Siena, Tuscany, Italy 12/2013

February 16, 2014

On the way to Rome, Siena had never really been on Gary’s main wish list but so many people raved about it we had to check it out. Like Florence, there were a lot of things to see, so we again had to make a careful selection. As it turned out everything of most importance was all in one place; the Cathedral, the Baptistery of St. John, the Cathedral’s Piccolomini Library, the Museum and its attached Tower, and the underground excavations of the Crypt.

The Cathedral (Il Duomo) was as marvelous as expected with its multi-columned midrif. The ornately painted dome could give you a stiff neck just admiring it. The inlaid marble mosaic floor covering the whole Cathedral is one of the most ornate of its kind in Italy. The copy of the stained-glass window by Duccio di Buoninsegna was captivating as the sun filtered through it. (The original is safely displayed in the museum, see photo below.) The Cathedral’s Library was exquisite. The frescoes on the walls of the Baptistery had such detail that they seemed lifelike. Of course we had to climb the currently being renovated museum tower for the view.

Despite its name and location, the Cripta is not exactly a crypt – it was never used for burials. It was constructed at the same time as the Duomo – in the 13th century. Expansion work on the choir beginning in 1317 required dismantling the crypt’s vault, while the construction of the baptistery soon destroyed the facade. The crypt was subsequently used as a storeroom for construction materials and then closed up for good.

It lay unseen for nearly 700 years until its re-discovery during routine excavations in the Duomo in 1999. The frescoes had been remarkably preserved. Flash photography was not permitted, but bumping the ASA up to 1600 we were able to get a few impressions.

As a special bonus, we noticed that there was an exhibit by Steve McMurry, the famous National Geographic and Magnum photographer, best known for his memorable portrait of ”The Afghan Girl”. In one word, the exhibit, now traveling around Europe, is “spectacular”! For us, being photographers and especially liking pictures of the people, it was a real education just studying his techniques for taking the amazing portraits he had captured from around the world.

The city of Siena was a delight to wander about. The town is also famous for its hand-painted pottery. The temptation to take some along was met with the probability that it would never reach California unbroken. Before we left, we stumbled upon a little coffee roaster shop and picked up the owner’s favorite blend.

One Response to “Siena, Tuscany, Italy 12/2013”

  1. On the way to Rome, Siena had never really been on Gary’s main wish list but so many people raved about it we had…

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