Sunday, September 27, 2009


The morning of the meeting I dressed business formal, American style and I arrived almost an hour early at the pick-up point, carrying my small travel bag with me. I patiently waited one full hour, because right to the minute of the designated time, Leo arrived. His sports car seemed to fly right toward me. Luckily, I had already become accustomed to the Italian driving style during our family outings, with Primo at the wheel of his BMW. Primo likes to drive fast but I've never been scared.

The drive to Siena is a blur in my memory now. I was only a little nervous being in a car with Leo. He laid out the purpose of the meeting and told me I would accompany him into the mayor's office.

We parked and walked across the Piazza del Campo. The office of the Sindaco is located in the La Sala di Palazzo Patrizi which fronts right onto the piazza. I longed to linger in this magnficient place, but this was not a tourist trip. We made a quick stop in a nearby bar, where Leo and his business associate discussed strategy over a cappuccino. I understood absolutely nothing.

A lack of language skills does cause a strange sense of disconnection. Even today when I am in Italy, I still miss "clues" of imminent events, such as departures. I'm very often in a state of "not ready."

The office of the mayor was impressive. Gorgeous high ceilings with frescos, gold trim, huge paintings and antique furniture. Nothing at all like an American bureaucrat's office. I sat as an outsider at the meeting table trying my hardest to look attentive and respectful. In truth I was fishing for words and had my dictionary in my lap. I learned later that the officials were under the impression that I was an American journalist. I do not believe I actually met the mayor.

Leo was disappointed. The meeting had not produced the results he had wanted. He asked if I'd like to play tourist for a few hours to release some of the morning stress. He checked my train ticket and assured me I would be back at the train station in plenty of time to get home. We left the city immediately. The walk across the Piazza del Campo was the extent of my sight-seeing in Siena.

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