After a fun-filled day in Pisa and Volterra, we were delighted to pull up to our airbnb in Siena to find a peaceful, beautiful setting to wind down in. There were horses in a nearby pasture that kids had fun feeding and petting. One of the horses, we found out, was in the horse racing scene in James Bond: Quantum of Solace. Neato!
Chris and I attempting a selfie. The old town of Siena is behind us on the hill to our left.
The next morning we set off to explore the city. Siena was medieval Florence's archrival. Today, they still compete for tourists :) Siena used to be a major banking and trade center on par with Venice, Florence, and Genoa. At the time, it's population of 60,000 was even bigger than Paris. Eventually, like seemingly every city in Tuscany, it fell under Florentine/Medici power and the city settled down to a slower pace. Today, the population is still 60,000.
Siena is a beautiful Italian hill town with a thriving historical center full of red-brick lanes cascading every which way and its skyline dominated by the towering cathedral and town hall.
Colorful flags line many of the streets. Siena has 17 neighborhoods, called contrada, each with its own parish church, well or fountain, and is represented by a mascot and unique colors worn proudly by residents.
The piazza and Palazzo Salimbeni, a 14th century gothic palace built by a powerful mercantile family.
Inspiration is everywhere! Note to self: make a cut file like this and then stitch it!
The heart and soul of Siena: Il Campo. The square fans out from the city hall to create an amphitheater. The square's shining moment is the famous Palio horse races the neighborhoods compete in twice a year during the summer (you can see real footage from these races at the beginning of the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace).
The city hall has a 330 foot tall tower, which is the tallest secular tower in Italy.
The open chapel at the base of the tower was built in 1348 as thanks to God for ending the black death that decimated the population of Siena by killing nearly a third of the residents. These days, the chapel is solely used to bless the Palio horse race contestants and the towers bell only rings for the race.
Cuz it's cute.
Cuz it's cute.
The courtyard of the city hall.
The square and its buildings are the color of the soil upon which they stand, a color known to artists and Crayola crayon users as "Burnt Siena."
Mugs showing off the neighborhood mascots and colors.
People enjoying the sunny Sienese square.
Charming lane - I particularly love the shutters.
Siena's glorious cathedral. The white and dark green striped church sits on Siena's highest point and is visible for miles around. The current church dates back to 1215.
Like a medieval altarpiece, the facade is divided into sections, each frame filled with patriarchs and prophets, studded with roaring gargoyles, and topped with prickly pinnacles.
The lower portion was done by Giovanni Pisano and features remnants of the fading Romanesque style topped with the new Gothic style that was seeping in from France.
Looking back down the hill towards Il Campo.
When in Italy, stop for gelato and pizza.
Piazza Tolomei with the church of Santa Messe.
On the way back to the car we passed by a street fair. I could have browsed for hours but we had places to go and people to see!