We loved Siena.
In fact, we loved it so much, that rather than only spending an evening there as planned, we stayed a whole extra day so we could get a decent look around.
Siena doesn't look much from the train station. It's only when you drive through the big city walls and suddenly find yourself in a confusing maze of tiny perfectly cobbled streets, where buildings, roofs and cobblestones are all terracotta shades, that you get it. I think it helped that it was late afternoon when we arrived, to find that our hostel was perfectly situated, with our room overlooking a beautiful busy little piazza right in the centre of the town. The piazza was about the size of a 2 tennis courts, (the town is tiny... you can walk it in about an hour).
Then as the sun set, Siena started blushing in peachy pinky hues. Tuscan sunshine has to be seen to be believed, you just don't buy it from the US movies that show it. Dusk means everything goes hazy, pink, soft-edged, and atmospheric.
Sheena and I hit the streets, me feeling like a bag lady (Kathmandu doesn't really cut it amongst the well-heeled in Siena). The shops were unbelievable. Sheena and I were drooling over shoes and handbags so exqusitely beautiful and carefully crafted, I am very lucky I am the offspring of an accountant or I would have blown my entire travel budget in one evening. It is not a nice feeling to be surrounded by very pretty things, many of which are looking even prettier being worn by people on the street, especially while one is feeling crumpled and trampy and not at all pretty. So when I happened to see a beautiful handmade Italian leather belt, which they adjusted on the spot to fit me perfectly, for much cheaper than in New Zealand, I splashed out. The belt also happened to be a beuatiful crimson red (my favourite colour).
Anyway! Sorry for too many fashion details, boys reading.
We went for dinner in the main Piazza del Campo, which was such a great night, relaxing just sipping our wine and people watching. The piazza comes alive at night and people of all ages meet there to hang out.
The next day we headed for the Duomo, which is spectacular. The whole thing is elaborately decorated in green, red and white marble, with statues seemingly in every nook and cranny, gold, frescoes, bronze... you name it. Incredibly, this is continued inside, so when you walk in, you're not actually quite sure where to start looking first. The baptistery downstairs is more subdued, but I felt it was more beautiful in its simplicity (it wasn't really simple, still wall to wall frescoes, but simple compared to the Duomo), and we also discovered the crypt, where on display were 12th century frescoes they'd uncovered. They also had an amazing museum where I fell in love with Siennese art. Incredible.
The green-red-white combination of marble is everywhere, and seeing as Italy was only united as a country quite late, a good many centuries after most of these buildings were completed, I'm assuming the Italian flag colours are a result of this. It's echoed through all their food too, the most basic pizza being tomato, mozzarella and basil topped.
Anyway, after a last lunch, again, splashing out to sit in the piazza (the atmosphere is worth every penny) - different restaurant, still yummy food and great wine - we grabbed our packs and headed once again into the sunset, this time for the Cinque Terre. Stay tuned...
Posted on 16 Apr 2007 by Anna