Siena, a medieval city in Italy

in Haveyoubeenhere2 months ago

A while ago I posted a taster of my travels to Tuscany in Italy. I went to six places, Florence, Siena, San Gimignano, Pisa, Lucca and San Miniato. There is so much to talk about in each place. And I'm going to start with my base in Siena first, a medieval city and UNESCO World Heritage Site. I stayed here at my friend, Chris's place as he was working in town for a few years.
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Piazza del Campo

Many European cities have some sort of plaza or square which is the focal point of the city. Siena is no different. Where it differs is the shape of piazza, like a shell shape and that it slopes towards one side. Siena is most famous for the Palio, a horse race that dates back to the medieval times and takes place at the Piazza del Campo twice a year. Ten horses take part in the race and they represent ten of the seventeen neighbourhoods in Siena, taking neighbourhood rivalry to the highest level every year. The riders compete on bare back horses, dressed in the traditional costume and colours that represent their ward. They race three laps around the piazza, with spectators in the center of the piazzo and lining the outside in front of the buildings. Those 70 seconds of the race will define the glory for one lucky ward for the year.

I'm told tickets are very hard to come by, though this wasn't a problem for me as I was here in November! Without seeing the Palio with my own eyes, I could still sort of imagine what an exiciting race it would be whilst standing in the piazza. This short clip gives a great overview of how Palio consumes Siena during the event, the exictment of the race and the devastation for those who lost.

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Siena Duomo

Religion plays a big part in Europeans life, particularly in the medieval times, and the Siena Duomo is, in my opinion the most stunning structure in Siena. Works on this gothic style cathedral first started in the early 13th century but it seems there are records of a religious estblishment here from as early as a century before. You'll notice that the duomo is built of white marble and not bricks and stones like the other buildings in the city. This makes it stand out both in terms of appearance, and its status as the most important structure in the city.

Normally I always go inside a cathedral when I travel, not because I'm religious, but because it's rich in architect, history and culture of the city. I don't have photos of the interior of Siean Duomo, so I can't remember if photos aren't allowed, or if I didn't go in.... Anyway, the exterior is an eye feast, the intricate carvings, the different designs on each side of the facade, the gilded lantern on top of the dome, and of course the magnificent tower which can be seen miles away.
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Torre del Mangia and Palazzo Pubblico

The Torre del Mangia, or the Tower of the Eater, and the Palazzo Pubblico, the Town Hall are also on the Piazza del Campo. Both are built mainly of bricks and blend in well with the rest of the city when you look at it from a distance. Consistency or boring? You decide.

The Palazzo Pubblico was built from 1297, and the tower from 1338. When the tower was first built, it was 88 meters tall, tall enough to beat its rival in Florence, but not taller than the Duomo tower. It was a respect to the fact that the state and the church are of equal standing. At that time, the Torre del Mangia was the tallest tower in Italy, but it didn't last forever. In the spirit of trying to outdo one another, Torre del Mangia continued to increase its height over the years. Now it stands at 112m and is the third tallest tower in Italy.
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Monte dei Paschi di Siena

And finally the last place in Siena I want to take you to see is the MPS, or Bank of Siena in plain English. It traces it's root back to 1472 when it started as a mount of piety, a type of pawnbroker run as a charity in Europe back in those days. This allows it to make the claim as the oldest bank in the world. In 1624 it changed to its current form, which as a bank makes it some 34 years younger than the Berenberg Bank of Germany. So depending on how you look at it, the MPS is either the oldest or the second oldest bank in the world.

This building at Piazza Salimbeni, is the MPS headquarters. Actually I wasn't aware of the significance of this building until Chris told me about it. That just shows how important it is to have a local friend when you travel. It's these little things that makes the difference on what you learn about a city, or this world for that matter.
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I don't know if you noticed, a lot of the photos I shared of Siena are at night time. Although I stayed at Siena as my base, I was out at the other places every day so the actual amount of time I spent inside Siena wasn't that much. Every evening when I got back, I'd walk around the city, or rather Chris would show me around after he finished work. You can read so much off internet, but there's nothing better than having some one on the ground to give you their first hand experience of a place.

