18 April 2010

Pilgrim's progress

Musings from Florence: Part 2

Quite by accident, we spent one fabulous day in Siena. We'd planned to go to Assisi, but didn't really looked at the train schedule until that morning. 9:38 a.m., to be exact. The first and only train to the birthplace of Saint Francis left at 8:52 a.m.

So we thought about Cinque Terra. The last train out was 9:10.

So we picked Siena because a through bus (rapido SITA) runs every hour at 10 past. Fortune favors the spontaneous.

Siena is a sprawling city with a beautifully compact center that hasn't changed much in 800 years. I'm sure the people who live there wish the streets were wider or the steps less steep, but for visitors it's a cleaned-up version of a medieval city steeped in grace and charm.

Like Roma, Siena was built on seven hills, but unlike Roma, the hills are steeper and less landscaped. There isn't a flat spot in the old city--not even the floors in shops, churches or restaurants seemed level--and it's anyone's guess as to why some inclines are simply paved and others are stepped. And shadowing all these uneven, winding passageways are tall, bricked buildings with shops that open onto the street. High narrow windows marking the "apartimenti" on upper floors.

And I think we walk each narrow street and slipped through each low-ceilinged passageway beneath the old city wall looking for a shop that sold saints medals to add to my charm bracelet.

We'd assumed that they'd be "hanging off trees" here in Italy, but not one shop--not even the cathedral bookstore--carried medals.

Back in Florence, we finally found a shop that sold medals, as well as robes, chalices, altar cloths, etc. (I'd always wondered where those items came from. Communion cups don't seem like something you should be able to buy at Wal-Mart).

The nun behind the counter oohed over my charm bracelet, and then quite emphatically told me who I needed to add for maximum protection. No Francis deSales for me. Instead, I walked away with Michelangelo (the arch angel, not the sculptor) and Saints Bernadetta and Jude gracing my wrist.

The additional protection must have worked. We managed to get out of Europe just before airspace began closing because of the volcano.


Liana Laverentz said...

What a beautiful bracelet. And I'm glad it brought you maximum protection. Welcome home, Keena!

Liana Laverentz

Bernadette said...

So glad you have a St. Bernadette medal. If I'd realized you didn't have one, I would have given you one. But then it wouldn't have been part of this story, which I love.

Keena Kincaid said...

Thanks, Liana. I've been collecting the Saints Medals for years (decades, probably) so the bracelet has much sentimental value, too.

Bernie, I only allow myself to buy the medals in the right places, i.e. churches dedicated to that saint or in the city that claims that saint as a patron. However, there was no explaining that to the nun. Even if she'd been fluent in English--or me in Italian--she was quite insistent that I get Bernadetta and Michelangelo. She even had a priest who came in to buy something bless the bracelet.

Mmm...maybe that's why I wasn't so worried about whether I'd get home OK or not.