Dynargh dhe'n Blogofrob

Wednesday 24th September 2003

siena

It was nearly a month ago since Claire and I set off on holiday and over two weeks since we returned, so, true to the laggardly nature of the Italian postal system, this is my brief postcard.

As evidenced by a slightly odd entry in the guestbook we initially stayed in Siena for a few days, despite the fact that on the way to Florence airport the plane was diverted and a fairly protracted journey ensued in order to get to Siena before sundown, and thus avoid the slightly disturbing prospect of being stranded somewhere in the Tuscan country-side all night (would have been quite fun, come to think of it).

Siena is beautiful and welcoming. It is compact, almost entirely squeezed into its medieval city walls, but infinitely explorable, full of lanes and small roads stacked on different levels and winding in a way which tortures the hapless wanderer's sense of direction. Our hotel was just outside one of the city gates. It was (almost) perfect and the view from our room was stunning - my meagre descriptive powers wouldn't really do it justice, so I give up, only saying we could see for miles across the gentle hills of Tuscany. As this is just a postcard I shall only list art, a contrade procession, ice creams, towers, food (pasta, cheese, scallops, lard...), a liqorice allsort cathedral and a saint's decapitated head. Siena, I hope to return soon.

A cheap bus ride later we were in Florence, crowded and dirty - a strange contrast to Siena: the heart of the Renaissance but somewhere, that on first aquaintance, after Siena, seems to be less artful and less civilised. But the treasures are mainly inside - although the Duomo is impressive and huge, it is caked with dirt and jostling tourists make wandering outside it slightly uncomfortable. The Dome however is huge, and a climb to the top was worth it for the views and an appreciation of the engineering and scale of the building...but as I said, inside was the place to be: The Pitti Palace, the Uffizi (for which we didn't queue at all), various other Cathedrals - bringing with them the tombs or memorials of Dante, Michaelangelo, Galileo, bewildering frescoes - and an inexhaustible supply of Byzantine, Renaissance and Mannerist religious art. The quality and quantity of art is overwhelming and other distractions included the Boboli Gardens, Leonardo's graffiti, Fiesole (a nearby hill town, which offered views of Florence akin to those you would get landing in a plane (assuming it hadn't been redirected to Bologna)), much more food including some very discerning pasta and meat purchases at the indoor food market, and a few bug bites.

A few things conspired through the week to make the holiday appear, if I detailed them here, less than perfect. But it was the most fun and happy holiday I've had because, as if it needs saying, for every plane re-direction there's an evening by the Arno that cancels it out many times over.

33 - posted at 06:49:58
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