Our next stop after Rome was Siena, and it was peaceful and relaxing. We had planned on spending just one day here, but decided more or less instantly to extend that. Without a doubt, the best food of our trip was the two dinners we had here, and all in all it was our favorite stop. We stopped several times to look at real estate listings, and I have every intention of owning property there some day.
Siena is one of the Hill Towns of Tuscany, and has a very distinctive character. It’s much more like a small town than a city, and it was easy to get around by walking.
Siena also had some of the best specialty foods that we tried on our trip. Of course, I may be biased because they mainly seemed to be sweets! Panforte, a dense, sticky confection made from dried fruits, nuts and honey, was a staple food for the Crusades— Medieval trail mix! We also enjoyed a thorough sampling of ricchiarelli, a soft almond cookie. Yum.
Flowers and Ironwork
Some of my favorite photographic subjects are decaying walls, flowers, and ironwork. As you can see here, I was able to indulge myself in Siena.
Also on the theme of flowers, I bought some patterns for crocheted flowers in a craft store in town. The shopkeeper had some samples made up, and it was certainly a challenge to let her know that I wanted to buy the patterns and not the flowers themselves; our phrasebook didn’t seem to cover that particular interaction. But the Italians are nothing if not friendly and eager to communicate, so eventually we got our point across. Now all I have to do is figure out how to translate the names of crochet stitches!
Around the Campo
Like many Italian towns, Siena is centered around a large campo. This one is notable for being shell-shaped, both in outline and in concavity.
The main part of the Campo is paved in bricks, set in a herringbone pattern. Along the edges, more irregular paving stones are used. These reminded me of Mondrian paintings, and of some of Kaffe Fassett’s knitting designs.
Though it was built in the Renaissance era, Siena’s cathedral is in the Gothic style, unlike those in Florence, Siena’s longtime rival. It’s constructed of green and pink marble, and looked like a giant, intricate, stone gingerbread house. The interior is full of columns and vaults, all made with alternating pink and green stripes. The dome is very irregular, far from being a perfect circle, and painted a vivid blue with trompe l’oeil coffers and stars.
In Rome, we saw lots of shiny, new scooters. In Siena, though, many of the ones we saw were older, and, I thought, more charming.