On Sunday we took a day trip to Sienna. It was many years since our last trip on a long ago vacation. We are only 1 1/2 hours away by car on pretty good roads. We had thought last summer to go but decided to wait until there would be less people. We parked in one of the numerous lots and walked into the center. The Piazza is one of the largest I’ve ever seen and it is where they hold the Palio horse race two times a year. The city is divided into 17 contrade, or distinct neighborhoods each centered on a main street with a church. They each have a banner with animals or symbols to identify them and each contrada has its own long history and complicated set of heraldic and semi-mythological associations. The neighborhoods are fiercely competitive and each contrada has a horse running in the Palio. I am told if you marry outside of your contrada each member of the couple still must remain loyal to their own contrada and split up for the meetings and to cheer on your horse.
Enough of the history. There is tons more. This Sunday happened to be one of two weekends a year that they have a really big market in the Piazza. About half of the vendors were food sellers. The rest were selling clothes, scarves, hats, and trinkets. Here are a few photos of the market. This one shows the scope of this square and the market.
These are not contrade flags. We thought they may have been the flag of the Hapsburgs who used to rule the city. They were pretty anyway so I took their picture.
The Duomo is one of the prettiest in Italy in my opinion. It was hard to get a picture. The facade was so ornate.
Inside the cathedral.
Beautiful marble scenes embedded in the floor. Vibrantly colorful. They keep them covered mostly, and randomly uncover some for a while. You can’t walk on them.
We also toured the building across from the Duomo. It was the first hospital not run by the church and was built for the common folks as well as the wealthy. They spared no expense on the frescoes inside! A civic hospital dedicated to caring for abandoned children, the poor, the sick, and pilgrims. It is the oldest surviving hospital in the world. According to legend, the Hospital was founded in 898 by a cobbler named Sorore. However, the first known document mentioning it is a “deed of gift” from March 29, 1090. Too bad we don’t care for our sick like the Sienese did way back then.
Frescoes in the hospital.
And finally…lunch! We had an excellent lunch at PorriOne. Very upscale food. Very unusual combinations
I didn’t take a photo but they brought a scoop of gelato kind of as a free pre-dessert. It was sprinkled with coarse salt and drizzled with fruity olive oil. Amazing combination and it worked!