February 20, 2013

Starting with Siena*

We took several day trips from Florence.
San Giovanni Battista or dell'Autostrada del Sole [Church of the Highway], just outside of Florence.1961.
We made a special trip to this church because of the unique organic design of the architecture. Of course.
*I actually start this post with a church that is not in Siena, nor in a town per se.
It is actually a church built for travelers of highway A11, which goes no where near Siena. Oh well.
Half of our trips were by train, and half were by bus.
I get so nauseous on bus trips. It started when I lived in Mexico and has since stayed with me. Short trips are fine, but longer ones make it hard for me to hold my lunch, or breakfast in most cases. We took the bus to Siena because it was shorter and less expensive - but I'm not sure it was worth it. At one point I didn't want Jon to talk to me, or touch me. It was that bad.

But I made it! This is another long post and most of the bold text links to wikipedia in case you're interested in learning more about the sights and history of Siena.

More after the jump...

Once we got off the bus, the first thing we did was make our way to the Piazza del Campo, better known as Il Campo, a huge square or plaza that resembles a stadium on a hillside. What I saw from the narrow surrounding streets was awesome, but I had no idea that another tower existed!
Siena is Tuscan town that dates back before the middle ages, of course there's a tower! That's the tower of Palazzo Pubblico, the town hall.
Do you see me in Jon's photo? I am sunning myself in the red coat. 
There is an interesting history to the herringbone pattern of brick paving, and the 9 divisions of the square. Here's a wonky panorama of Il Campo - I don't have the steadiest hand, though I am working on it. The panorama photo distorts the actual shape of Il Campo, which is more like a fan.
Il Campo is famous because of Il Palio di Siena - an annual horse race that dates back to the 17th century.
Walking along the narrow streets in Siena, you can still see these awesome horse ties along the walls.
I didn't read very much about Siena, and I forgot our guide book. So, I really had no idea why Jon was rushing to see the duomo.
The Siena Cathedral has Stripes!
And a gorgeous façade. My favorite detail is the man in the middle holding a city - it looks like a cake!
Jon's shot of my favorite detail.
I love: 1) the sky in this photo, 2) the statues at the top peeking over the roof, 3) the stripes on the bell tower, and 4) design of the windows increasing in number towards the top. That's a detail Jon pointed out to me, otherwise I never would have noticed.

This picture was taken from the front of the church. Do you see the wall with the two windows in it? That was supposed to be an addition that was begun in the 14th century, however construction stopped due to the Black Death. You can climb to the top and observe spectacular views, which I did!
See! Spectacular!
And here is the view from the tippy top with a much better camera. I didn't go up that far. Thanks Jon!
We toured the museum which had all kinds of religious art and relics - fingers, femurs, skulls. It was a little strange for me, but so interesting. Of special interest, were the architectural plans of the cathedral. That was pretty cool too. Already, I was impressed with the cathedral, but I had no idea how much better it was going to get until we walked inside...
This great photo by Jon doesn't do justice to the splendor of the interior.
Inside, marble frames every view in a variety of patterns and illustrations. The mosaics on the floor each tell a story from the bible and line the entire length of the church on both sides, and the striped interior is carried throughout the cathedral. The carvings at the top of the columns, arches and doorways are exquisite to the tiniest detail. There is so much beauty to look at, it took my breath away.

The ceiling of the dome really caught my eye. I love the trompe-l'œil effect, and also colors used - navy and gold. So simple, so stunning.
It's hard for me to think, even now as I type this, that this beautiful cathedral exists, and that it has for hundreds of years! Seeing this cathedral in person, that is what travel is all about. Discovering beautiful wonders that I did not know existed. 

We stayed in Siena for the day, but I would love to go back and stay for an extra day or two. We went to two more museums, ate a lot of gelato, walked around and even went back to the cathedral for one more view. 
Jon's last view of the cathedral.
Simply put: Siena was stunning. 

Check out Jon's photos of Siena on Flickr. They are amazing.

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