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Author: admin, 23.05.2015
Soon, we turned a corner and stood still for a moment, appreciating the classic lines of the Pantheon, a former pagan temple that had been constructed in 183 A.D.
Even the sophisticated stand here quietly unsure of exactly what they are seeing, but respectful of the idea that the remains of so noteworthy a historical figure lay just a few yards away in plain sight. Marco walked us from the bus parking area to the Chiesa San Domingo where we met our local guide “Rita.” She launched into what was to be a colorful and informed narrative of the Siena’s history and development. Just next to the Duomo, Rita pointed out an entire area that had been laid out to expand the church. The bus drove by the walled city of San Gimiano and we caught a glimpse of the open gates of what marco called a “medieval disneyland.” It looked like a great place to wander when the crowds were less intense.
Peter’s held a long line of pilgrims, school children on holiday and other penitents from the four corners of the globe. A small pile of stone cannonballs lay next to what must have been the remains of a medieval catapult, used to bomb the attackers with. Then, we settled in with paninis, chips,acqua minerale con gassata and a good bottle of Chianti, while we read our books and got ready to join The Norwegian Dream for an itinerary we had long anticipated.
Its most famous Saint, Catherine of Siena, had been a dominican nun who was a “close associate” of the reigning pope in Avignon. We followed a nicely trimmed walkway to the “Roche” (rock) area, so named because it had literally been carved from the cliffside rock. The crenelated battlement of the original castle had been added to over the generations to produce an odd hybrid. Once, this small area had been graced with rows of gleaming white marble structures, the business, commerce and affairs of much of the western world had been waged here daily.
A line was gathered near a tombed figure with an open, glass side, so we stood patiently in line to see what drew the attention.
Siena is south and east of Florence, a beautiful city of art and culture that we had already visited and enjoyed on a previous trip.
Looking at these originals gives you an appreciation for the odd seven hundred years that the place had been around. Czar Nicholas of Russia, and Queen Victoria of England, and scores of lesser roalty, had been frequent visitors to the area. Portions of all three still existed and had been added to architecturally over the years in something the guide called “architectural lasagna.” It is a nIce turn of phrase. At that instant, the entire passenger compliment, for that flight, drops what they are doing and sprints for the assigned gate, some as far as a 15 minute walk away. The line was long and passengers were annoyed,some engaging in delightful histrionics, replete with loud voices and wild gestures. Now, it took an active imagination to look into the dustbin of history and see what once was mighty Rome. Long lines waited to get into the Vatican museum and its moist desired visual prize, the Sistina Chapella (Sistine Chapel).


The appeared for all the world like a semi circle of stone hawkers calling forth the faithful to come in and see what was cooking inside. A long marble hallway, opened every few yards into a grotto with a marble sarcoughogus that housed the remains of another Pope.
The stone work had been mended throughout the years, but reflected differing styles of stones and means of repair from the many eras of its menders. She had been so venerated by the church, that when the Sienese wanted her body interred in the Chiesa San Domingo, Rome had only sent her head and a finger to be buried there, retaining the rest of her remains for veneration in Rome. A land road now reaches Porto Fino, but in the early part of the century, it had only been accessible by boat, increasing its attraction for those looking to “get away” from it all. We much enjoyed the Martin’s company and talked long enough for us to be the last ones in the Trattoria. It was the McGoldricks 24th wedding anniversary and we had been looking forward to joining them. We had already viewed this wonder on a previous visit and were not ungrateful that we didn’t have to stand in the two-hour long line. It would be a long day for us, so we headed to the cabin to read and retire from another hard day of touristing. The waiter was too polite to ask us to leave, but I had been thrown out of enough places already to recognize the imminent nature of the “bum’s rush.” We made our goodnights and returned to the cabin, to read and relax. The guide wasn’t doing any hand flips over the architectural style and there didn’t appear to be any large crowds around on this, an Easter morning. It was here that we encountered the curious version of what we were to call “beat the clock.” Terminal # 1 is the jump site for many of the shorter European flights from London.
We had purchased rosaries on a previous trip and wondered again at the whole “blessed at the vatican” scam.
I looked on amused and amazed at what i was seeing, as the temporal veil of two thousand years of recent history raced through my mind.
After dinner, the stewards would take whatever portion of the bottle of wine that you consumed and save it for you in a central repository where you could call for it from any of the several restaurants on board.
Michaelangelo had been a frequent visitor in the quarries, to select blocks of marble for his sculptings. It had been a long and enjoyable day, in a fairy-tale setting, that evaporated from our consciousness with the setting sun. The site had been built to commemorate the arrival of water, in underground pipes, to Marseilles.
I could picture the Romans arriving late, complaining of the heavy chariot traffic, as the sat in their assigned seats, waving at acquaintances and craning their necks to see what dignitaries now sat on the elevated dais. A detachment of the French foreign legion had been stationed at this imposing stone edifice. The statue was supposedly pointing towards the West and the new world, but somehow, the statues orientation had been turned so he was pointing South.


We wondered again at the many parades of conquering armies that had this way trod, dazed captives, strange animals and other trophies of victory shepherded before them, to the delight of the cheering throngs. We had been here twice before, but stood silently in awe of Michaelangelo’s white-marble epiphany.
As in most situations, when you find yourself overwhelmed by what you see, it soon becomes normal. That was to be the last time we agreed to ‘share a table” with strangers when asked by the various maitre-d’s.
We wandered its narrow alleys, dodging other tourist who had been game enough for the walk. It was getting late and cooling off, so we walked back to the dock and stood patiently in the long line for the tender ride back to the ship. Sadly, I informed them that it existed now but in their memories from that classic chariot race scene in “Ben Hur.” What was left was now a large rectangular park area, overlooked by the ancient palaces on the Capitoline Hill.
The entire effect of the cathedral is to catch your breath, at the artistic array of creations inside.Each had been created to show glory to god. My best guess if that the construction crew screwed up, at the installation, and it had been too costly to correct the error. Supposedly Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome who had been suckled by a she wolf, had fled Rome and sought sanctuary in Siena. These hardy warriors are all trained infantrymen from the Swiss Army, who stand ready to rock and roll, with whatever comes their way, to protect the pope and Vatican City. They no longer asked for tips in the loo, they had sliding doors that only opened to admit one, if you inserted .60 euros in a slot .
Christopher Columbus had been born and raised in these environs before he sailed to the new worlds for Espagna.
Barcelona had been an interesting melange of Moor, Jew and Spaniard until 1492, that pivotal discovery year. In past ages, their duty had not been ceremonial in the many times that both Rome and the Vatican had been under siege, from some particularly surly invader bent on plunder and mayhem. The buildings all around the piazza are replete with papal insignia and looked impossibly old to us, pilgrims from a land where three hundred years is a long time.
The guide mentioned something about him negotiating a treaty with Charles V of Spain, but it was getting a little too deep in Italian history for me to follow.
Someone with our surname (Martin) must have either been on the ground floor founding this place or donated half of the land for its creation. Mary espied Phillip, our guide, and insisted that I needed some medical attention immediately.



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