italy travelogue
Day 14. November 1, 2000. Florence, San Gimignano, Sienna.
Medieval Cities.

November first is All Saints Day, which is a big holiday in Italy. Most of the country closes down, though the museums and churches are open for everyone to enjoy on their day off.

san gimignanoWhen we woke up we discovered that the slow leak from the bathroom wall near the bidet has made it's way out to Allan's shoe laces, but not as far as his backpack. We packed as if to leave before eating breakfast, and told the front desk they could move us if they needed to work on the bathroom. At 08:30 we boarded the bus for the optional excursion to Sienna and San Gimignano. First we went to San Gimignano, where we walked up a steep slope to the city gates, then walked up further to the church and defensive wall towers. Jane photographed the city and the countryside from the tower on the wall. We had gelati and then shopped for a leather case for Allan which we decided not to get. We were the last ones back to the bus, five minutes late.

plazzo publicoWe arrived in Sienna shortly after noon and got oriented. Allan's first priority was lunch. We found a pizzaria a few streets off of Il Campo plaza. At 13:30 we met our local guide, Donatella. We got an explanation of Il Campo, the tower and city hall, medieval city planning, trade routes and cultural centers. Donatella also told us about the annual Palio horse race in which the 17 sectors of the city each enter a horse. Each city section has an animal mascot and flies their banners on their street corners. The horse race is around the perimeter of Il Campo.

pulpitWe left the city center and went to the Duomo, which has green stripes inside and out. There is a large area which was to have been a grand addition -- but construction was cut short when the black death decimated the local population. Across from the Duomo there is a Hospital / hostel / orphanage in Sienna which has been renowned thoughout Europe for centuries for its medical excellence.

Inside the Duomo the marble floor tells stories. There are Romanesque, Byzantine and gothic sections in layers as well as the expansion which was stopped by plague 1348. The Duomo is also home to a Pisano pulpit (one of four) which is a "capolavoro" or crowning labor -- the highest honorific in a country fiulled with masterpieces. Artists like Michelangelo, who created the Picolomini tomb here, came to see and learn from this example of the Pisanos' innovative revival of contrappasto in figural sculpture.

duomoDonatella also told us a little about Santa Caterina, the patron saint of Italy, and of Europe since 1999. She was an unlettered ambassador of peace in 14th century. Caterina encouraged the Popes' return from France to Rome. During the lecture, Donatella chastized several people for distracting and being distracted instead of paying attention.

Outside Santa Caterina church we listened to the crowd at the Sienna - Venezia football match. They were an enthusiastic lot. Then we went back to the bus with a stop by the fountain outside the city wall. Back at the hotel we had a nap and then went hunting for food. We found good pizzas at the LeFollie restaurant next to our hotel, then had a walk before returning and going to bed.


Allan West and
Jane Dominguez