"" Writer's Wanderings: Basilica Cateriniana, Siena, Italy

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Basilica Cateriniana, Siena, Italy

The weather for our stay in Siena was amazing. Warm during the day. Cool at night and no sign of the rain so far that had been forecast on our weather app. The afternoon trip to the Basilica of San Domenico was a pleasant walk through narrow up and down streets and, in the vicinity of the Sanctuary of Saint Catherine, very steep streets.

We found the sanctuary first and went there thinking that that was where we would find the post cards and the relics of Saint Catherine but all we found was a beautiful chapel and a gift shop that held no post card of her thumb. Confused, we went up to the church to look in.

The outside is mainly brick but we thought perhaps it had been built around the older structure because inside the church looked much older than it appeared on the outside. It was huge and had the most spectacular stained glass windows. Unfortunately, as we had found in the sanctuary, no pictures were allowed whether flash or not.

There was a small area near the altar that had some pews in it and a small group of worshipers were partaking of a mass. The sound of singing and chanting filled the cavernous church and seemed to resonate from the wooden rafters above us.

Several signs indicated a souvenir shop just past where a small group of tourists were gathered in front of some sort of shrine. As we passed and looked over their heads we could see in a long glass case, the head of Saint Catherine looking very ghostly as it was lit up for viewing.

In the souvenir shop, we found picture postcards of the thumb that was enclosed in a glass urn-like receptacle. Neither of us had seen anything like that in our walk through the church so Bob asked the clerk in the shop. He pointed us to a glassed recess in the wall near where the head was. Sure enough on our way out, we stopped and it was there. No joke. There were postcards of it.

Italy is known for its leather products and there are all sorts of shops selling all kinds of quality leather goods at all sorts of prices. I had left the purse at home that I use for travel. It is leather and I’d bought it for $10 at Pisa when we’d visited the tower several years ago. It was well used but I missed it. On the way back to the hotel, we found another similar purse for $22 but “for you lady, $20.” Sold.

For dinner this night, Bob’s brother had made reservations for us at a restaurant close to the hotel but there were no menus in English. He had been reassured that someone would translate for us. It worked out fairly well and we could brag we ate with the locals. My “pork” turned out to be beef but most of the rest of us got what we thought we would.

With a late night meal, we didn’t want to go straight to bed so we walked down to the center of town. The hotel had assured us upon our arrival that walking at night was quite safe and we truly did not feel any differently. Our walk took us down a new street with lots of upscale stores and lots of young people out and about. Later we realized we were near a university. So we old folks mingled with the young folks until it was way past our bedtime and left them to their late night fun.

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