From Siena, Italy
I recently went to Italy for a week and was able to visit many cities within the northern part of the country, including Rome, Florence, Venice, Lucca, Siena, San Gimignano, and Pisa. One day of my trip was dedicated to a tour of four of these locations (Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, and Lucca). While I was there, I decided to keep a record of my observations and first impressions of each of them. This first anecdote is about my experience in Siena.
I don’t know what to write, but I feel inspired to pick up my pen in these surroundings. In the town square of Siena, with the clock tower in view, we sit at a cafe to order hot drinks to warm us from the chilly spring morning air. The shutters of windows are beginning to open and families take an early morning walk with their dogs in the square. A local couple kiss and a tour guide calls for his group to reassemble in the center. At the cafe, everyone sits facing the square, not each other. You can see your loved ones at any time, but this view is too beautiful to not absorb as you sit here, even for the locals. The shops and restaurants surround the square, whose ground is tilted, feeling as though the ground is sinking in, in the middle. The deep orange-red bricks of the city are so unique that Crayola created a color named “burnt Siena.”
The Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral is decorated lavishly inside and out. Inside, the checkered floors and thick, sturdy columns are black and ivory. Gold embellishments glimmer throughout. As your eyes travel around the cathedral, it goes from one grand painting to another. Reliefs and sculptures of former popes adorn the walls. Their faces look like that of the same four old men, repeated with different expressions. Every spot on these walls, ceilings, and floors are covered. It’s difficult to concentrate on just one piece. There is a soft hum unique to places of worship. A toddler races away from her mother, and when her mother tries to hold her in place by her hood, she hops, inch by inch, trying to escape again. Her laughter is playful. It’s a welcome addition to the hum. A curly, dark-haired woman in a white jacket lights a small candle and places it amongst the others. She kneels, folds her hands, and says a prayer.
This is Siena.