We awoke in Arezzo to a pre-packed breakfast of croissants and a very questionable peach juice. Carlo picked us up on the edge of the military zone surrounding our hotel and a one-hour bus ride west to Siena. While some updated their journals, others nodded off. Our long journey ended with the realization that we would have to pay just under 150 dollars to park our bus for an hour, and that a long upwards trek lay ahead of us if we wanted to get a glimpse of Siena.
After a seemingly endless hike up the side of the Tuscan hill, we came upon the duomo of Siena. The horizontal bands decorating its sides likened it to the duomo we had admired in Orvieto, although the 40 minute-long line to enter it indicated otherwise. The group was given three hours to wander the town, after which we would meet at the church to make our way to Volterra.
We split up into groups of three or four. Some roamed into the main piazza where the bareback horse races are held throughout the year. Others climbed the hundreds of steps of the tower looming over the town. Still others visited the sanctuary of Santa Caterina. Everywhere we went, a distinct medieval feel could be sensed. The banners and crests of the different Sienan neighborhoods – decorated with animals ranging from snails to owls – hung across the narrow streets, and baroque music could be heard echoing wherever we went. Most of us ended up lounging on the cobblestones of the piazza, and premium gelato was had by all. A few brave souls even ventured to try the celebrated local fruit cake: panforte.
After a leisurely morning and lunch in Siena – which, we all agreed, was well worth 150 dollars – we reunited with Carlo and dozed off for our hour-long bus ride to Volterra. We had finally reached the Mediterranean coast. Apart from being featured in the Twilight film saga, Volterra used to be a thriving Etruscan city center during the Archaic Period, and is now home to the Guarnaccio Museum. One of the most striking things about its history is that the population ancient town of Volterra – Volathri in Etruscan – was twice that of the present day.
We spent the afternoon at the Museum, whose highlights included a sarcophagus with a lid depicting a veristic elderly couple, an urn depicting the siege of Volterra by Sulla in 80 B.C., and a piece called “Umbra della sera.” This artifact, whose name stands for ‘shadow of the evening,’ is an elongated, thing bronze figurine of a well-endowed boy. It is one of the more famous artifacts in Volterra, and is thought to have been revered as a fertility figure. Other objects of note were a black-slip wine strainer and many vessels made from the famous local alabaster.
After a quick stop to observe the remains of one of the ancient gates of the city, we traversed the town at a brisk pace so as to reach the western ramparts, from which we were to watch the sun go down behind the hills. After a beautiful sunset we gobbled down a hearty hotel dinner that left no one hungry – Professor Ulrich, our fearless TA Katelyn, and Carlo included. All in all, it was another delightfully wearying day in charming old Tuscany.
Photos (brought to you by Jin):