Siena

I nearly titled this post “Almost Famous” in that while we were in Siena, so was Daniel Craig of James Bond fame. Apparently, as we were sunning ourselves on the Piazza del Campo, he was filming a chase scene a few streets over. Another opportunity to say “I was there! Uh, kind of…” when I see the movie.

Anyway…Siena. It was a gorgeous day…sunny and warm, which brought out a host of people to enjoy the fresh air in the center of town. Tovah and I packed a picnic lunch and joined the throngs to soak in a sun-screened ray or two.

We took in the Piazza and then checked out the Museo Civico in the Palazzo Publico. The Museo is a great little museum with all sorts of frescoes, including Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s famous Allegory of Good and Bad Government and Their Effects on the Town and Countryside — said to be the single most important piece of secular art to survive from medieval Europe (I’m not sure I buy that…I mean, they’re very impressive and all, but I don’t know that they are the single most important… oh well, guess that’s why I’m not an art historian). I didn’t get any pictures (I didn’t get many interior pictures in general…they’re not too keen on the flash with their fragile frescoes and all…), but you can see it here.

We meandered through the town and came to the Duomo, which was bright and sparkling in the afternoon sun.

The Duomo is impressive — its marble floors are inlaid with biblical scenes. I did manage an interior shot of the dome:

What I loved most about this cathedral was the Piccolomini Library. Its upper walls are covered with (you guessed it) frescoes — in this case a series commemorating the Coronation of Pius III (in 1504). Below that was an exhibition of the gorgeous antiphonal manuscripts with stunning illuminations. I’m a manuscript girl, so these were delightful.

After the Duomo we hit the Ospedale di Santa Maria della Scala, a peculiar site that is a mishmash of the old hospital that it was (it was a foundling orphanage for a long time as well as caring for the sick and infirm from the 800s up until about ten years ago), art museum, archeology museum, and labyrinth. This shot is from one of the wards, where the beds’ headboards were painted on the walls, and the alcoves served as bedside tables:

(kind of makes me think of a Madeline book)

Before heading back to Florence, we stopped by the home of St. Catherine of Siena (can anyone tell me why she’s sometimes depicted just with the lily and other times with the flower and a crown of thorns?), which is a peaceful oratory now, and the church of San Francesco, which is referred to in the guidebooks, and really felt like, a barn. Huge and empty, but still pretty cool to see.

You can see more photos of Siena here.

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