So much beauty out there

June 20, 2009

This means nothing to me, oh Siena.

Filed under: All,Dear Diary,Travel — Josh @ 6:39 pm

On a day trip from Florence, I went to Siena, which is strategically placed up a big hill from the railway station. Siena is an exceptionally well-preserved renaissance city which has ensured that any development since has to conform to the existing design (sadly this has not prevented a McDonalds being built there). It looks very pretty. After being refreshed by a liquid lunch, I decided to check out the cathedral complex – a ticket for the cathedral also gives access to the crypt, the libreria, the baptistry, a very high wall that had been intended to be part of a new cathedral, and a gallery across town.

The cathedral looks a little fancy pants from the outside, but I really liked it from inside. It was grand and beautifully designed. The ceilings were magnificent and there were gorgeous floors. Outside there had been a sign warning that the floor was only open from August to October so I was kind of envisaging the floor being covered in straw or something. Instead, there was some beautiful marble and decorations. Between floor and ceiling it wasn’t quite as good, the art was nothing special and the green and white striped pillars kind of looked like mint humbugs if you looked directly at them. However if you kept them to the periphery of your vision then the overall ambience they create (combined with a couple of lovely stained glass windows at either end) is really effective. It also passed the due reverence test, excellent usage of candles and inappropriately dressed people were given a turquoise shawl to cover up, which made them look appropriately ludicrous.

Elsewhere in the complex, the Libreria had a pretty floor, a bloody horrible ceiling and some great manuscripts – for me anyway, I’ve never seen a medieval manuscript I didn’t like, damn you Caxton and Guttenberg! The Crypt had some very brightly coloured frescos which had only been rediscovered very recently in renovation work. It’s hard to believe that they could have been simply forgotten when the current cathedral replaced the previous structure. It was also interesting that they contrasted sharply with the sombre design that supplanted it. The Baptistry was very pretty, as was the views from on top of the wall. Less impressed by the art, the brilliantly nicknamed Sodoma apart (I wouldn’t like to guess how he got that tag, but judging from how many devotional works he was allowed to decorate the city with, I’m thinking it wasn’t the obvious one). Most incongruously, while I was looking at all the religious art in the gallery, outside in the square there was some kind of speaker system blaring out Queen’s “We Are The Champions”. Mind you, when I was going round the Uffizi I had “Pump Up The Jams” stuck in my head without external stimulus, so I’m not one to talk.

Piazza del Campo

Piazza del Campo

The other main attraction of Siena is the main square which is scenic enough though I can only imagine how much more exciting it is when the palio is on.



  1. You see this title I get the pun.
    Been here as well (actually went to Nice too but missed anything remotely nice (hee hee) about the place and am still trying to forget the experience) – loved Siena too especially as I managed to avoid seeing the Macdonalds. Or perhaps it wasn’t there then. I certainly hope it wasn’t in the main unesco town part or I might have to start protesting outside my local one again.
    P.S. Still miffed about Granada, but magnanimously wish you a nice time in Prague (where I’ve been as well for that matter. Ha!) Spot the frustrated mother of 3 who doesn’t get to travel any more and thus lives vicariously or in the past. Sniff sniff.

    Comment by Lucy — June 22, 2009 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

    • The McDonalds is within the town walls, not sure how far the UNESCO designation extends.

      The kids will be old enough to take on holiday soon won’t they? Isle du Re this year, maybe Granada in a couple of years time – perhaps on the way to the beach at Almeria or the Costa del Sol *shudder*

      Comment by Josh — June 24, 2009 @ 2:17 pm | Reply

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