Tue09162014

News

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza

Council approves directional signs for Los Altos' Woodland Plaza


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
The Los Altos City Council last week approved the installation of two new directional signs on Foothill Expressway pointing motorists to the Woodland Plaza Shopping District.

The Los Altos City Council voted unanimou...

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Schools

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD

New head of curriculum’s ideologies align with LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Edsel Clark, new Los Altos School District assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, above, facilitates a junior high mathematics curriculum meeting last week.

Edsel Clark, Ed.D., new assistant superintend...

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Community

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China

Closing reception caps Foothill photo show on rural China


From IncredibleTravelPhotos.com
Jacque Kae’s “Mischievous” is one of the many photographs on display at Foothill College this month.

Photographs of the land and culture of Huangshan and Zhangjiajie, China, are on exhibit through Sept. 26 at t...

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Sports

Spartans shine in opener

Spartans shine in opener


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Mountain View High’s Frank Kapp snares a touchdown pass from quarterback Owen Mountford in Friday’s win.

Leading by a point at halftime, the Mountain View High football team outscored visiting Del Mar 20-0 the rest of...

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Comment

A look ahead to the Nov. 4 election: Editorial

Election season is upon us. In Los Altos, we have three major local races ahead – two seats on the Los Altos City Council, and three seats each on the Los Altos School District and Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District boards of tr...

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Special Sections

Renovation complete,  Villa Siena looks to future

Renovation complete, Villa Siena looks to future


Above and Below Photos Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier; Left Photo Courtesy of Villa Siena
Villa Siena in Mountain View recently underwent a $35 million face-lift. The five-year project expanded their senior living community’s space and ability to serv...

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Business

Transitioning from postage to pets

Transitioning from postage to pets


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A new Pet Food Express store is scheduled to open at the Blossom Valley Shopping Center this month.

A site that previously existed to meet postal service needs will soon have an entirely different purpose – serving pe...

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Books

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights

‘The Humans’ transcends alien genre to glean human insights


A good story about aliens is always great fun to read – after all, it’s only by attempting to understand the human race from another perspective that we can see ourselves more objectively.

But readers who might be tempted to dismiss ye...

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People

JEANNE PACKARD

After suffering a stroke in May, Jeanne Packard died August 10, 2014 at age 83. She was born in 1931 in Berlin, Germany, the only child of Emily Channel and Frank Howe Packard of Chicago, IL. Jeanne is survived by 5 great grandchildren. She was a lon...

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Travel

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska

LA photographer spends a night with cranes – and moose – in Alaska


Sandy Powell/Special to the Town Crier
Los Altos resident and bird photographer Sandy Powell recently visited Homer, Alaska, to photograph Sandhill cranes, below. While there, Powell also encountered moose, left.

Los Altos resident Sandy Powell, a...

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Stepping Out

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos

'Trailer Park' opens in Los Altos


Courtesy of Los
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” includes, from left, Mylissa Malley as Lin, Vanessa Alvarez as Betty, and Christina Bolognini as Pickles. Altos Stage Company

Los Altos Stage Company...

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Spiritual Life

9/11 survivor Michael Hingson finds purpose

Imagine walking down 78 flights of stairs – 1,463 individual steps. You are in imminent danger as you walk, unsure whether you can make it out of the building before it collapses or explodes. Struggling for each breath, you smell the heavy sten...

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Magazine

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living

Los Altos Hills home showcases resort-inspired living


Courtesy of Spectrum Interior Design
In place of a more traditional fireplace, this modern living room features a linear-flame firebox that emits heat while offering a sculpturelike design element.

After traveling the world and visiting a host...

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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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