10 October 2013: Siena is one of the most touristic cities of Italy, famous for the Palio, the horse race which has been held twice per year since medieval times in the central square of Siena. Being so touristic, you could perhaps expect Siena to superficial, lacking atmosphere and charme. But no! Siena is a city full of life, it is genuine, beautiful and charming. And the Palio is very much alive and serious stuff in the local communities!
Each “neighborhood” of Siena is called a “contrada” and each “contrada” has its own coat of arms and its own colours. On the day of the Palio, each contrada gets assigned a horse. This happens as a draw so which contrada gets the best horse is purely based on luck and nobody knows until the actual day of the race. Once the horses have been assigned, the battle starts to get the best jockey for each horse. Usually, if a contrada has been lucky to win the best horse, it will also have a good chance to be able to hire the best jockey since all the jockeys are interested in winning the race!
The contrada that wins the race is celebrating for months after! Flags in the colours of the contrada and their coat of arms hang in every street of the contrada. When we visited, the victory of the Palio in August was still being celebrated in the contrada of Onda. They have the colours blue and white and a fish in their coat of arms.
The winning horse displayed on a big banner in the Onda neighborhood.
The fish from the coat of arms of Onda is hanging everywhere in the small streets of the neighborhood.
The famous square of Siena, the site of the Palio horse race, on a rather more peaceful day.
The Onda neighborhood was still celebrating their victory in the August horse race when we visited in mid October.
The Onda contrada won the Palio 45-1/2 times – one time they had to share the victory with another contrada.
Each neighborhood has a fountain with the animal from its coat of arms. Here we are entering the contrada of the turtle.
The “duomo” of Siena. Impressive!
Montepulciano and Montalcino
8-9 October 2013: From Napoli we drove north, we passed through the outskirts of Rome and arrived to the wine region in Tuscany. For some reason, we have very few photos but we can confirm that the wine is very nice!
O sole mio!
Singing “Funiculi, funicula! Funiculi, funicula!” in Napoli, 5-7 October 2013.
Napoli is a fascinating mix of narrow streets with clothes hung out to dry high above between the houses – and below a chaos of scooters, boys playing football, 8 year old girls with lip stick, stalls selling fresh fish, fruits, vegetables, old men throwing long glances after the ladies passing by while smoking cigarettes, holes in the walls with one of the countless saints of Napoli (Maradona and Sofia Loren are two of them), prostitutes down the even smaller side streets, dogs and cats, guys with small parakeets (pappagallino ondulato) that can pick out the lucky lottery tickets for you, churches, posters on the walls announcing that “Carmine Lofotano also known as ‘o lattaro’/the milkman has died at the age of 87”, balconies full of flowers and old ladies watching it all from the corner of a window. Napoli is fantastic!
The Amalfi Coast – Costiera Amalfitana
3-5 October 2013. The Amalfi Coast became famous as the holiday destination for italian movie stars and other VIPs in the 1950’s. It is beautiful with it’s steep cliffs, “hanging” villages, terraced fields with lemon trees and the endless view over the sea. And it is very very crowded! Nevertheless, in between all the tourists and the tour busses, it is still easy to recognize the charm of the Amalfi Coast.
We stopped in Maiori for the night. It is less famous and therefore less crowded than for example Amalfi and we liked it a lot. We walked the beach promenade in the night and watched the local soccer game, the old guys playing cards, the young romantic couples… Even if it is heavily touristed, the Amalfi Coast has a lively local life going on.
Next stop Amalfi. You just have to go – even if the parking costs 5 EUR per hour and the coffee 3 EUR! Here the famous cathedral of Amalfi with a nice Fiat 500 in front.
We walked the narrow streets of Amalfi.
Here there is lots of fresh fish.
And as always in the south of Italy, there is lots of saints.
Last stop for the day was Positano – the steep hills give you great views over the city, the supermega-expensive villas and the sea.
We continued to the very tip of the peninsular and there we found Nerano. A small and quiet town, out of the hectic tourist zone. There we spent the night under a fig tree.
27 September – 2 October 2013. We crossed over from Greece to Italy with the ferry from Igoumenitsa to Bari. It was a night ferry and we could sleep in the tent in Frida on the open deck.
The next day we crossed from the east coast to the west coast to catch the ferry to Sicily. We spent our first night in Italy on the parking lot of the state ferry company in Villa San Giovanni….just not to make it too romantic! It was very strange to be back after almost 1.5 years of traveling so we needed a bit of time to get used. We cooked a white rice with cheese and watched the trucks passing by.
29 September – 1 October. In Sicliy we went to visit good friends…..but first…..we had to stop at the “pasticceria” in Noto! We had the cassata, the cannoli siciliani and the baba siciliano. Maybe it was a little bit too much!!
Then we spent 2 days in the quiet hills outside Noto, surrounded by olive trees and under a clear blue sky. Amazing, relaxing and rejuvenating. Here early morning outside the “masseria”.
From Sicily, we jumped back onto the mainland of Italy and started driving north along the west coast. First stop was Tropea. Tropea is a lovely village on the edge of the sea and it is famous for the very strong chilis grown in the area.
View from Tropea over the sea. All shades of blue and bluish green.
We ate fish! Red tuna tatar and cappacio de alici (small delicious fishes) – remember to check out the page “What are we eating?” for more details on our culinary adventures.
After Tropea we continued north and spent a very windy night on the beach. At least the view was fantastic even if we did not sleep so much.
October 14th, 2013 at 8:30 am
October 16th, 2013 at 11:23 am
Thanks Amir! How are you doing?!?!?!?
October 16th, 2013 at 6:50 pm
Heeey, there, Mr. Not-So-Lone Ranger. Am doing good. We had another oil show in Astana, as you recall, this time of the year. All is pretty much the same, family is now 100% genuine Atyrau =)) along with the little one.
The photos and story-telling is great candidate for a family novel, I think.
November 22nd, 2013 at 10:33 am
guardando queste foto sembrate ancora in viaggio in un paese sconosciuto eppure è il vostro,sono sicura che quando uno è un viaggiatore è capace di muoversi in mondi diversi,concreti e mentali,con la stessa meraviglia e energia.vi voglio bene
January 6th, 2014 at 10:34 am
dear globe trotters! it has been great following your adventure – I only wish it ended in Copenhagen and not in Italy. But that is just because I would like to see you…so what are you doing now??