Next time, I'll share with you one of the five other remaining places I visited during my Tuscany travel.





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How lucky can a gal be, I'll travel along by reading your posts!
Your photography is absolutely gorgeous, really brings Siena to the screen;)
Enjoy your travels and thanks so much for sharing with us @livinguktaiwan!

Thanks Liz. Am really digging back a bit into my archives now, luckily with these historical towns, they don't change much over the years. Thanking for dropping by and I'm so glad you enjoyed the virtual trip.

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😍 Italy, my favorite country when it comes to architecture, culture and so on!
I'm so happy to read your post and watch these wonderful photos. There are so many wonderful cities, villages to visit there! Keep posting 😍

I like Italy because of the food 😀. And in terms of architecture and culture, it's very different from UK, it makes a nice change as we don't have that many towns that are so old on such a large scale. Hopefully you'll like me next few ones as well.

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You seem to be a vivid traveler ?

I try to get out, but not now of course. This is from a previous trip some years ago.

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Some pretty stunning architecture and night-lighting there. I think I saw a documentary that feature the horse race you mentioned in this post.

It sure is stunning, I think it's fascinating how it retains it charm throughout the centuries.

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Indeed, there are a lot of magnificent church architecture in Europe. Religion is definitely a major player in European life and Italy has a lot of sacred buildings to support this. What architectural detail or design element of the church in Siena has fascinated or impressed you the most?

To be honest, I know nothing about design or architecture, but I'm always in awe of these centuries old massive structures and the intricate works. I don't know what most of these carvings represent, but how did they do it back then? How did the designer communicate his ideas and thoughts to the stone masonry? How long did it take to master the craftmanship? How many did they carve before this succesfful one? What has these carvings been through during the centuries? All this can be done easily today with technology, but they had nothing back,they are definitely a lot lot more clever than we know, and probably even more clever than us today.

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You’re absolutely correct! We continue to stand in awe as we admire these historical works of architecture and design. Their craftsmen and builders had no access to the technology we enjoy today, nevertheless they achieved seemingly impossible feats and projects that still let us scratch our heads until now. Thank you so much for your interesting thoughts!

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Great look at Siena. I did notice that there were a lot of pictures at night. That is fun that you mentioned why. The Palio is interesting, thanks for sharing that link. Seeing all those people with today's pandemic in mind made me a little anxious :) Oh and that cathedral is stunning!

It so sad, we probably won't be seeing these events for a while around the world....

Have I mentioned before, if I had a choice, I would like to go and live in Italy for a few year? It's such a lovely country, at least the places I've been to so far

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I love medieval cities and this one looks really nice. Its quite a bit different then the medieval French towns that I'm used to. I've never been to Italy though - maybe one day hopefully. That church is really neat. I love the architecture. Nice trip post!

Thanks @leaky20. Are you going to make the most of your stay in France and travel around Europe after things get better?

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We would like to travel to other parts of Europe yes. Probably in the spring and summer when the weather is nicer. It can be a bit difficult with the dog at times but we do plan on seeing a few places.

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Love Italy. Can't wait to revisit. Really liked the day/night shots from the same spots. Nice

Italy is one of my favourite countries as well, in fact it ranks quite high on my list. Would like to go back as well.

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I have not travelled out of Asian countries for years. It must have felt great with all the architecture that may have lots of stories behind. Travelling is one way to forget about our hectic life and take a nice breather.

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It's a long way for you from Singapore, I imagine it would be nice to do one long trip and just immerse yourself in Europe and soak up all the culture, and everything. Thanks for the tip.

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Tuscany is one of the most amazing places in Italy in fact i love all of Italy it's just a friendly and welcoming country and they certainly know there foods and how to enjoy themselves love all your photos it made me feel like i was there 🙂

Love the region, the history and architecture when we visited Italy, people were very special too!