Visit Siena by Mouse
Siena (Siena on-line)(locator) is 151 miles northwest of Rome and 47 miles south of Florence. It is just a beautiful city as close to what a prosperous medieval town must have looked like as you can find anywhere. Although Verona lays claim to Romeo and Juliet, we kept thinking that Siena looks more like their town in in our imaginations. Indeed, walking the streets of Siena we expected at any second we would turn a corner and see a lad gazing upward at the only love of his tragically short life, who was gazing down at him. Alas for us, we never did turn that corner.
The buildings in the city are mostly reddish brown brick with reddish tiled roofs, several stories high, some with fancy embellishments. The streets, which are narrow and crowded with tourists and townspeople going about their business, bend around and rise and fall with the terrain. As you approach the town center on a major street you turn a corner and look down down a short narrow street onto the world famous Piazza del Campo, the large round paved plaza anchored on one side by the Palazzo Publico (town hall) with its tall tower and surrounded by those redbrick buildings many with cafes at ground level. On a sunny, warm day, you will see many people sitting on the pavement taking refuge from the hot sun in the shade of that tower, a thin line of humans on an otherwise brilliant sunlit expanse. (One of our photos shows this line in the rear left center.) Twice a summer, unfortunately not when we were there, this Campo becomes a race course for the running of the Palio. Sand is brought in to prepare the course around the perimeter of the plaza, a pagaent is held, after which a series of races occur in which horses and riders dressed in the colors representing a city district race against one another. The Campo is filled with cheering spectators who come from all over the world.
The campo and the town center has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Palazzo Publico itself is a grand building whose tower has been copied in other cities. A treasure on view in the Palazzo are two frescoes painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti between 1338 and 1340, one representing good government and one representing bad government, as he envisioned them at the time. If you click on the thumbnails in the frescoes link you can see enlarged details of these two frescoes. The Duomo, which dates from the 1200's, is another great building. When we visited in 2005, the ornate facade was undergoing renovation or cleaning and was covered. It took a moment to realize this because the covering was painted to look like the facade itself, as you can see in one of our photos. Like other Duomos in Italy, this one is constructed of alternating courses of dark and light stone to form horizontal stripes. This motif is carried throughout the interior, giving it a very busy look. The dome interior is very beautiful, especially the lantern on its peak which was designed by Bernini. There are several works by famous artists on and in the Duomo, including a statue of St. Peter by Michaelangelo and a bronze statue of St John the Baptist by Donatello.
It is a joy to walk around the city, as we think you will agree when you see our photos. And there are more and better photos of the Duomo on the Sacred Travel Destinations website.
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