Florence, Italy: Return to Siena

Do you ever return somewhere and see it in such simpler terms? Whenever I return to a place I’ve lived, the streets that wound around so complicatedly seem simple; the pace of the place seems so less rushed. The return trips lose the magical “newness” of the first visit, but make up for that loss with a sense of familiarity. Siena is now one of those places.

I don’t want to imply that I know the city; by no means! The major sites aren’t intimidating for me anymore, however. When I first went to Siena, it was raining and cold. Earlier today, it was just cold.

I went via autobus. Surprisingly, the bus system isn’t as easy as I expected. You buy the tickets and board the bus whenever you want to (providing it’s going to the place you have a ticket for). Well, there’s a difference in the two busses to Siena: “diretta” and “rapida.” I’m still going to need to check to make sure I understand the difference, but I rode one on the way there and a different one on the return trip.

Departing for Siena I took the “diretta” bus, since I assumed it was the fastest. We went through about six towns on the way making several stops in each town. Imagine a city’s bus transport system and extend it across the province and that’s what this was. I’m not going to complain, since I normally like bus rides. It took a little longer, but it also allowed me more sleep time (something I do incredibly well on buses). At the end of the day I took the “rapida” back and there were only two stops — much better!

When I arrived in Siena I was a man on a mission. Dr. Plate, one of my Religion professors, is writing a work on different artist’s connotations of “horns.” (I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with him teaching at the “horn”-ed frog university — seriously, no sarcasm there.) In the Civic Museum in the City Hall is a room full of a fresco cycle by Ambrogio Lorenzetti. The cycle is called “Good and Bad Government” and is the author’s (and town’s) implications of the cause-effect nature of the different governing styles. In it, the “tyrannus” of the bad government is a devil character with insane horns and teeth. My mission: to get a good picture that he might be able to use in publication. When I arrived at the museum, there were signs all over the place saying no photography allowed. Steathily, I got a couple of good ones, but they’re from the vantage point of the viewer (in my view, the correct one — since that’s where EVERYONE sees it from), which is lower and looking up. Just to be safe (and to make sure there was a backup plan), I got a print in the gift shop. :)

After that museum, I headed up to the Duomo. The Siena Duomo is one of the most complex and intricate buildings I’ve ever seen. Anyone who walked inside with ADD would be a disaster by the time they walked out. When I got to the Duomo, I was about to go up the steps and looked over and saw one of the nearby buildings is having a special exhibit on Raphael and Caravaggio. What was I going to say to that? “OKAY!!!”

The exhibit was great, which surprised me. Both of those artists’ best works are in the painting exhibit in the Vatican, and aren’t going anywhere. Luckily, they each had enough great ones that this exhibit showcased them nicely. They could have set the museum up better; I ended up doing the gallery backwards (luckily my audio headset was programmable) because when I tried from the front all of the paths were blocked off. Making it through the labyrinth of the 3-story museum was the biggest accomplishment of the day.

After finishing that exhibit, I went to the Duomo. Most cathedrals are busy year-round. Florence’s recently got to the point where the line doesn’t exist. Siena, apparently, has been there for a while. When I went, there were less than 20 people in the entire cathedral! The last time I went it had somewhere around 400 people. The low-tourism season is THE time to visit these places! It’s also better to visit at the end because I could see the specific works we’d talked about in my Art History class. Jeremy, the Accent excursions coordinator, had given us a great tour before, but this time I could move around in the cathedral and take my time.

Mid-afternoon I decided I’d seen enough and headed back to Florence. When I got to Siena it was overcast and foggy at times. When I left, it was a deep blue sky without a chance of rain — just the kind of weather to return to Florence with. :)

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