Siena. 12/29/18

Today we visit the beautiful cathedral of Siena. It is practically on our doorstep. First we stop for a quick breakfast at Bar 4 Cantoni where there is an array of pastries and sandwiches. Everyone picks what they like best and we all choose cappuccino, of course.

Pastries and sandwiches at Bar 4 Cantoni near the Siena Cathedral

Then it is off to the Siena Cathedral. While John is buying tickets Sarah and I wandering around the outside taking pictures.

3/4 view of Siena Cathedral
Front of Siena Cathedral
Mary in front of doors of Siena Cathedral
Close up of Mary with Judith holding the head of Holofernes whom she beheaded

Once inside you are struck by the immense space and the amazing marble inlaid floors. Giorgio Vasari described the floor as “the most beautiful…largest, and most magnificent…that ever was made.” Early floors had figures scratched in while later ones were made of intricate pieces.

A look towards the altar of the Siena Cathedral
Marble floor etching. “Hello, Mr. Wolf,” said Mr. Lion. “Let’s be friends.”

There is one large floor inlay which shows the emblems of nearby cities. We have been to nearly every one!

Floor inlay of the symbol of Siena

Hanging off the main church on the left is the Piccolomini Library which was begun in 1495 for Cardinal Francesco Piccolomini who later became Pope Pius III. Inside is a priceless collection of illunimated 15th century musical manuscripts. On the walls are frescoes depicting the life of the cardinal’s uncle who became Pope Pius II.

Piccolomini Library with frescoes by Pinturicchio and his pupils 1502-1508
Detail from an illuminated choral manuscript

Another highlight of the cathedral is the Pisano Pulpit. It was carved by Nicola Pisano and his students from 1256 to 1268. The octagonal pulpit is held aloft by nine columns some of which stand on stone lions. It is full of Christian stories and symbols.

Pisano Pulpit

A few more pictures of the beautiful Siena Cathedral.

Main altar
More floor carving and inlay. In one piece of floor is Crates who preached virtue of poverty.
A naked lady, a personification of Fortune,  just under Crates is balancing one foot on a sphere and the other on a boat with a broken mast with a sail in one hand and a cornucopia in the other ????

We have all been keeping touch with each other while we look around at the things that interest us most. Now we all head to the Opera del Duomo which holds other artwork of the cathedral.

The most significant work housed here is Duccio’s Maesta, a very large altarpiece painted in 1308-1311. There are over 40 figures on the front and over 80 on the back where the Passion of Christ is depicted.

Madonna and Child enthroned with angels and saints
Last Supper from the black of the altarpiece

On the upper floor are other 13th century artworks by Sienese painters.

Early Madonna and Child
Madonna of the Large Eyes,, Sienese master 1200’s

After a long morning’s work of looking at all sorts of wonderful art, we head to  Il Ghibellino where we had eaten an iffy lunch on a previous trip. This lunch also had some iffy components, especially Ryan’s.

Ryan’s malfatti which turned out to be giant spinach and ricotta dumplings

After lunch we head back to the cathedral complex. We visit the Baptistry and everyone but I visit the Crypt. At this point I could not walk up the millions of steps with no railings on uneven stone. I head back to the hotel and give my poor knee a little rest.

I have many pictures from prior trips of the baptismal font and the great frescoes. This time I zeroed in on Sienese Andrea Vanni’s 14th century altarpiece.

Andrea Vanni’s 14th century altarpiece in the Baptistry

I quite like the fact that St. Stephen with the rocks on his head to the left of the Virgin has the exact same head position and look as the Virgin. the elongated head and thin, slanted eyes are real hallmarks of Sienese Renaissance art.

Later we go out to the campo for some drinks and free food. Tonight we get white pizza and crostini with our drinks. It is hard to take much in the way of pictures because it is really foggy.

Fog on the Campo

San Gimignano and Siena. 12/28/18

We are packed up and ready to go when the taxi comes to take us to the airport so we can pick up our rental car. We have rented 7 passenger Ford Galaxy that we can all, plus our luggage, fit in (but barely.) Our first stop is San Gimignano, the famous “tower” city. Encircled by 13th-century walls, the town centers on a square lined with medieval houses. It has a skyline of medieval towers giving it the nickname as the Manhattan of Italy. The Collegiate church of  San Gimignano is a 12th-century church with frescoes by Ghirlandaio.

Medieval houses
Sarah in the square
Ryan and Jon and towers
Collegiate church of San Gimignano

From the moment you step on the portico of the church there are fabulous frescoes such as this Annunciation.

Annunciation in portico, by Sebastiano Mainardi and dated 1482.

Inside the church is resplendent with frescoes, some by Ghirlandaio and most from the 14th century.

Overview of church
Left wall
Right wall
Back wall – the Seven Deadly sins

There are three tiers of fresco stories on the side walls. The top lunettes are creation stories, the middle register has. Old Testament stories,  and the bottom tier is New Testament. I have pictures of everything but I will just put a couple in.

Lunette- Creation of Eve
The Last Supper

Speaking of the last supper, it is past time for lunch and we eat at Antica  Marcellaria.

I have a delicious plate of tagliatelle with truffles, Ryan has pici with tomatoes, and Jon orders papardelle with rabbit ragu
Sarah, every adventurous, orders rabbit cacciatore while John has osso buco

We all take a look at the museum of the church, then Sarah goes to get gelato, Jon and Ryan climb a tower and find an interesting museum, and John and I take a leisurely stroll and find an overlook to take a picture of the beautiful Tuscan countryside.

Tuscan countryside as seen from the hill town of San Gimignano

We proceed to the car park and make our way to the garage outside of Siena where we will shed ourselves of the car and be driven to the hotel by the garage attendant. There are few cars allowed in Siena old town and we are right in the midst of it as our hotel is right across the street from the Baptistry.

View of the Baptistry from our room

Later we head to Siena’s campo for drinks and snacks under the outdoor warming lamps

Ryan, Jon and Sarah at Bar Il Campo
Mary and John