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When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!

P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).

I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.

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November 07, 2015

S is for Saturday & Siena


Well, not my best outing ever.  I got a nice early (for me) start, catching a 10:30 bus which put me in Siena around noon as I recall.  My first stop was going to be Tourist Information office which has been in every town I've ever visited - always with a nice visible blue sign with a big white "I" in the center.  And they are usually located near train or bus stations so I got off the bus and nowhere was there one.  I asked somewhere and they waved their arm here and there like people seem to do so as I walked I kept asking people and found that the place the first person told me about had closed and now you had to go in some other direction to find one.  Siena was designed, I think, by a diabolical demon - you go up to this and down to that.  Down to that and up to this - stairs, very steep roads, it is really strange.  It's on top of a hill, of course, but I don't exactly know why some things are so much higher than other things.  Anyway, I finally, with more help, found the place and it wasn't the standard TIO.  But they had a map which you paid 1E for (no problem but they don't do that at TIO's) and got me started.  Long story short, with still much confusion as to where things were and how to get to them and different advice from different people, I finally managed to get to Siena's Duomo.  When I found it I was at the Baptistery entrance where I could buy a ticket for 8E and see everything which was very reasonable.  But they didn't take credit cards and my bus tickets had cost a fair amount more than I thought and I'd paid euros for them so I asked where an ATM was and, of course it was up the long flight of stairs to the piazza on which the front entrance of the cathedral is located.  Huffed my way up there and looked all around - no ATM.  Went into the cathedral book store and turns out you're not supposed to use it but there's one in there and they let me use it.  So I then said "now can I go in the cathedral instead of back down to the Baptistery?"  And no, I couldn't - I had to buy my ticket at the Baptistery.  So back down I went.  Then, of course, when I was ready to visit the cathedral, back up I went.  Arrrrgh!!!  But it was beautiful inside - both the baptistery, the cathedral, the Picollini Library (I think they call it that) and the crypt was quite interesting.

You won't get a very good idea of all that from my pictures because I discovered my camera was set for wide pictures on the function setting for size of picture and I could NOT get it unset so all the pictures came out either tall and skinny, or short and wide.  At some point after I was all done, I suddenly remembered that I had set the camera to "automatic" rather than "program" where it usually is and that is why it was stuck on W - I couldn't do any programming.  Arrrrrgh again.

So here are my strange but at least somewhat indicative photos and I'm embarrassed to admit that with all the misdirection, physical exertion, back and forth and up and down, that's all I accomplished on my visit to Siena.  By the time we got back to Florence, it was going on 7:00 p.m.!  And my own stupidity certainly played a part.  I had torn out the Siena pages from my Rick Steves guidebook and brought them with me and as I was getting more and more lost and turned around I remembered "oh yeah, I should have brought those along".

This is Siena's one remaining tower and it's a tall one.  And if they hadn't built it in a deep declivity but instead up on a level with a lot of the rest of the town, it would be even taller!

 The outside of the cathedral and I had all sorts of problems going on with the camera - the sky was no where near this dark a blue of course.
 This is the steep, long stair case that I went up and down several times.  I'm standing at the very top and those little bitty people are at the very bottom.
 Next we go into the baptistery - and just as the sky was not such a dark blue, the baptistery was not this red.  I did as much editing as I could but...Anyway, whatever the camera problems the baptistery was one riot of frescoes - incredibly colorful, busy, and beautiful.

 The baptismal font - the brownish panels are bronze panels each by famous artists of the day - Donatello and Ghiberti are two - Ghiberti is the artist who did the bronze and gilded Gates of Paradise doors on the baptistery at "my" Duomo.
 A small portion of the baptistery ceiling.  And then on to the crypt.
 I basically didn't understand anything I was seeing but it was a very large space and in several places they had thick glass in the floor so you could look down and see that there were further levels below.  I read several places that the frescoes had "recently" been discovered and I really don't understand that.  If the crypt itself has been here and known about for however long, why did they just recently discover the frescoes?
 I think this one must have been touched up or repainted or something.  All the other ones were in fairly poor shape and this one was bright and complete.



 Now we're in the cathedral.  The black and white marble here and on the outside sides of the cathedral were a popular way of beautifying cathedrals.  I've seen several with this and pictures of others.  And when you're in the church seeing it all, it doesn't look as much like prison uniforms as this picture conveys. :)
 The pulpit - It would need quite an orator to do it justice, I'd say.

 Beautiful rose window with again a great chandelier hanging in front of it.
I was trying to get a picture of a row of heads that goes down the length of the nave(?) on each side and this wasn't the best way but I ended up liking the picture so here it is.
 The organ and below, across from it the hornpipes.

 Here's the row of heads (many more than this) and they are each named.

 The altar with the rose window and huge chandelier above.
 The dome and the bright circle is a beautiful blue background with gold stars and then a skylight which makes it unphotographable.
 A side chapel but the only one that was all white stone and relative plain compared to most of the others.
 Just a portion of the ceiling in the Picollini Library.  This room looked like it would be a sacristy because it had the customary benches going around the room but when I asked a docent about that he said no, it was on the other side of the cathedral.  I explained that the reason I thought that was because of the benches and he said well, that was true so this was kind of a sacristy which sort of tickled me.  The reason I asked him about it is because of the picture below.  I just am not real sure why this statue would be in the sacristy of the cathedral!



 There were 10 of these frescoes going around three sides of the room - every surface completely covered with beautiful paintings.


And so, that's it - made my way back to the bus stop with not too many stops to ask for help and then had to figure out where to stand to catch the bus I needed, once again getting different answers to the question.  I finally saw a bus come in that said Siena Rapida and I wanted the Florence Rapida so thought that might be going back and asked the driver as he got off.  He said "no" obviously unhappy to be asked a question and I thought mean things about him.  And, of course, when I saw a bunch of people starting to board that bus I asked one of them was it the Florence bus and she said "yes, but it's the ordinara not the rapida.  Maybe the bus driver could have told me that?  Apparently not.

Came home and rested a bit and a little after seven went back to Enzo e Piero for my dinner.  This time I ordered a delicious ravioli (I've only ever ordered appetizers and sometimes a soup there) and some grilled vegetables and was not disappointed.

Now I'm going to sleep so buena notte.


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