Italy
Piazza Jacopo of Quercia

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6 travelers at this place:

  • Day29

    Siena

    December 11, 2017 in Italy ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    Siena, is a city in central Italy’s Tuscany region, it is surrounded by medieval brick buildings.

    The fan-shaped central square, Piazza del Campo, is the site of the Palazzo Pubblico, the Gothic town hall, and Torre del Mangia, a slender 14th-century tower with sweeping views from its distinctive white crown.

    We went on our own guided walking tour through the city of Siena and the little quant alley ways.

    We looked at shop windows of small little boutique shops , we also love looking inside some churches which we came across on our travels.
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  • Day29

    Facciatone, Siena

    September 27, 2018 in Italy ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Walking out of the Libreria and the Duomo, back into the colours of Siena, the stone and marble, was a huge contrast to what we had just viewed, and now it was time to view Siena from a different viewpoint.

    We decided to make the climb up the 131 step, narrow corkscrew stairway to walk atop the unfinished façade of the Duomo Nuovo. While it wasn’t an excessive number of steps, it was a bit of a dizzying climb as we went around and around the central column of the stairway. I was so glad to get to the top and get out in the fresh air.

    In 1339 the Grand General Council of the Bell officially approved the extension of the cathedral and construction begun. However due to various difficulties and the tremendous plague of 1348 the works were definitively interrupted in 1357. The elements that are visible today are the right nave, which houses a portion of the Opera Museum, and the front that, over time, the inhabitants have kindly called Il Facciatone.

    I have to say I was so happy I made the climb as the breathtaking panoramic views of Siena on top of the Facciatone were awe-inspiring. And seeing the Cathedral and its surrounding piazzas and buildings gave us a whole new perspective of Siena. Although going up and coming down wasn’t that enjoyable the experience was definitely worth it.
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  • Day22

    Walking, wine & more wine!

