My Italian Adventure
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CHAPTER 55 LOCATION: Siena SUBJECT: Seen in Siena's Seashell

Today I had hoped to be on my way to the Cinque Terre, but after a phone call to the hostel there ("We're all full tonight, try tomorrow.") I made a quick change of plans. Now I was on a bus, en route to the venerable city of Siena.

Siena is composed of 17 distinct neighborhoods, called Contrade, all fiercely proud of their independence. Each Contrada has its own flags, songs, cheers and rivalries. Twice a year in the summer, they compete with each other in a horse race called the Palio, an event that has become a huge tourist spectacle.

This day the town had only its usual throng of visitors. By myself, but far from alone, I drifted about the city with no particular ambition, rootless and ghostlike. Floating in the stream of humanity, I was drawn effortlessly to the city's center, the piazza called Il Campo.

Shell shaped and sand colored, the sloping cobblestone space resembled a beach without an ocean, and people were treating it that way, reclining to rest and catch a few rays.

I did the same, sitting down to dig through my pack, searching for that half-eaten package of crackers. I was absorbed in my quest when I heard someone call out, "Liz!"

Postcard View of Siena
The tower of the town hall ((Palazzo Pubblico) presides over the piazza, indicating that this is a town whose historical focus centers on their government, rather than their religion.

The Famous Shell-Shaped Piazza
Siena's unique town center: refreshingly free of motorized traffic. The perimeter of the piazza is the route of the Palio horse race.

Next: Siren Song of the Spiral Steps

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