Saturday, 7 May 2011

Florence the ninth - Siena

Siena is brilliant. It's in the hills and it's all up-and-down with sudden views and roads that wind around the slopes. The historic centre is an amazing maze of medieval streets. I'm surprised David Bowie wasn't wandering around in tights, telling people that they remind him of the babe.

I took this through a gate. It's just someone's front yard. Bastard.

Romulus and Remus on a pole match. There are Romulii and Remii on poles all over the place because legend says that Remus's son founded Siena. Good thing the wolf didn't get hungry like the wolf or we'd have had no Rome or Siena.

Facade of the Siena Cathedral.

I didn't hang around too long at the cathedral because there was a noisy trade union protest going on. It says something like "WE pay, THEY enjoy the crisis", and "Italians without money...?" Perhaps something to do with Berlusconi's trial?

The back of the cathedral. The wall up the steps is part of an unfinished extension to the cathedral where they were planning to make the existing nave (aisle axis) into the transepts (across axis) and build a massive new nave, but the plague came and the money ran out and TV was invented and now all that's there is two walls and no roof. And a buttload of trade unionists.

The inner courtyard of Palazzo Chigi-Saracini, which used to be a private house and is now a music school. Some most pleasant harping or fluting or whatever was wafting down.

View down to the Piazza del Campo.

Piazza del Campo. It's hard to photograph, but rather than being the usual square it's fan-shaped. This is where Siena holds its famous bareback horse race, the Palio.

Fountain at the top of the campo. I seem to have developed a disorder where water features make me thirsty.

The tower is called Torre del Mangia, Tower of the Eater, because its first bell-ringer usually spent all his money on food.

Piazza del Campo from in front of the tower.

View from the market square. Gorgeous!

More gorgeous! Aside from the bins, I guess, but anything that ensures I'm not shin-deep in garbage is alright with me.

Sienese alleyway *pant*

Siena is also the home of Italian Pokemon, not because there's actual Pokemon, but because it's divided up into districts, each one represented by an animal or symbol that decorates the area, and you gotta catch 'em all. Or at least I gotta - most people just looked at me weird for taking photos of walls. But I caught:

Little owl

These are the flags of all the districts. In the Palio each rider belongs to a district, so the whole thing's about local rivalry, with each district having its ally and enemy districts. I once read a novel set in Siena during the Palio that explained that winning was not necessarily such a great thing because then there were bribes to be paid and parties to be thrown - but apparently the real shame is coming second, heh.


  1. I wish I could say I lived in the giraffe district. Oh, and a whole lot of these pics look very Twilight-y. Like Edward is going to step out of the bell tower & sparkle.

  2. Well played Ang. Giraffe is the most affluent district.

    Apparently that Italy bit of Twilight was filmed just down the road. So while Siena gets pilgrims to visit the home of St Catherine, Montepulciano gets pilgrims to visit the place where Robert Pattinson took his shirt off.

  3. OMGGGGG Roberttttt!

    Just kidding! Although I also started thinking about Twilight and that place I can't remember ... town of vampires, whatever.

    Also, I would totally go round taking the same sort of pictures! If they're going to make the effort to have districts and emblems and things, that's what you gotta do.

    Also-also, I was like omg, what, bareback horse racing?, because I thought the riders wore no clothes. I don't even know. Enter at your own risk, though.

  4. I'm embarrassed about almost being right with my Twilight geography.
    Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go polish my giraffe plaque.