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News

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics

LA Council race adds 3 new faces to city politics


The Town Crier chronicled the first election of Los Altos City Council incumbent Jarrett Fishpaw in 2010 and documented the Los Altos candidacy of Jean Mordo, who volunteered as a longtime public servant in Los Altos Hills before moving to the flat...

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Schools

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system

St. Simon launches web-based learning management system


Courtesy of St. Simon Parish School
St. Simon fifth-grader Matthew Cummins uses a laptop in class last week. The school’s cloud-based Schoology system boosts organization and collaboration.

Families at St. Simon Parish School in Los Altos laun...

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Community

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'

Los Altos to celebrate 100 years of library use with 'Centennial Faire'


Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos main library is among the more popular branches in the county library district system, set to celebrate 100 years.

In 1914, Babe Ruth made his debut with the Boston Red Sox, wages hit $5 per day, the first ste...

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Sports

Eagles eye another stellar season

Eagles eye another stellar season


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Los Altos High outside hitter Carmen Annevelink, right, goes for the kill Thursday against Palo Alto, as teammates Sarah Tritschler, left, and Lulu Kishton prepare to play defense. The Eagles won the match in straight ga...

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Comment

Torok, Walter, Dave for MVLA board: Editorial

There’s really nothing major you can criticize about the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District. It offers a diverse array of effective programs for all types of students. Its instructors, with few exceptions, are outstanding.

Howe...

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Special Sections

'Funabout' Fiat

'Funabout' Fiat


Photos courtesy of Fiat
The 2014 Fiat 500e uses 29 kilowatt-hours per 100 miles, which the engineers claim is the equivalent of 116 mpg of gas use. It has a sticker price of $33,095.

If you believe in climate change, would love to see alternat...

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Business

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground

App developer eyes First Friday as testing ground


Ted Fagenson

An East Bay app developer is testing his newest creation in downtown Los Altos.

Ted Fagenson, co-founder of Skrownge (pronounced “scrounge”), told the Town Crier that he’s beta testing his mobile gaming app this week ...

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Books

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween

From story to bookstore: Local journey highlights Halloween


Courtesy of Dee Ellmann
Jenny Hurwick self-published her picture book last month after decades of storytelling.

During her years working as a teacher and a Los Altos mom, Jenny Hurwick loved to tell stories. One tale she crafted for her son just se...

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People

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

VINCENT (TIM) MURPHY JR.

July 27, 1953 – August 12, 2014

Native Los Altan died Medford, OR. Graduated Bellarmine Prep. Married Josephine Domino, 1950. Licensed Auto Mechanic, Private Pilot, skilled Computer Scientist. Tim “could fix anything”. Afflicted with cancer 2001. ...

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Travel

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup

Taking a Turkey trek: Winging it during the World Cup


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The sun sets over the Aegean Sea in Bodrum, Turkey, left.

Tours that whisk you from Istanbul to Bodrum in 11 days are as plentiful as souvenir hawkers in Turkey, but traveling from the Blue Mosque to Topkapi ...

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Stepping Out

'Gypsy' on its way out

'Gypsy' on its way out


Chris Berger/Special to the Town Crier
Alison Koch of Los Altos plays Dainty June in “Gypsy.”

This is the final weekend to catch the Sunnyvale Community Players production of “Gypsy” at the Sunnyvale Theatre. The musical is slated to close Sund...

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Spiritual Life

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry

Ugandan pastor visits U.S. to raise support for children's ministry


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Herman Lukwago educates children in Uganda.

Imagine life if your father had 25 children and you were raised in poverty in rural Uganda.

Now imagine that you and your siblings were orphaned at an early age and you ass...

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Magazine

Local events add color to autumn calendar

Local events add color to autumn calendar


Van Houtte/town crier Visitors make their way through the Children’s Alley.

As Los Altos’ signature Chinese Pistache trees exchange their summer green for vibrant hues of yellow, orange and red in the fall, an abundance of local events also ad...

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Hilltop Siena offers hints of the past


Rich Robertson/Special to the Town Crier
The hilltop Siena beckons daytrip visitors from Florence, 30 minutes to the north in the heart of Italy’s Tuscany.

As you descend the winding, narrow Siena streets on foot, you experience a sense of foreboding.

With its brown buildings and rust-colored roofs, Italy’s first pedestrian-only city seems frozen in time. Only the shops displaying panfortes and wine bottles lining the way tip you off to the year.

