Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Italy: Siena in Tuscany, Italy

The story of Italy | Part 1 - Venice: Here.
After departing the beautiful waters of Venice, we dragged our suitcases up the tall stairs at the train station to leave the lap of luxury and head to the hostel-ish hotel that my brother, Conor, had picked-out for us. Our destination was Siena in Tuscany, Italy where Conor had been living the past 3 months while studying abroad. I was so excited to see him as he's one of my favorite people in the world to joke around with. He mainly just stands around and insults me but d*mn it if the jokes aren't hilarious.
So we were just a 3-hour train ride away from our reunion with him. The train itself was hot, humid and so incredibly fast that it made the Italian countryside pass me by in this blur of sunny colors & boastful landscapes. It is generally hard for me to sleep during the middle of any given day but the view worked as a lullaby and I drifted off despite the Tuscan sun smeared across my sweaty face.

I woke up to the familiar lurching of the cabin indicating an arrival and peered out the window at the large 'SIENA' sign. One-step off the train and across the tracks I saw Conor there waving at us. We grabbed our stuff and marathoned over tracks, sidewalks & trash cans until we were hugging him and desperately throwing our bags at him to carry. Amongst all the hoopla and jubilation, I couldn't help but notice that he was a bit... fuller. He has one of those youthful metabolisms that allows him to eat like sh*t and not gain weight. But I could immediately tell that that had even been bested by months abroad in the country of amazing eats. So I expressed that thought with a favorite quote from "The Incredibles" ("Conor: OMG. You've gotten fat.") which was met with defeated laughter.

Normally, I would never make a habit of commenting anyone's weight but my brother and I thrive on making fun of each other and I knew that he would slim right back down in the states (which he has). So really, his weight gain was up for discussion according to the contractual terms of our relationship.
^Conor showing us his apartment behind him (left) and his fave neighborhood haunts (right)
But really, it was a quick meet & greet until we were on to our hotel room in Siena to unload our bags and head out to see this foreign city that Conor had grown to know as home.

Again, a story best told with pictures if you can stop focusing on my ugly yellow hair (Whhhhy Caitlin, whhhhy?).
 First we had to stop in the main square and drool at the view. Because... that town square. Look. At. That.

And then we found a spot to enjoy afternoon aperitivo. We sipped on handspun Italian cocktails and noshed our way through the fruit, bread, focaccia and cheese display. After imbibing and eating to the tune of Santa Claus on xmas eve, I pulled out my wallet to drop a tip. "Caitie, don't tip. It's not customary, it's not worth it." At which point an Italian turned to this table of Americans to confirm the notion: "The boy is right. Don't waste your money!"
So I put my wallet back and was able to finally place why the taxi driver yesterday told me "THANK YOU FINE LADY!" as I left him with a 30% tip. Oh well. Vacation elation warrants big tips.

After we closed our tabs, Conor took us on a private tour of the city and even spoke a lot of Italian along the way to local merchants. It was so fun because he knew everything. Every store, every corner, ever neighborhood haunt. He had stories from karaoke at the pub with the flags, we listened to him tell of learning Italian cooking at that restaurant there. He had stars in his eyes pointing to the window of the apartment building he had just moved out of the previous day. A place where he lived with six former strangers almost 6,000 miles from home. In a city near where his Great-Grandpa lived. I don't believe growing-up happens in one instance and there's all sorts of little milestones in the long journey to adulthood. But it was palpable to me during this tour that a chapter of Conor's youth had been long-destined to come here to die. In the ocean of his life, this tide had drawn him far away from his familiar shores and though he would eventually return, a part of him drifted off into the infinite sea and belonged to its vast tale. And that made me zealously happy for him.

 After witnessing that sweet growth, we went out to dinner where I ordered a Pine Nut & Pesto dish (hamada-hamada) and drank some delicious red wine

Followed by the town square during blue hour. Which is my FAVORITE sky in the world.

Until we headed back to the hotel to sleep. Well, my Mom and I did at least. Conor wanted to enjoy one last drink at his local pub and to say bye to the staff he had come to know and love. So as to remind me again that he was becoming his own man, my Mom and I drifted off to sleep while he headed out into the world alone at 11 PM to say goodbye to his city.

The morning was followed by (of course) a yummy brunch and packing up our room
^Our Siena digs at Hotel Minerva. Certainly not complaining because I'm in Italy after all! But it was a change from Venice for sure.
^Hotel room view. Left: Our afternoon arrival. Right: Our morning view.
and making way to the train.
^Doing the Oregon Ducks 'OOOO' outside his Italian school (behind him) as he says goodbye.
Next stop: Florence, Italy. Which I will post about in my next Italy post.

Sidenote: Happy Birthday, Conor!!! This post was the best way for me to say on here how much I love you! xo.


Pat Hatt said...

Wow, I'm sure no one would ever complain about living there, quite the spot. Hilarious insults are always fun lol

Unknown said...

Wow! What an experience!!! Sounds like you and your brother have the best kind of sibling relationship :) xx