Siena is an Italian hilltop town lying to the south of Florence in Tuscany.
Being a hilltop town it is of course hilly. And in the center is the beautiful Piazza del Campo. It is a huge, perspective-bending Piazza built on a slope leading down to the Torre del Mangia. Walking into the fan-shaped Piazza truly is confusing to the senses.
Next to the tower is the museum – as run down as a faded heirloom.
The next photo here shows the threatening sky above the Piazza. It did not rain, but see how dramatic the scene is.
And see how big the space is: Walking down into the Piazza is dizzying.
There’s a horse race very year, when horses race around the Piazza. Look in the cafes and shops and you will see photographs of previous horse races displayed on the walls.
One photo we liked was from the 1960s, with crowds behind barracades erected in the Piazza. The horses were galloping past at a furious pace.
It’s fitting too, seeing that the Piazza del Campo is on the site of a Roman forum.
The Duomo In Siena
Up the hill from the Piazza is the Duomo. Another white marble edifice like in Florence. You might think it would be more commanding given its elevated position. In fact it is less impressive. Maybe it is a case of ‘once you have seen one white marble church you have seen them all’ or perhaps it is because it is smaller.
Or perhaps it is the design. The campanile (bell tower) is integrated into the building, unlike in Florence where the campanile stands on its own as another piece of marble magnificence.
Or it could be that the building speaks of the magnificence that did not happen. The guide books say that the intention was to expand the Duomo so that it would be bigger than the Vatican in Rome. But in 1348, less than ten years after work began, the Black Death killed half the people of Siena and work on the cathedral stopped.
The real difference here compared to Florence is on the inside of the building. The contrasting stone and the interwoven arches are wonderful.
Here’s a tip. You need a ticket to go into the cathedral. Perhaps you are the kind of person who objects to paying to go inside a church. Perhaps you don’t want to traipse around to the ticket office that is in a separate building towards the rear of the church.
Well the walk is not that far and there are two kinds of tickets: free and not-free. To go around the ground floor of the Duomo you only need a free ticket. To see the library and to go down into the lower floor, you need to pay for a ticket.
Why, you might wonder, do they require even free visitors to have a free ticket? We wondered the same. We even thought for a moment of asking. We didn’t ask but we decided between ourselves that the tickets acted as a kind of clicker to monitor who was in the building. Come closing time they would know how many people they needed to usher out.