No, that title isn’t a typo, a secret code, or the order number for a new pair of synthetic socks. It’s the color coordinates for Burnt Sienna, a color you may recall from a childhood box of Crayola 64s and the dominant hue in the brick buildings comprising the Tuscan city of Siena, where we are at the moment.
We managed our earliest departure ever at 7:30 this morning (hoping to top it tomorrow morning with a 7 a.m. departure, as we have 35 km to go) and were rewarded with the sight of the first sunrise of our trip casting a rosy blush over the walls and turrets of Monteriggioni. The relatively brief 22 km into Siena were very pleasant, with an intensely blue sky overhead and easy green rolling hills beneath our feet. Once we thought we heard coyotes howling, though as far as we know there are no coytoes in Europe. An old and tiny castle with charmingly stereotypical tower and crenellations lay in our path, as did an underground acqueduct tunnel dating back to the 1780s. The sign said it was 2 km long—it was pitch dark after 10 feet—and we decided we were not adventuresome enough to find out what kind of creepy-crawlies live in there.
Not long after noon we got our first glimpse of the towers of Siena, and for once we didn’t have to pass through either suburbs or industry to get into the center. We wound our way into the main square, called Il Campo, boasting a very tall single tower shooting out of the town hall. But I was more drawn at the moment to the sight of all the people lying sprawled out on the square, absorbing the sun that was warming those burnt sienna bricks beneath them, and suddenly all I wanted was a nap. So we joined the crowds and dozed until, an hour later, we were greeted by Paul and Melissa—they’d gone ahead to Siena two days ago but just happened to spot us as they were passing by. So we enjoyed a second opportunity to hang out, eventually joined by our camper crew, until we went our separate ways again.
Since we had a good chunk of the day left we added a quick tourist itinerary to our pilgrimage duties. The one thing I remembered about Siena before arrival was a single detail I’d learned in an art history class—namely, that Siena has a stripey church. And does it ever. After awhile you can see so many churches that they all kind of run together, but there is no danger of mistaking Siena’s cathedral for any other. The stone runs in alternate horizontal layers of white and almost-black green inside and out. The effect is mesmerizing inside; if you can tear your eyes away from the soaring stripey columns, the reward is the most amazing floor you’ve ever seen either, all 16th century marble renditions of Old Testament scenes. The Duomo even has a library attached to one side of it crammed every inch with resplendent (there really is no other word) frescoes and showcasing enormous illuminated manuscripts.
At risk of total letdown, we went from there to the Augustinian church in Siena—and it was kind of a letdown, principally because we couldn’t find a way in. But we are at last back on track with Luther, who would have stayed or at least visited there—we deviated from his course in Piacenza since, as far as we could tell, there was no walking path that could take us safely by foot through Bologna and Florence down to Siena. But here his route and the Via Francigena merge, so our last ten days (can you believe there are only 10 left till we’re in Rome?) we’ll be more literally following his footsteps again.
After a quick supper we sent Zeke and Andrew’s parents back to their lovely campground outside of town while we sought out our pilgrim hostel for the night. The kind and friendly Sister Mary Magdalene, a young nun from Indonesia, welcomed us in, and a volunteer named Consuelo brought us to our room. At risk of offending the Etruscans and their amazing stash of artworks in the museums here, we’re going to call it an early night.