A Taste of Italy: Part 2 – Siena

Posted: 3 June 2015 in Travel
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Siena, Italy

Siena, Italy

Day 5

Palazzo Pubblico

Palazzo Pubblico

For our last day in the region, John opted for us to go a town called Siena. To be honest, I had never heard of the place until we were planning the trip. So since he was keen on seeing it, I tagged along. Sometimes, the best way to discover new places is by talking to people about them.

One of the things that I really enjoyed about this day was seeing the part of Firenza on the south side of the Arno away from the tourists. Obviously there’s not much there that a tourist would find interesting, but then again I’m also not your average tourist. I love the removal of the touristic chaos to truly experience the beauty of the everyday life of a place. But we all have to start somewhere.

Siena has a beauty I did not expect. I’m really happy I got to see it. Unlike Pisa and Firenza, Siena is not flat. Sure Firenza isn’t completely flat, but only on one side of the river. Oh, and Siena also isn’t next to a river. Some of the most beautiful places I have been to have been situated in hilly regions.

Fonte Gaia

Fonte Gaia

So the bus dropped us off at the Piazza Antonio Gramsci and we headed towards Piazza del Campo. We got to Siena close to noon so there were already tons of people to weave through on the way. At least we knew we were going in somewhat of the right direction.

We turned off of Via Bianchi di Sopra down an alley (Vicolo S. Pietro) and were greeted by the amphitheatre-like Piazza del Campo. Since I knew relatively nothing about the place, I was awed by the piazza. I have such a love for beautiful architecture and Siena did not disappoint. Anyway. On a side note, since we were there in April, we were too early to see one of the coolest things about the piazza: the horse race. The Palio di Siena is a horse race held twice a year in July and August. I would love to have been able to see it. Naturally, just another reason to go back to visit.

Duomo di Siena

Duomo di Siena

Right. So the first thing I checked out was the incredibly beautiful Fonte Gaia. I love fountains, so it is no wonder that I was drawn to it first before checking out the true stars, the Palazzo Pubblico and the Torre del Mangia. In my mind, fountains deserve just as much attention as some of the buildings. I mean, look at the incredible workmanship of it. Simply stunning. Oy.

When I was finished, we crossed the piazza and went into the Palazzo Pubblico. It was essentially broken up into two sections: the palazzo and the torre. We ascended the Torre del Mangia first. To say we’ve climbed a lot of stairs in the last few days is a complete understatement. This one adds another 400 steps. But as you can see from the first picture, the view is spectacular and well worth the climb.

Santa Maria della Scala

Facade of the Duomo di Siena

The Palazzo Pubblico is home to the Museo Civico. When you get your ticket for the torre, I recommend getting the package deal. It gets you into the museo, the torre, as well as the Santa Maria della Scala (located behind the Duomo, which we weren’t able to find). Very worth it. Especially if you get to see all three. The museo is incredible though. So many majestic frescoes and beautiful pieces of art. We were starving, but we just couldn’t take ourselves from the place.

After eating at one of the many restaurants in the piazza, we headed up to the Duomo. John really wasn’t in the spending mood at that point (considering how much lunch cost us), so we only walked around the building. It is a gorgeous edifice. Massive. Italian architecture is truly a wonder to behold.

The last bit of our excursion to Siena was the simple yet lovely Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico. It is by far much more understated than the Duomo, but that simplicity gave it a much more humble presence. It’s also free to get in. Evidently, there is the head of Saint Catherine there. Pretty sure I saw it, but can’t honestly recall. So be sure to check it out.

Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico

Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico

We had to wait around for a bit in order to see the crypt and walk around the backside of the property. The crypt was minimal just like the rest of the building. Actually, we were a bit antsy about being in there as we weren’t sure we were allowed. But as no one said anything while we were there, we just acted like everything was ok.

Siena is definitely a place I would love to get back to. There is so much still to discover. We saw a lot though in that one day and we were only there around 8 hours. But climbing those stairs and all those hills was exhausting. Be prepared to have jelly legs by the time you leave.

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