Man does not live by gelato and pizza alone……….OR……….does he?? Bruce researched it and found that Italians live 2 years longer than Americans. So maybe man can live on gelato and pizza alone.
We went to Siena today. Another beautifully clear day. Makes it harder NOT to take pictures. We hopped the 9:10 bus straight to Sienna, found the center of town (Il Campo) and sat for a cappuccino while we plotted our day. Siena was medieval Florence’s archrival. About 1260-1348 Siena was a major banking and trade center, and a military power. With a population of 60,000 it was even bigger than Paris. Then, in 1348, the Black Death hit Siena and cut the population by more than a third. It never recovered. Today, Siena’s population is still 60,000, compared to Florence’s 420,000. Presently, it’s big attraction is tourism and the Palio horse races that are held 2 times per year in the Il Campo. 10 of the 17 neighborhoods compete. On the evening of the race, Il Campo is stuffed to the brim with locals and tourists. Dirt is brought in and packed down over the gray pavement of the perimeter to create the track’s surface, while mattresses pad the walls of surrounding buildings.
Yes, there is a tower….and, yes, we climbed it! It is Italy’s tallest secular tower and worth the steep and narrow steps for the glorious views! From there we went to the Duomo, an ornate shrine to the Virgin Mary and stacked with colorful art, intricate marble inlays, Michelangelo statues, and Bernini sculptures. In the Piccolomini Library, there are a series of captivating frescoes by the painter Pinturicchio. These frescoes have never been restored but look as vivid as the day they were finished 550 years ago. This library also contains intricately decorated, illuminated music scores, and a statue of the Three Graces. Trying to keep up with Florence proud Siena planned to build an even bigger church – the biggest in all Christendom. Construction began in 1330 on an extension off the right side of the Duomo. Some of the green and white columns were built, and are now filled in with brick. The vision was grand, but it underestimated the complexity of constructing such a building. That, coupled with the devastating effects of the plague, killed the city’s ability and will to finish the project. We also spent some time in the Duomo museum and the Baptistery before going back to the center – Il Campo- to sit with a glass of wine and just watch the activity and be a part of the beautiful city.