Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

medieval grandeur - siena

Posted by Hippobean at 11:00 PM
Siena this morning. Very much looking forward to seeing this truly medieval town. Dropped us off at Porta Tufi and an incline to the piazza del Duomo . the sight was magnificent. The Gothic cathedral de Santa Maria Assunta (built on an ancient temple of the cult of Minerva) absolutely demanded your total attention. But already the multitude of tourists filled up the square, with long queues at the ticket counters. And it's not even 10AM yet and most of the sites werent even open. Bought the ticket for all the sites (and so I thought). Since the Duomo was not open till 10:30, we first did the museum (bleh) and Panorama del Facciatone which was a terrace and had good views of the city below. Next I've waited for the big tour groups to enter first and then sneaked in to the cathedral. Its grandeur blew my mind! And it's not just the tourists which packed the cathedral. I didnt know where to start looking first. The entire floor was filled with marble mosaic inlay and graffito which were cordoned off, leaving the visitors a narrow path between and around Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, Duccio di Buoninsegna, Donatello, Michelangelo, Pinturicchio, Domenico Beccafumi and Bernini's masterpieces. The arches, the frescoes, the ornate vaulted ceilings, the Sculptures, the stainglass, where to begin? But couldnt really appreciate it all and not only because of the massive tourists but the ticket to the Porta del Cielo, the heaven gates, had a scheduled time. up the narrow winding staircase and we were now on the attic of the cathedral. Small windows let us take a peek of the inside of the cathedral from above, closer views of the statues, the arches and the stainglass. Awesome! It's called the Porta del Cielo because getting up the winding staircase was like jacob's ladder that reached up to heaven with "the angels of God ascending and descending on it". Then we continued the path and we're now on the outside of the cupola with super glorious close views of the church tower and adjacent buildings and of course unparraled views of the city. This was the best part of the tour.

After feasting my eyes in the Duomo, I checked out the Cripta which again blew my mind, with 1 fresco filling an entire wall depicting the story of the Passion, and the glorious colors in the columns, pilasters, capitals and corbels with geometric or phytomorphic beautifications.

Then to the Battistero, the baptistry of san giovanni, by master-builder Camaino di Crescentino, with an enormous marble baptismal font by Giovanni di Turino, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Donatello and Jacopo della Quercia. the vaults and apse frescoes were painted by Lorenzo di Pietro, known as Vecchietta. Again, everywhere you looked, you see brilliant colors and exquisite art and you couldnt but to bow down and be humbled by all this grandeur and beauty that reached into the heavens.

I followed the street signs and came upon Il Campo, the semi circular piazza surrounded by ancient brick buildings and the Torre del Mangia, a 100m bell tower. Too many people so I didnt linger. Next the Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico where it housed Santa Caterina's relics. The 1200 church was entirely in red brick. The inside was simple. Not far from it, was the Fortezza Medicea but I couldnt find the stairs to go up to the wall. The market was still open and on impulse, I brought some fried chickens legs to eat on the way for lunch.

One final site was the Basilica di San Francisco which Reed said it had a beautiful stainglass but I never made it. Instead I found the Church of Santa Maria in Provenzano nestled among buildings and thought it was the San Francisco. Couldnt go inside as it was closed.

Feeling quite tired I returned to the piazza del Duomo for a rest. But I still got one last site to visit. however I couldnt go in because the ticket I got didnt include Santa maria della Scala. Doh! with only a half hour before departure time, I debated if I should get a ticket to see the last site I've wanted to see. Browsing the museum shop, I saw placemats with the frescoes from Santa Maria della Scalla and I knew I had to see it. and what a decision it was. Santa Maria della Scala used be the Ospedale for the Pilgrims as Siena lied on the Via Francigena. it had the most gorgeous frescoes I've ever seen. The Pellegrinaio, the Pilgrims Hall, a cavernous, long hall designed to house the pilgrims turning to the hospital for help, entirely filled with gigantic frescoes painted in the mid 1400's. The figures of saints, prophets and Old Testament figures in the vaults were painted by Agostino di Marsiglio, a painter from Bologna, the side aisles painted by 15th century Sienese artists Lorenzo di Pietro, Domenico di Bartolo and Priamo della Quercia. I felt humbled below these gihugic masterpieces.

The street level also contained the Sagrestia Vecchia , the Old Sacristy, the Sacred Nail Chapel, with an amazingly preserved fresco and the 13th century church of Santissima Annunziata, displaying a stunning bronze Risen Christ by Lorenzo Vecchietta.

The subterranean level was the archaeological museum showing etruscan and roman artifacts, ceramics, statues and tombstones from the city and from the surrounding chianti and upper Val d’Elsa areas. It's a spooky place with dim lighting and inside the tunnels, with windows looking out to the 'inner' road, a hidden road that was once open to the surrounding landscape. The original marble statues of the Fonte Gaia by jacopo della Quercia were displayed at level 3 of the complex, called the Corticella, a small cistern courtyard.

half an hour was nowhere near enough time to appreciate all the frescoes and the statues, the basement arhaeological museum and the chapel, all the displays and so much more. but I blazed through it all. Definitely the highlight of Siena and I was sooooooo glad I've decided to see it. ran back to Porta Tufi and made it just in time for departure.

Just as we arrived at pienza, it started to rain. Our hotel Relais II chiostro di Pienza used to be a convent and it's adjacent to the town's cathedral. One entered through a spacious square courtyard with cloisters. Perfect location for my evening teas with the Stuffy. My room was tiny with a window set halfway up the wall. had to get on a chair to open/close it. On the 2nd floor, absolutely no views. Rhonda said it was to prevent the nuns temptations to look outside. In Castellina, the window was on the floor. And now the window was halfway to the ceiling. bad luck. The room floor slanted downwards from 2 walls and so were the 2 twin mattresses on the double bed frame. When I get out of bed, my body would turn towards the bed, making me dizzie and off balance. However, the bathroom was big and there's even an electric hot water boiler.

Dinner was at La Buca de Fate, possibly the only good restaurant in pienza. the menu offered rabbit, wild boar and tons of other delicious animals and pasta. Had the wild boar stew with french fries. it was good.

A very packed and tiring day. LittleSnowie sat in front of the high window but there was no view so he was cranky.

Siena photos:

Pienza photos:



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