Saturday, July 17, 2010

If you're going to Siena, be sure to wear some sensible shoes

I made it to Siena today, and I'm very glad that I did! I took my time getting out this morning, but I was feeling a little lazy after my first good sleep in days, thanks to the wonderfulness of the aforementioned mosquito doohickey. I got to the train station around 10:30, and after some confusion figuring out where I needed to go, left on an 11:10 train to Siena, getting there at about 12:30. I picked up a map of the city pretty cheaply at the train station (very helpful throughout the day!) and, after a short bus ride, found myself wandering the medieval streets of Siena.

I was not a very good art historian today. I know I could have spent the day searching all over the city for works by Simone Martini and other Sienese artists, but I know only a very small amount about that period in art, and also I had very little time to research this trip, what with the pace that I've been keeping all week. You may remember that I was considering taking this day off altogether, and devoting it solely to relaxing. Instead, I decided to experience a new city simply by walking around, pausing when tired, and seeing where my feet would take me.
I started out with lunch at the Piazza del Campo, a salami sandwich and a nice Chianti (but no liver or fava beans). Having a drink or a meal in the Piazza del Campo is one of the highly recommended stops for tourists in Siena, and as I arrived in town hungry, I thought this would be a natural beginning. I then wandered around the piazza a bit, and made the decision not to spend a lot of money during the day on admission fees - there was plenty to do and see without that.

Here I am in the Piazza del Campo, one of the few times I stood in the sun without my umbrella (the Mediterranean sun is affecting my PLE):

After lunch, I wandered off in the direction of Siena's Duomo, and was very happy with what I saw:

The Gothic Duomo is simply dripping with sculpted decoration in pink and white - it almost reminded me of a wedding cake! This was one of the few times that I really missed my telephoto lens, as I've been carrying my small Fuji point-and-shoot camera instead of my Nikon DSLR on most day excursions to cut down on the amount of weight in my purse. I found a spot in the shade and stared and stared, then paid the reasonable admission fee to go inside. The interior lived up to the ornate promise of the facade, all done out in striped back and white marble. This was definitely one of the highlights of my day, and I bought a postcard of the interior to help me remember it.

Throughout the day, I kept running across sculptures after the Capitoline Wolf, which is said to represent the wolf mother who nursed Romulus and Remus, the eventual founders of Rome. I found this very odd, and when I was in the Duomo gift shop, I asked the clerk about it. Apparently, this wolf has become something of a symbol of Siena, and the city has claimed it because, according to legend, after Romulus turned on his brother Remus, leading to Remus' death, Remus' son Senius fled Rome and founded the city of Siena. So, there's one thing I learned today to add to my art historical knowledge! Hard to believe that I'll probably be seeing the Capitoline Wolf in the next few days.

After I left the Duomo, I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around, taking pictures, window-shopping, eating gelato, and simply enjoying myself. On more than one occasion, I thanked my lucky stars that I was wearing my comfortable, flat Clarks sandals, because Siena is one hilly city. You'll be walking merrily along a flat sidewalk, when suddenly you're faced with a few blocks of steady incline of 30 degrees or more. Between the inclines and the medieval stone streets, this is not the place to visit while wearing stiletto heels.

I'll finish off with a couple of Weird Siena images to go along with my collection in Weird Florence. I ran into the sign for the Torture Museum along one of the aforementioned steep inclines coming up from the Piazza del Campo, and for a few minutes I was sorely tempted to go in, especially after I peeked in the door and was encountered with a creepy skeleton displayed inside an Iron Maiden. I tend to go in for that kind of campy ridiculousness. I decided against it, though, because Charlie and I just did a lot of that sort of stuff when we were in Salem, MA in June, and also, that sort of thing is much more fun when you have somebody else to laugh about it with. So, the Torture Museum will have to wait for some future visit to Siena.

Here's the other oddity that I encountered, and something that I may have to try at some point while I'm in Italy: actual Duff beer in actual cans and bottles. This isn't the first time I've seen them - a vendor was also selling them at the Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence - so I'll have to give it a try. Apparently, there are no laws about carrying open containers of alcohol on the streets in Europe, or at least this is what the hard-partying young Americans at these hostels seem to think.

I'm off to bed for now, and looking forward to a peaceful sleep thanks to my trusty mosquito thingy - tomorrow, Roma!


  1. Siena's Duomo is impressive. I think I had seen photos that showed the alternating courses of black and white stone, but I don't think I'd seen the pink stonework. The facade looks very intricate, too.

    If you do try the Duff beer, just make sure you're in a place where you don't mind hallucinating. :-)