Friends Are Where Your Heart Is

After our odyssey from Munich last month, Louisa and I returned to Siena groggy and exhausted. Our legs led us down Banca di Sopra, trudging in a traveler’s stupor. As we clambered into the Piazza I realized how odd it was that we had yet to run into someone we knew. As I began to air this observation to Louisa, she exclaimed “Hey, look it’s Billy!” This is what I love about Siena. A trio for lunch morphs into a table for six. A moment by the fountain transforms into a group nap in the piazza. Friends are everywhere.

Recently, our circle of friends has extended beyond Antonella’s college friends, bartenders and night owls. Sarajevo owns Mister Pizza – our favorite Napolese pizza-by-the-slice shop. Whether we’re simply passing him on our way to or from school, stopping in for a slice of pizza con zucchini, or catching him bike down a cobblestoned ally, Sarajevo always cheers, “ciaos,” and exclaims “tutto bene?”. Down the street from Mister Pizza, is Trombicche, Bobbe and Davide’s osteria. Bobbe and Davide are brothers with a pronounced passion for the Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, and David Bowie. Ever since we met, I’ve seen them everywhere, and every time I do, the brothers are always eager to say hello, testing the progress of my language proficiency.  We like to sit in the corner bench, cradling a glass of house wine and being showered with free cheese. Yes, tutto bene. Only a number of storefronts down is Fontana della Frutta- a negozio with a wonderful selection of fresh produce. A number of nights ago, we saw the owner of Fontana della Frutta at Trombicche. We recognized one another, exchanging a smile across the room. The following afternoon, Sam and I went to Fontana della Frutta for fresh broccoli (we were making roasted garlic-broccoli-spaghetti – yum!). The owner smiles and jokes – in Italian – “so you’re not eating out at Trombicche this evening?”

I spent last weekend away from Siena, visiting Amsterdam.  It was a long and stressful journey there (transportation in Italy is, in a word, unreliable) but as they say in Italian vale la pena! It was worth the delay. I relished wandering down the city’s canal-paralleled streets littered with yellow and orange leaves. Not accustomed to the crisp, cold, fall-weather, I stumbled into warm cafes and ordered fresh mint leaf tea and feasted on mouthwatering apple cake. It was a wonderful weekend – Amsterdam with its perfect dollhouse homes is one of my favorite cities. The journey home was also rattled with obstacles, concluding with a rather nerve-racking midnight bus from Empoli. I sat there, holding my breath, wondering when and if I would reach Siena. After escaping the bus at the train station, I scurried towards the city center still slightly on edge.  As I walked through Piazza Gramsci, I heard my name called. I turned around to see my bartender friend Carlo taking out the trash from the Irish Pub. A friend, a familiar face. I knew I was home .