Part 2 of a 3-part story
The bride was Avery Appleton (daughter of Pam and Robert, former Groton residents); the groom, Gary Strack, who came east for his education. The setting was the Villa Le Plazzole, a 12-bedroom house overlooking Florence.
Sandwiched around the wedding, we had nine days in Siena before it and 11 days after. Our frequent fliers in Italy decided we should see the Italian Open (tennis) before the wedding. They changed our destination from Florence to Rome and travel class to business. From Rome we were shuttled to Siena.
Before we could unpack, we were on our way to their beach house on the Mediterranean across from the Isle of Elba.
The next day we were off to Rome to see the tennis. I had read about "Il Foro," the setting for the Italian Open, and here I was. In one respect it was like an ancient forum, for there in the center of the grounds was a circle of life-size statues. I couldn't discover if they were the gods of tennis, but they added an air of dignity to the proceedings.
The stadium was on one side of the circle and on the other there was an in-ground court with terraced seats. There we saw the Ryan brothers doubles team in a rare loss. In the stadium we watched stars like Serena Williams, Rafaell Nadal, and Novak Djokovic, all winners. It was an especially great day for tennis aficionados.
We spent the rest of the weekend at the beach and returned to Siena where we signed into a centrally located B&B, the Palazzo Buchi, managed by a descendant, an attractive young woman who gets around on a motorcycle. Evidently her ancestor, Senor Buchi, was a very important official in the early 19th century, and the Palazzo reflected this status: high-ceilinged rooms, ornate internal architecture decorated with frescoes and furnished elegantly.
Some of the rooms were luxurious and others smaller, similar to those in American B&Bs, all priced under $150. Since our schedule required us to vacate several times, we experienced both room types.
Because of our location, it was easy to enjoy the city. The Santa Maria museum was nearby. We visited it twice. The first visit was to see films of the onset and devastation of the tsunami in Japan. The second visit was to the children's gallery to view a series of paintings showing the adventures of a little boy who had saved a sea turtle which had become stranded on the beach.
We also shopped at the traveling mercato (market) which plunks down in Siena's central parking lot on Wednesdays, Luca on Thursday and so on. Picture a Wal-Mart on wheels -- 100 vans. Each department (gardeners, butchers, milliners, shoes, children's clothes, hardware and so on) is represented by one or more vans. Each van props up one side and disgorges its wares at discount prices. Business opens at 7 a.m. and starts to close at 1 p.m. when merchants pack up and head for the next city. For the townspeople, the whole day is a weekly shopping and social affair.
Two other places we visited were the Museo di Storia Naturale (Natural History Museum) and the Orto Botanico (Botanical Gardens), located near the Prato St. Augustinus (church), a short walk from our palazzo. The Natural History Museum featured an exhibit of stuffed birds. There must have been one of every known species. They also had the skeleton of a 40-foot whale. I had my picture taken inside the carcass.
The Botanical Garden featured a worldwide exhibit of trees and shrubs from Australia to Zambia. They make a sizeable and impressive forest.
There were other pleasures, of course. I saw my granddaughter off to school mornings, picked up the newspaper and had two cappuccinos while catching up with the news (Red Sox scores are a day late). Then back to the B&B for another hour of rest.
We dined twice at our daughter's favorite restaurant, where we were treated like royalty. Nothing compares to the food at a fine restaurant where you know the people and they know you appreciate their food and service.
We also made our traditional visit to the city square, Il Campo, for a last cappuccino and brioche, to enjoy its ambiance.
For us Italy is a delightful combination of family and culture.
Peter Macy lives in Groton with his wife, Clare.