Saturday, September 09, 2006

Baking in Siena

Friday, September 8, 2006: The medieval town of Siena sizzles under the bright sun. The streets resemble narrow alleyways that wind to the top of the hill. Siena experienced years of growth between 1260 and 1348. Near the center of town is Il Campo, the clam-shell shaped town square where the famous horse races are held each year.

I spend several hours exploring the Duomo, a gothic masterpiece cathedral begun in 1136. The marble floor of the Duomo is only uncovered once a year during September and October, and for once I am in the right place at the right time. The marble inlay floor is like a gold and black tapestry which depicts 56 scenes that illustrate the history of mankind. I visit the Crypt, only discovered in 1999, where there are beautifully colored frescos that might have remained a secret for eternity.

I move on to investigate two foods that are special to Siena. In a small shop near the Duomo, I find Panforte Margherita a thin, flat torte of golden paste enriched with molasses, nuts, citron and spices. The confection dates to the middle ages. It is chewy and spicy, similar to dense fruit cake or date bread. I walk back beyond the Duomo and stop at Nannini, a famous bakery in Siena. Tourists have lined up to sip afternoon espresso. A gentleman ahead of me on line purchases more than 60 Euro worth of pastries, that are wrapped carefully in cream-colored paper and tied with a red ribbon. There, I sample Ricciarrelli, a clam-shaped golden cookie, slightly larger than the French Madeleine, soft and cake-like and dusted with powered sugar. It is tender, crumbly and sweet – a perfect treat to top my visit to Siena.

© 2006 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

No comments: