Wednesday, May 21, 2008

La Vita è Bella

I officially want to live in Tuscany. The little hilltop towns here are so quaint and adorable. I spent yesterday in Pienza, where the old Romeo and Juliet was filmed. It was the tiniest town I think I’ve ever been to – half the size of Kenilworth! Anyways, it has one main street, Corso II Rossellino, that stretches from a restaurant with an amazing view of the flowing Tuscan countryside to Piazza Dante Alighieri, next to a beautiful garden. I had to take a bus to Pienza, and for the first time in a while I found an American to chat with! This older woman was visiting Tuscany, and clearly had been there numerous times before. Her husband had recently and unexpectedly died, right after her mother had passed away, so she was searching for some peace in a place that they had travelled to while he was still alive. Talking to her made me realize while traveling alone can be such a wonderful experience. After I had arrived in Pienza, I must have run into her at least twice that day – shows you just how small of a city it is.

I stayed in a little B&B called Il Giardino Segreto (“The Secret Garden”), and my room looked out onto a beautiful little garden. It was right off the main street, which had about everything worth seeing in the town – the Duomo, Palazzo Piccolomini, Palazzo Comunale, and the small church of San Francesco.

I took a tour of the Palazzo Piccolomini, which was built for the descendents of Pope Pius the II until the late 1900s. The guided tour of the palace taught me a lot about the town and the time period during which it was built. During his Papacy, Pius II had transformed this ancient city into his personal residence as an ideal Renaissance town, or a “utopian city.” The planning and construction was done primarily by the man after whom the main street is named. The palace itself is very well preserved and contains furnishings and decorations from the fifteenth century. It’s incredible to be able to walk through and see the home of such an important, influential family. Financially speaking, they must have been extremely well off – it was very richly decorated, with many expensive imports from countries like France and Morocco. The hallway that overlooked the Pope’s personal gardens and the Tuscan landscape had all sorts of weapons and family crests – it had been utilized for the practice of fencing! I felt kind of bad for the servants back then – the doors that led to the secret passages that they walked through were significantly smaller than the doors that the family members used. Also, they were required to taste any food/drink before it was served, for fear that it could be poisoned. I wonder how many fatalities there were.

Apparently Palazzo Piccolomini was the palace of the Capulets in Romeo and Juliet - I have to watch that movie again! I also took a lot of pictures of the tiny alleyways – hardly two people can fit, let alone a car! The way of life is much simpler there, aka absolutely NO internet – I’m in Montepulciano right now. I’ll update you on my visit to this town soon! Arrivederci!

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