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Postcard from Siena, Italy on TravelSnapz

Bell tower in Siena

A bell tower in Siena.

Siena lives up to its reputation as Italy's best preserved medieval city.

Lovely gothic buildings, grand churches, narrow paved streets (in December looking even more beautiful with the Christmas decorations, nativity scenes and lit street-lamps), fine palazzos and spectacular piazzas present an elegant look that is matched by the appearance of the local population doing their seasonal shopping.

Every August the city population swells as people come to see the horse race around the huge, sloping, shell shaped Piazza del Campo. Today the square was all but empty, even the restaurants were having trouble attracting diners.

But the city had a pleasant buzz as people did their Christmas shopping, crowding the narrow streets with their gift-wrapped parcels and boxes (in just about every shop you go into, you will be asked if you want your purchase gift wrapped!).

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A visit to the local Duomo is a must. Plans to increase its already gigantic size in the 14th Century were stymied by the arrival of the Black Death but the building won't disappoint. Neither will the Baptistry, a huge set of steps descending around the rear of the church will get you there.

There is an entrance fee to baptistry area of the church but it is worth the price to see the 15th Century frescoes and sculptures. Richard can attest to the hardness of the marble floor - an unseen step sent him crashing to the pavement with the options of a bent camera or being crippled for life. He is still taking photos but hobbling.

The façade of the church itself is a magnificent example of high Gothic architecture. The unusual black and white alternated stone work on the outside gives it a bit of a Collingwood feel (so what are your football team's colours?), and those that aren't true believers (Collingwood forever!) will be interested in the twisted columns and other decorative effects.

Inside, the best feature (besides the repeated black and white) is probably the mosaic marbled floor designs. You may find that some of the designs are covered to protect them from wear and tear, but there are enough visible to appreciate the artistry.

The cathedral was consecrated in 1189 by Pope Alexander III (a Sienese native).

According to legend, this city was founded by the sons of Remus (of Romulus and Remus fame) and the image of the twins feeding from the she-wolf features both in sculpture around the town and on the design adorning the local cakes.

Siena photos


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