Siena

Siena is known for its art. I am sure I’ve even heard people say it’s more beautiful than Florence, though I suspect the truth is that it’s easier to get at the art, and there’s less distance to travel between attractions. It is certainly a lovely city; plenty of tourists, yet not as crazy as Florence, and its two-hour queue for the Duomo.

Piazza del Campo, Siena
This is where the Palio (horse race) takes place. Plenty of people just sitting on the (sloping) ground in the centre.

As with so many of the cities in Italy, it is on a hill, so there’s plenty of climbing if you walk much of it, but there are views from all over the place.

View over unlovely Siena flats, to green fields and forested hills beyond
View over the edge of Siena.
A view between two houses, the ground drops away to houses on a hillside
A view between two houses.

I wandered into town, a couple of kms from the Siena hostel, then a couple more to actually get to the centre, passing brick buildings, statues and views periodically. As walks go, it was ever so relaxing, because of all the sights.

Quite by chance, I found my way to the Palazzo Salimbeni, which is a popular spot. It is also a great one to stumble upon if you’re not in the mood to stop for long, because although it is picturesque, and may be mobbed with people, you can’t actually go in the Palazzo. Stop, look, picture, um, yeah.

14th Palazzo Salimbeni
14th Palazzo Salimbeni, popular for photos, especially right as this moment.

I was wondering if I considered looking at the beautiful architecture enough, or should check to see where might be good to see some art. Then, at the end of a nondescript street, I popped into a church.

I’m sure the place is in many a guidebook, but it seems typical of Siena (particularly as I clicked through photos of other churches, trying to find out which one this was) that this place is stunning, yet had only four other people in it at the time. There’s a small museum out the back, as well, with livery and clothes.

Impressed by the art, I went back to strolling about through the streets; buildings are impressive, churches sometimes small and part of the street, sometimes grand, and there is detail, gargoyles, statues, everywhere.

A view over the tops of trees, houses to either side and away in the distance
A view from a high point.

After a little longer, I found myself at the Cathedral, which is grand, even from the slightly more austere back side. The front rises grandly, with a few steps in front for people to stand on and gawp. The queue for entry looked a little long, though apparently you can buy tickets online to avoid some of the effort. And go earlier than I did.

I spent time over a couple of days just walking through the streets, up and down hills and sometimes flights of steps, just taking in the views, then losing myself in narrower alleyways (many of which are roads, so watch for cars careering round corners) before emerging to more architectural beauty. It’s a lovely city.

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