Jeff's Blog - Friday, September 26, 2014 - Siena

Siena was lots of fun. The main piazza, Il Campo, is awesome; it's a huge sloping seashell-shaped bowl where people lay out on towels and blankets as if it was a beach. The bottom of the shell has the city hall with the tallest tower in Europe (probably qualified somehow, I don't know), and the top of the shell is lined with caf├ęs. The city streets radiate outward from here. This morning the bottom of the shell was being setup with a stage, and a band is playing a free concert right now (it's about 5:30). I suppose it'll go on all evening with different acts. Anyhow, this morning first thing when it opened I climbed the 450 stairs to the top of the tower. Very narrow steps winding around the inside of the tall square tower; the only space to pass the climbers on the way back down was in the corners, while sucking the gut inward. The views for the top were fantastic -- the red tile rooftops of the city, the churches sticking up from the mass of buildings, the things that look like monasteries off in the distant hills, and the mountains on the horizon. From there I went to Siena Cathedral, even better than Pisa's, with inlaid-marble floors, stained glass, TWO Bernini sculptures, two early Michelangelos, etc. The front facade and bell tower are in the photo below. As you can see, gorgeous day, low 70s and never a cloud all day. After lunch my first stop was Santa Maria Della Scala, my favorite for today. This was a medieval hospital, now a museum. I thoroughly enjoyed two hours exploring the beautiful display about the restoration of the town fountain (also in Il Campo), the hospital's numerous chapels, the outstanding treasury of religious relics, and a huge collection of Etruscan artifacts, which I enjoyed most of all. The Etruscan were the pre-Rome civilization in this area, and the 4th through 6th kings of Ancient Rome (about 620-520 BC) were Etruscans. The larger-still Etruscan museum in Rome doesn't permit photos so lot is faded from my memory; this museum allowed photos and I went beyond my quota today. Sorry, I know you'd have preferred an Etruscan cremation mini-sarcophagus-urn for today's photo, but I used only the camera at the museum. After this museum the day went downhill -- the Cathedral's museum and crypt don't permit photos (I absolutely HATE that), and the Bapistry was ok, but well, you know, it's just an authentic Italian Bapistry. Early tomorrow morning is a bus ride back to Florence where I catch a fast train to Rome, see two superb museums near the train station where I'm looking forward to peeling off the next layer of detail now that I understand the layer above, an afternoon visit to the Baths of Diocletian to freshen up, supper in a restaurant built into an exedra of the baths (I'll be the guy taking pictures during supper) and an evening fast train to Naples where I'll sleep it all off.

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