Another “bonus” tour we took in Italy was a trip to Siena and San Giminano, both hilltop towns. This was one of the best tours we had on the trip. Traveling to Siena and San Giminano by bus allowed us to see the gorgeous landscape that is what always came to mind when I thought of Tuscany. The roadsides were often lined with beautiful red poppies – a striking contrast to the sea of green. The symbol of Siena is a she-wolf* suckling Romulus and Remus. According to legend, Siena was founded by Senius, son of Remus (while Rome was founded by Romulus). The statue differs from Rome’s in that the she-wolf faces forward. For Rome, the wolf’s head is turned to the side.
|Tuscan countryside||Siena’s Wolf|
Siena is known for the Palio di Siena twice-annual horserace around the town square. Spectators fill the center of the square shoulder-to-shoulder, and line the outer edges of the square, while the horses race along the walkway that encircles the square. The entire race takes only about three minutes (three times around the square), but must be quite dangerous. The walkway where they race is quite slanted, and of course, is stone, although I was told they put sand down over it. Click here for an ariel photo of the square during a race. It’s amazing – go take a look. I’ll wait. I would NOT want to be in that crowd, and evidently the people are there for hours before the race.
At one entrance to the square is the beautiful Loggia della Mercanzia, which provided a place to eat gelato and get shelter from the brief rain we encountered, while admiring the fantastic ceiling. I loved the loggias in Italy, they were such beautiful little shelters from the rain or sun, and usually had benches where you could just sit and people-watch for a while.
|Loggia della Mercanzia||Ceiling of the Loggia della Mercanzia|
|Piazza del Campo – you can see how much the square curves, like a bowl||Piazza del Campo|
Siena’s cathedral was by far my favorite of all the ones we went to. While all were beautiful on the outside, some were quite plain inside. Siena’s duomo (by the way, that’s the Italian term used for a cathedral – it has nothing to do with whether or not there’s a dome) was spectacular and elaborate both inside and out. I could have spent hours there just looking at the art and artistry, including a statue by Michelangelo. And then there was the library adjoining the cathedral, containing not only a large collection of illuminated choir books, but which also had the most amazing frescoes.
I loved looking at all of the fabulous doors and doorknockers in Italy. It’s no wonder that books have been written about them. But in Siena, there were also lots of iron rings that I believe were used for tying up horses. This one was my favorite – it’s sheepy!
*They always refer to her as a “she-wolf”. What else do we expect? A “he-wolf” suckling two babies? Now that would be interesting. And now all I can think of is “Werewolf?” “There, wolf. There, castle.”