Monday, 25 November 2013

Siena - splendid in rain or shine

It was pouring the Sunday we visited Siena, but I was impressed by how photogenic it was even in the rain. The city had a splendour that stemmed from its long history dating back to Etruscan times.   I was struck by the beauty of its architecture, particularly when I emerged from one of the many side streets that fed into the famous Piazza del Campo.  I let out a gasp of astonishment, awed by its magnificence, undiminished by the rain.  It was the perfectly proportioned beauty of great architecture that took everyone's breath away.  And regardless of the rain, everyone was snapping away...

Our first view of the old town - in the rain

Basilica of San Domenico which housed the relics of St. Catherine of Siena - her severed head was in the altar while her preserved right thumb was in a case not too far away, positively medieval!

The roads into the old town centre -

The main square - Piazza del Campo, one of the most attractive squares in Europe, renowned for its architectural integrity built at the height of Siena's medieval splendour in the early half of the 14th century.  The Palazzo Publico is the focal point of the square with the bell tower (Torre del Mangia) built to be taller than the one in Florence, Siena's rival at the time.  The square is the site of the famous Palio horse races, held twice a year around its edges.

View of the square from the side of the Palazzo Publico - the buildings around the square curved inwards giving the square its shell-shaped structure.  

 the Palazzo Publico with its superbly proportioned courtyard is the home of the Museo Civico - wish we had the time to go into this important Art Museum...

The Fonte Gaia (Fountain of Joy) on one side of the square, built in the early 15th century as the endpoint of the system of conduits bringing water into the city centre.
In more than one Italian city, we saw specialty shops for each category of clothing, one for ties, one for shirts, hats...

Lots of ups and downs - it's a hilltown afterall

I have never seen so many colours and varieties in pasta, or in espresso machines!

We just stumbled into this gorgeous hall - turned out this is the Academia dei Rozzi, supposedly Italy's oldest academy founded in 1531.

Signs of the Palio - a shop selling Palio photos and souvenirs and flags on the streets with Palio flags, one for each of the ten city wards.

The town's emblem, the wolf suckling the twins Remus and Romulus were everywhere - legend had it that Siena was founded by Seinus, son of Remus...

The splendid view of the Cathedral with its Duomo and tower after the rain

Next post:  The Cathedral in Siena

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Venice from a different angle

It was not our first trip to Venice and so I was glad to see it from a different angle - from the deck of the Azamara Quest which must be at least ten stories above ground.  We had a great view over the red roofs of the city and was able to see the buildings and bridges from a distance.  The boat left Venice in late afternoon - the view was heart-stoppingly spectacular with the sun on the red roofs.  

When we returned from our 7 days on the Adriatic, we had to take a water taxi to the train station.  That ride was the most fun, speeding under bridges and going through the narrow streets of Venice.  Nothing like a gondola ride, of course, but at ten o'clock in the morning with a boat load of luggage, it was the right speed...

The reporters were there because of the street protests against the cruise ships.  I'm sure I appeared on Italian TV...

This is the dock from where we boarded

It looks like there is another leaning tower in Italy other than Pisa's

NO GRANDI NAVI - The protest against the "big boats" - in fact our departure was delayed because protesters were blocking the harbour.  I would have joined the protesters were I not on board...and I wasn't being cheeky

Look at the crowds in San Marco Square and in front of the Doge's Palace

Our water taxi ride to the train station

The public water bus

The square in front of the train station - long lineups for the water bus 

The high-speed train that took us to Florence for 19 euros

Friday, 15 November 2013

Ravenna, the town

We've looked at the stunning mosaics in Ravenna and its multitude of serious historical churches - but there's a lot more to the town.  It's a very clean and charming Italian town - very walkable and even better on a bike as there seems to be plenty around and very few cars.   I hope to have captured some of this charm in the snapshots below:

Charming people, quaint shops

Street market of artisanal crafts

Piazza del Popolo, the main square with live art

Live action!  Just married couple in the 18th century town hall 

Same couple with their stylish bridal transportation
The bridal procession

A merry-go-round in the middle of town

This is afterall the town of mosaics

Bicycle envy...

The  Biblioteca Casa Oriani in Ravenna - where else would you see a library with such elegant cloisters!  We just happened upon it on the way to Dante's tomb.
I admire such determined people - they just would not surrender Dante's bones to Florence! Bravo!   Read more about the intriguing fight over the poet's bones here...
Dante's tomb - more likely the Memorial

This looked more like the tomb
 Charming restaurants...


Elegance!  Whether they were sweeping the streets or riding a bike!

The very green entrance to the Basilica of St. John the Evangelist

What's not to love about Ravenna!