Feb 2

Siena 2011

Category: Italy,Travel



Opening the shutters in our room  at the Hotel Porto Romana in Siena,this unremarkable sunrise was revealed:

Nothing to see here; go back to bed.

Later, the fog lifted, unveiling a glorious dei.

After a short walk, we entered the old city via the Hotel’s namesake, the gate named “Porto Romana.”

Immediately, the ancient streets captured our hearts. Buildings grow around the remains of previous structures the way old trees grow around a fencepost.  Over millenia, as the city grew, it overtook old fortifications and crept beyond them, incorporating them into houses and buildings. Cultures came and went; languages peaked like waves and then receded. Yet some things remained; a couple of words from a forgotten tongue; food invented by ancestors hundreds of years gone; religious celebrations warped beyond recognition and although now unquestioned, oddly out of line with current practices. As with the culture, generations of repairs and impromptu modifications shaped the city in an organic way; you can never tell what lies around a corner; regularity is not the norm.  This quality fills the traveler with curiosity and rewards the idle wanderer.

Passing an unremarkable open door, I glanced inside to see an aged library.  Alas, I am illiterate in Italy; yet the books and their specialized chamber attract me.  At one time, men wearing silk stockings and wigs must have had servants hold candles for them as they read the precious volumes.  I have no idea what is going on here, except that it seems to be featuring Garibaldi and the revolution.

What is this thing? The patron saint of the block?  A symbol of the section of the city (the city is split into nine distinct  regions)?

Midaevil ironwork abounds; torch holders and horse tethers are all over.  I’m guessing that this well-adorned spot was the equivalent of the CEO’s reserved parking space.

Stuff like this doesn’t last forever; it has to be preserved.  Kudos to the Sienese for valuing and preserving this for the rest of us to enjoy!

The narrow winding streets make cars difficult, although I did see the occasional huge SUV lumbering around.  Scooters are more practical; Italians love their scooters.

They really like them.

The city’s main plaza, the Piazza del Campo.  It isn’t just pretty to look at; it’s the central focus of public life.

Once of the major museums in the city is the old hospital – the Santa Maria della Scala.  You’re not supposed to take pictures, but I snuck a few anyway (and was scolded). Here is the chapel – despite its spectacular decoration, not a major attraction in town; just one of many such things.  The old hospital museum also holds a particularly magnificent slaughter of the innocents – the subject of an earlier post.

On market day we went to the open-air bazaar that is held near the enormous fortezza (fortress) at the outskirts of town.  From here you can look back and see Siena from afar.  You can buy almost anything there, although food, clothing, and flowers were the bulk of it.

Late that evening we went to one of the nicer restaurants in Siena, Antica Osteria da Divo.  The restaurant is built in a structure occupied since Etruscan times; as you dine, you are surrounded by walls that predate the Romans.  It’s impossible not to wonder what those walls have seen.  And yes, the food and service was great, a suitable accompaniment to a day of taking in great visual art and architecture.

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1 Comment so far

  1. niffer February 2nd, 2012 3:49 PM

    We’re going to have to compare photos when you get back. You’re torturing me here! It’s hard to say who had the best view from their hotel in Siena as my photo rivals yours pretty well. I’d share a link now but I can’t from work. So… Contact me when you can so we can swap photos!

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