It’s a little spooky, but it’s that time of year, even in Italy. The country doesn’t quite honor Halloween, but it does recognize All Soul’s Day Nov. 1.

If you’re looking for flashy nightlife, Siena doesn’t have it. But the city offers an amazing treasure trove of early Renaissance art, hidden fountains, great coffee and historical riches to savor.

Hilltop Siena’s steep byzantine alleys empty onto the central 12th-century Piazza del Campo, a fan-shaped brick plaza bordered by town hall, a fountain and a medieval belltower.

UNESCO lists the historical center as a World Heritage site. With a population of 60,000, Siena makes its mark on central Tuscany. It’s a good day trip – just 30 minutes south of Florence – but there are plenty of hotels and restaurants if you want to stay and explore longer.

Hilltop history

In 1348, more than one-third of Siena’s population died in the Black Plague, a blow from which the city would barely recover. The devastation overwhelmed the townspeople, who had been enjoying a golden age of prosperity. Up until then, the Tuscan city had flourished economically and artistically.

Siena fought fiercely with neighboring Florence, with both sides taking turns winning various battles. Eighteen months of fighting between the Republic of Siena and Florence ended with the latter annexing Siena into Tuscany in the 16th century. The Florentines, under the Medici family, stopped any additional building in Siena, and the town remained miraculously intact during World War II when the French took over.

Today, one can sit at a cafe in the Piazza and take in the belltower and the town hall, as well as the many landmarks around them. The concave Piazza floor is taken over by horses’ hooves twice in the summer, when racers representing their neighborhoods ride bareback through city streets.

Things are more sedate during the rest of the year. Next to the Gothic Palazzo Pubblico, the town hall, you can brush up on your Tuscan history at the Museo Civico.

To the left of the Palazzo, Italy’s second-highest belltower, Torre del Mangia, sits at 330 feet tall. Two brothers, Muccio and Francesco di Rinaldo, built the structure circa 1338-1348. The tower offers panoramic views of the city – all the way to its medieval walls – perhaps making the 500-step climb to the top worthwhile.

The Siena Duomo, built in full Gothic glory circa 1136-1382, boasts black and white zebra-striped stone. Siena’s colors are black and white, and the legendary founders of the city, Senius and Aschius, also owned black and white horses. At the Chapel of St. John the Baptist in the Duomo’s baptistery stands Donatello’s bronze statue of St. John the Baptist.

Also worth a glimpse is the Piccolomini Library, built in 1509, which houses vibrant frescoes by Pinturicchio based on designs by Raphael. The Duomo’s ornate inlaid mosaic floor includes contributions from eminent 15th-century artists like Matteo di Giovanni.

In 1459, Rosellino built the impressive Palazzo Piccolomini for the affluent Piccolomini family. Visitors can stop by to view city ledgers from the 13th century as well as the Tavolette di Biccherna, wooden boards painted with tempera or oil that served as covers of records.

The Museale di Santa Maria della Scala has worn many hats. Originally intended as a hospice for pilgrims traveling the Via Francigena to Florence in the 13th century, it was later turned into a shelter for orphans and the poor.

Today, it houses an archaeological museum, an art museum and a center for contemporary art, the SMS Contemporanea. Recent modern exhibitions have showcased the art of Francesca Woodman of New York.

The mish-mash includes historic halls, chapels and temporary exhibition space. For example, the medieval hayloft on level three displays Jacopo della Quercia’s original Fonte Gaia sculptures. Fonte Gaia, in the Piazza del Campo, remains one of many peaceful fountains in Siena.

Another gallery, the Pinacoteca Nazionale, displays significant works by the Siena School. Lorenzetti’s 14th-century “Two Views” provides an early example of landscape painting.

A day at the races

The popular Palio di Siena horse races take place July 2 and Aug. 16 annually to commemorate the apparition of the Virgin Mary in 1656. Racers compete for a palio, or banner.

Thousands of people file into the Piazza del Campo for a glimpse of the races, which last approximately two minutes. Horses representing 10 of the city’s 17 contrades, or neighborhoods, compete to the spirited roars of the crowd. Each district has its own color, emblem, church and fountain. Parades occur throughout the year featuring medieval players. Visit ilpalio.org for details.

For more information, visit sienaitaly.com.

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