    September 10, 2017 in Italy ⋅ 🌧 17 °C

    We awoke this morning to a rather dramatic lightening display (shortly followed by thunder and torrential rain) on what was to prove the coldest day of the trip so far! Checking the weather radar we were hopeful given that although there were clearly severe storms about (and even “orange” thunderstorm warnings) they seemed to be centered on Florence and Rome with Siena only getting the edges of one system and then likely to have subsequent rain bands go either side of the area… fingers crossed.
    We had a more leisurely start to the day and then at 10am headed off to walk into Siena (it is about 4km to the Campo) where we met our guide for the “included” walking tour of the city. The guide, who was actually German, was very knowledgeable and told us a great deal about Siena which was in fact first settled over 3000 years ago by the Etruscans (who may have been the first people to grow grapes in the region). Unfortunately, the Romans came along about 2000 years ago and killed all the Etruscans and had a town in the region of Siena also. Siena’s real rise to prominence was in the middle ages (most of Sienna was built by the late middle ages and there are in fact only about 4 Renaissance buildings in the whole town). The city is located on the pilgrim path from Northern Europe to Rome and hence became a stopping point for pilgrims, hence came merchants, bankers (Siena is home to the world’s oldest continually operating bank) and the church of course. In the middle ages it had a population of about 55,000, this is similar to today, although it is still considered a very affluent town with lots of “old money” – this perhaps explains the high prices on the “gelati index”.
    We learned all about the Palio – which is a famous horse race around the Campo (3 laps, unshod horses, bareback riders, sand track) held each year in August and is essentially a competition between the 17 “districts” of the city (they take inter-district competition very seriously in Siena apparently. We wandered about a bit looking at architecture and learning all kinds of interesting facts about the history of the town before ending up at the Cathedral. The square was quieter (no doubt on account of the cold, bitter wind and it being a Sunday) and it was a chance to really appreciate just how ornate the sculptures of the Cathedral’s façade are.
    After the tour we claimed our “cheap” (we had a 2 euro voucher) coffee and traditional Sienese cake from the café near the Duomo and then wandered off for our afternoon tour. Being that we had about an hour and a quarter to fill in we went for a wander down a hill and ended up stumbling across the old city “baths” where the towns people would have come for water and cloths washing – it was really rather lovely and is now the home to some VERY large goldfish. From there we climbed up to another Church – Siena really is rather steep! Although we were well and truly over churches this one was warm and provided a shelter from the wind for a bit. It also held the mummified head (verified as real!!) of St Catherine of Sienna – a very famous saint who could cure the plague and who died of hard work age 33. It was a kind of weird church with the most eclectic mix of furnishings and decorations … think ancient frescos, ultra-modern, psychedelic stained glass, the virgin with an electric light halo, gold leaf alter pieces, renaissance paintings, carved wood work and cheap plastic chairs… I lit a candle to St Catherine and we moved on.
    At 2pm we met up with our guide (Lavinia) and the rest of the group – mostly Americans – for our Chianti tour. This turned out to be a bit of fun. First stop was the village of Castelino – this is about 35 minutes from Siena and quite high in the hills. It is interesting because it was often fought over by Siena and Florence in their wars in the 15th Century and is smack bang in the Chianti grape growing and wine making region. The town is small and walled with a little castle (that’s what the name Castelino means!) but there is an interesting previously “secret” tunnel through the wall so that in times of attack the residents of the town could use it to flee to the safety of the church and the castle – it is about 400 – 500m long and now lined with shops and restaurants. The main industry of the region (apart from tourism) is Chianti – this is now a highly government regulated activity and the growers and wine makers must adhere to very strict rules to be able to call the wine “Chianti Classico” and have the official “black rooster” badge upon it. After a bit on a wander through the town it was back onto the bus for a 40-minute drive to Gimignano.
    The weather was still a tad miserable with grey skies and intermittent showers but the country side which was mainly steep vineyards, olive groves and chestnuts was rather lovely. We duly arrived in Giomangio – this is another hill-top town, but one that always kept out of the rivalry between Siena and Florence. It was also on the pilgrim route and so enjoyed prosperity on that account. It kind of sprawls over the top of a large hill and historically was ruled over by a series of very wealthy families – as each one come to power they would build a tower to show their importance (bigger and better than their predecessor’s). as a consequence, at the peak of the tower building frenzy, there were more than 70 towers in the town. However, a new law was introduced to the region which stated that no tower could be higher than the town hall and so many of the towers ended up getting “cut” down and today there are only really 14 in the town. We had about an hour in Gimignano which is essentially a tourist town and it was swarming – apart from tourist, the industry of the town seems to be Tuscan pottery, wild boar salami, olive wood products and of course Chianti. We wandered about and I was able to find some quieter back streets and a high point to have a good look over the countryside, which, even in the misty conditions, was rather lovely.
    Just after 5 we reassembled and were ushered back on to the bus to be taken a further 30 minutes to a winery where we were able to taste the only white wine made in the region (not bad), a young chianti (6 months in the barrel - ok), a chianti “classico” (12 months in the barrel – better but a little dry), 2 progressively older and heavier reds (the last one had lots of “legs” and was rather nice) and then a very nice dessert wine. There was also virgin olive oil, cheese, a FANTASTIC 30year old balsamic (but at about 40 euro a bottle that wasn’t coming home with us) some chili oil (for with the red wine and salami) and some biscotti to dip in the sweet wine… I think the strategy was to get you so pissed that you agreed to buy several cases and have them shipped. We finally skipped out of there a little before 7 (having resisted the urge to purchase) and then it was back on the bus to Siena and a brisk walk up the hill to the hotel.
    Diner was a delayed affair with the large german group and tired seeming staff meaning we were still waiting to have our main course arriave after 9, the waitress had assured me she would have a “lovely surprise” for me in terms of fish… well it was certainly a surprise…but not lovely… urrgg a whale, scaly looking fish with eyes looking at me – I gave up in despair, had my desert and went to bed!
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Piazza Jacopo of Quercia

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