This past Thursday was the first Thanksgiving in my life that I spent alone. Well, at least alone in the sense of not being with anyone who I knew. I was, however, certainly amongst people all day long.
The day was a good one. Since that day, I have thought about the word “Thanksgiving” and what it means–as a word. “Thanksgiving” means so much in America. It brings to mind family and wonderful food, football and full bellies, leftovers, time off work or school, and the beginning of the Christmas season. It is a specific day of the year that brings all these thoughts, expectations and memories.
Turn the word around and it reads “Giving Thanks”. Now it is no longer a word associated with a specific day nor specific memories and traditions. Now it is an act or state-of-mind that we can do or be in each and every day.
This is what I discovered on my first Thanksgiving alone. I think, because I was alone, I was very aware that I should give thanks for what I did have on that day, in lieu of what I was expected to have on that particular day all of my life.
I decided to go to Siena on Thursday, not because it was Thanksgiving, but because I had read about an event at the Civic Museum in Siena held on Thursday nights for seven weeks at this time of year. It was a classical performance in the Museo Civico. “Civic Museum” sounds rather boring, but not so in Siena, Italy. This is the building…
I almost chickened out. If I wanted to attend the event, I would have to spend the night in Siena. That meant booking a hotel when I already have my apartment in Florence. Sounded like a hassle. Wouldn’t it just be easier to stay in my familiar neighborhood in Florence and hang out? Then the stubborn “never turn down the chance for adventure” side of me took over as usual. I decided to just pack a light overnight bag, book the event, hop on the train to Siena, see if I could find a room, and take it from there.
I arrived in Siena. To get to the old centre of Siena, one can take a bus or taxi, or one can walk. I always choose walking if it is a viable option (please notice that I did not say “a reasonable option”!). I had walked to the centre of Siena last year though and I knew the way to do it. You take a series of about six escalators that take you up and up and up until they dump you off a bit of a way away from the centre, but much closer than when you started to jump onto those moving stairways.
I walked to the centre, looking for hotels along the way. Hmmm, was not seeing any. Perhaps I should have booked something ahead? All was well eventually though. Travel gods were with me once again (love them!), and I found a very nice hotel within walking distance of everything. Great price and nice breakfast in the morning.
My concert was not until 9pm, so after checking into the hotel, I began to wander.
Siena is one of the most beautiful towns in Tuscany. It has a history to tell, if you choose to look into it. I hope to write more of it in another post, but too much to try to tell now without getting into Siena’s history.
To tell a bit for now, the centre of the city is very medieval and beautiful, and the Duomo is stunning. Siena and Florence were once huge rivals , but Siena was eventually defeated and that is why it has preserved so much of its’ medieval atmosphere. It simply never developed as Florence has. It is now a very, very precious place.
In my fresco studies, I had read about a museum located in the old hospital of Siena, Santa Maria Della Scala. it was once an important civic hospital dedicated to the care of abandoned children, the poor, the sick and pilgrims. It was one of Europe’s first hospitals and is one of the oldest still surviving in the world.
I found it located just across from the duomo. Turned out to be thrilled that I had! Some very important frescoes are found there. This one is of particular interest because it illustrates how the hospital operated over 500 years ago.
It was as a beautiful museum with three levels to explore. At times I was down in dark caverns all alone, to turn a corner and see some beautiful sculpture or piece.
I enjoyed a dinner of grilled octopus and spinach in place of the traditional turkey!
After my italian Thanksgiving dinner I headed to the Civic Museum, to hear the concert and to see yet more famouse frescoes-these being The Allegory of Good and Bad Government painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in 1338-1339. They illustrate the effects of good vs. bad government on its’ citizens. Ironically the “bad” wall of frescoes is extremely damaged, not so the “good” side.
The concert was wonderful with students from the local music academy performing Mozart and Brahms under the beautiful Maesta fresco of Simone di Martino, another fresco I had been hoping to see. Gorgeous.
While walking back to my hotel room at about midnight, I was lured by the sound of completely different music and stopped to listen to some rock/blues before finally getting to my hotel and falling into bed.
it was a full day in bella Siena filled with Giving Thanks!