Tuscany  Treasures Italy 2012
June 4th - 12th - 2012  

Thursday June 7th

This was our day of leisure so after breakfast I set out to discover a local cemetery…just down the hill from the hotel. What a beautiful place to visit. In countries like Italy, when you walk into one you are at once stunned by the beauty of the memorials and warmed by all the flora that surrounds you. Cemeteries are worth a visit in these countries because they show you how friends and relatives are treated in their after-life. Their fleshly time on earth completed, they are still very much a part of their dear ones’ lives today. I stood alone in a Siena cemetery, surrounded by hundreds of years of history, awestruck by the people who were already there so early in the morning tending their little patches of memories. A woman was tidying up and watering the plants that surrounded her husband’s memorial and she smiled at me as we walked past each other. I even got to witness a funeral procession of a Contrada member whose coffin was decked out in the flag of his Contrada, (a district or ward within a city), which through history has born the name “Giraffe”. The procession was led by a flag-bearing fellow decked out in costume. The procession halted at the burial site and its members stood watching until the grave was filled with the soil piled up nearby. Members then placed huge amounts of flowers on top of it, to slowly fade away along with their drying tears and dimming memories. What has happened to us that our cemeteries are so cold, with just one grave stone and a little pot to put flowers in and nothing surrounding these spots except grass? I was reminded that when we are born, we get flowers and when we die we get flowers but beyond this all is somber and silence. In a place like this, though, there continues to be life: in the multitudinous perennials like roses, jasmine, hibiscus and bougainvillea planted in and around these memorials, perfuming the air with their sweet smells, and pots of succulents and cactus, too; and in the huge cypress trees, straight and tall heading up to the heavens. Together all this creates a beautiful and serene place to wander through and, for those who visit relatives and friends here, a place to stand in quietly and feel comforted. Places like this are a part of their lives, not cold and sterile grounds whose newly arrived occupants, once buried, are soon forgotten.

Silk flowers also play a very important role in cemeteries as they add their own feeling of beauty of place. Often you will see them mixed with live flowers and plants. Personal items found at some graves give you a glimpse into the life of the individual buried there. You can also tell the Siena cemetery is a busy place by the flower sellers selling live and silk flowers just outside it. Each grave site has a little light in the shape of a rose, a lantern or a lamp that merged with the others casts a soft glow throughout the cemetery when evening comes, creating an ambiance of peace and welcome. Cemeteries like this are a joyful place to visit.

From here I headed back towards town and just walked. It is easy to get around. Before I knew it I was at the big plaza where the famous Palio horse race takes place. Right now it was just a huge area full of cafes and shops but you can see how the race would be run with the crowd in the center and hanging over the balconies all vying for a look and praying their Contrada wins. A lovely fountain here as well being used by the pigeons. Then a walk through more streets passing the Palazzo Chigi Saracini with its beautiful ceilings. Past shops filled with flowers, handbags and kitchen shops…such fun to shop in Siena and of course also picked up some great leather goods.


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