Thursday, March 1, 2012


02/27, Monday
We return the "Grey Goose" and then hop on a train for Siena, 1-1/4 hours away. It is another sunny day as we arrive at 10:45. A short bus ride into town brings us to Piazza Gramsci, then a walk up to Il Campo, the main square. They have banned cars in the main square which makes it very attractive. Also the Black Plaque cut Siena's population drastically and it lost it's political and trading power and never grew much. Great for us tourists though since all the art and beauty remain. Now Siena is about 60,000 while Florence is well over 400,000.

Il Campo is a grand arena shaped like an amphitheater. The City Hall is situated at the bottom; there are nine pie-shaped sections, each to represent a Medieval merchant class; and the Fountain of Joy (Fonte Gaia) surrounded by unique friezes, one a snake charmer. Another statue shows God creating Adam and that supposedly influenced Michaelanglo when doing the Sistine Chapel. We recall being here in 2010. This is such a vast open area and they even have horse races around the perimeter a couple times a year. Italians are such fun people. We exchange taking pictures with a young couple from Georgia.

It's a short walk up hill to the Duomo built with dark green and white stone horizontal stripes. Another magnificent structure. There we exchange picture taking with three sisters from Dallas before going into church. They are staying in a villa nearby and we recommend places to see. Can you believe that ? Sergio should be proud of us !

The church dates from 1215 and for two centuries 40 artists paved the marble floor with depictions from the Old Testament. How is that for dedication ? Sure makes you want to look down. One large depiction is "Slaughter of the Innocents" showing Herod ordering the killing of babies to prevent the coming of the Messiah.

The Bernini chapel certainly is a testimony on why he is considered the greatest Baroque sculptor. It is dripping in gold and his pieces of Mary Magdaline and St. Jerome are so delicately detailed and moving. As Rick Steves says " even a Lutheran wants to light a candle".

The marble pulpit is the size of a small room and rests on the backs of lions showing the power of Christianity.

The Piccolomini Library, like a side altar is a tribute to Pope Pius II, the Renaisance man. The beautiful frescoes show his life and are very vibrant even though 550 years old and never restored. They never used candles or fireplaces in the room because of the marvelous windows so smoke didn't ruin anything.

Then we visit the crypt and baptistry on the side of the church. The crypt was just discovered about 10 years ago and contains colorful frescoes. The baptistry is cave like and has, you guessed it, a huge font where all children were baptized in the area and adorned with lots of bronze figures.

We go into the Duomo museum and it has many of the original statues from the Duomo that were moved for various reasons including WWII. The original rose stained glass window is here and you can get up close and personal. It is over 20 feet across and almost looks 3 D-ish. The church has a copy. Upstairs is what is considered a masterpiece of medieval art - The Maestra by Doccia meaning Enthroned Virgin done in 1311. They even have seats there so you can study it.

Our last big Siena's venture is to climb up 60 more winding stairs to get an outstanding view of Siena. This point was actually going to be part of the church until it was scaled down. It is always something to see satellite dishes on these ancient rooftops.

We end the day by buying a dessert that Siena is famous for and contains at least 1000 calories - chocolate, honey and almonds, called panforte.

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