of our trip is quickly coming to end. Dang, two more days. Then three nights in Budapest and finally on to Vienna.... Long stay of 9 days in Vienna, my favorite city in Europe, and even a rival to Dogtown for my favorite in the world.

Today I did get sad and happy news from home. My beloved Aunt Catherine Corbett Moser died on Sunday. Aunt Catherine, a dear favorite of mine (I was even the ring bearer in her 1947 wedding) lost her beloved husband Jack Moser about year or so ago, and when she found herself this weekend in the hospital with a near-death condition, she chose not to be treated. She was the stalwart of our family and we all loved her and will miss her so deeply. But Aunt Catherine, a woman of strong religious faith, is convinced she would soon die and be back with her beloved Jack.

Aunt Catherine's death is especially momentous for me. I am now the oldest of the living Dogtown Corbett family. My great grand father, Jeremiah Corbett fled Ireland in 1864 and arrived in St. Louis in 1872. His son, John, my grandfather, married Catherine Dwyer, and my dad and my Aunt Catherine were two of their 6 children. My dad married first and I was born in 1939. All the five boys of the family, Red, Bill, Charles (Rooster) and Ed (Spider) died before my Dad who died in 1994. Thus in order there were just Aunt Catherine and then me. What a mantle of responsibility I inherit from this great woman who did so much for our family over the years. I hope I can be worthy of the responsibility that now will fall to me.

It is with heavy heart that I have to face the fact that I can't get back to St. Louis to honor her and grieve with my cousins, here 8 children. I know that she and they will understand, but I will have to grieve here on my own.


Sally's note

Hi Everybody,

I said to Bob this morning, lets get out early so we can avoid the crowds of yesterday! Ach!! We arrived in Sienna about 12:30 or so yesterday and found our hotel easily, and were out and about soon after that.

But there must have been 20 thousand others here also.... and trying to walk the narrow streets here was not easy!

Crowd and crowds of people were on every street, we couldnít avoid them. Somehow when we found a really nice place to eat, there wasnít a wait... I almost couldnít believe it! We took foods 'home' for a nice picnic later in the evening and headed for the hotel. It turned out that was the best idea of the day!! It started to rain just after we got there, and rained most of the evening.

We were very happy to be back in our room having our little picnic, and not having to go out again till this morning.

Then... this morning.... we did get up, showered and dressed before 8:00.... however... the little desk clerk explained that it was May 1st, the holiday, and what a difference. No busses ran today, most of the shops were closed, though some opened later. Even our breakfast place (we only had to have a ticket from the hotel to have a free breakfast there) didnít open until 8:30.... there we were, ready for our day, no one else on the streets and nothing was open. :)

Had a beautiful day, and Bob will tell all about it, the churches we visited, and what we had for dinner, at the same restaurant where we ate yesterday. YUM!

Now we are at an internet place, lucky to find one OPEN!

Next we again will pick up some food for another evening picnic, and head back to the hotel. We will leave early in the morning for the train station and will be off on our next adventure -- to Venezia!!

I donít think Iíve mentioned in my notes the greenery that we have seen here in Italy. I love seeing the trees and plants in different cities and on our bus ride here from Florence I saw the most lush greenery that I have seen so far in Italy.

There were parts where it was so thick that I couldnít see through it, and had to wait for a clearing, then I saw fields of either green plantings with red poppies in them, or vineyards of grape vines in a row, or olive trees in a row.

It's amazing to me, here in Italy, to see pine trees and palm trees next to one another. And though there are fewer palm trees in this area than are in Sicily and in Naples and Rome, there are some. Bob has a favorite pine tree that usually grows in clusters and has bare trunk but a very full lush top that is flat on top. I have no idea what its called, nor do I know what some other plants, shrubs and trees are called here.

We have seen flower boxes of annuals, geraniums, petunias, iris, etc., we have seen ivy growing in planter boxes and from brick and rock walls. We have seen roses in every color, some as large as saucers. We have seen trees that look like they might be white lilac, and a new type tree here in Sienna that I have never seen before with blooms on it that are formed in a conical shape, that are in many colors, beautiful!!

One is right outside our hotel there is a huge tree with blooms that look like a large version of honeysuckle. They are pink and white and are just finishing their blooming cycle, because there are many that are turning brown and falling.

Ah... and also in Sicily we saw trees along the train track and in yards, of oranges and lemons, the biggest we have ever seen. Also we tasted a small fruit in Terrasini that looked like an apricot, but had a totally different taste. Its called a nespole. Anybody heard of it ... tasted it??

The rain yesterday reminded me of why they have such lush greenery, its canít be just the sunny weather.

The crowds of people have grown since early this morning here, but nothing like yesterday. We thought we might have the city to ourselves for the entire day, not quite so.

Tomorrow, off for our next adventure to Venezia!! My first time to see it. And after much reading about it, Iím very curious to see it.

Today Bob and I both got notes with the sad news that his Aunt Catherine died. She had lost her beloved husband Jack last year but had been in mostly good health herself for her age -- 84 years. Bless her soul.

Sally Ryan Sharamitaro




Bob Corbett