The only ghibelline remains in Siena
Ever since I saw the swallow-tail pinnacles on the walls surrounding Arsenale in Venezia, they fascinated me. Since history wasn’t my favourite at school, I had to catch up with a lot of matter before, during and after my travels. It was then when I learned about the eventful time in Italian history when guelphs (supporters of the church) and ghibellines (supporters of the emperors) – the disputes that went for many decades until eventually church took over and most of the cities and towns in central Italy had to face their own dark ages. Siena was among the first ghibelline towns but 1277 the ghibellines (nobles) were thrown out of town and the council of the nine was formed. That’s why Palazzo Pubblico has rectangular, guelph, pinnacles. But there four ghibelline pinnacles have remained, on Palazzo Chigi-Saracini. I would never have found these because they are well hidden and only visible from a tiny side lane. Again thanks, Letizia! One day when we walked through town, she asked me if I want to see the only remaining pinnacles and led me through this tiny lane next to the palazzo. We walked a bit and then she told me to turn around. There they were, indeed very much hidden!
Since I can’t find street names, I have marked the point where to see the pinnacles on Google Maps.
© Ingrid D., December 2010 (just in case, RickS or others come along and think they can steal texts).
Find the Green Man
The Green Man (with foliage growing from or around his head) is a massively ancient symbol of fertility and new life. As with so many other pagan customs, he was absorbed into Christianity and his image appears in many ancient UK cathedrals and churches. He is a symbol across Europe (though far less common within the European churches and cathedrals I have explored) so I was especially pleased to find him tucked away on the facade of the Duomo. He's on the right, emerging from a garland of foliage (as he should), about halfway up.
Finding him was rather like finding an old friend!
Restaurants in Siena
Taverna San Guiseppe, Nonna Gina and Grattacielo are all great restaurants in Siena., and I spent many fun dinners and lunches there. Taverna San Guiseppe has a beautiful ambiente (with a wonderful ceiling), Nonna Gina is small and cozy with red and white checkered table cloths, and Grattacielo is great if you want something eccentric, cheaper, and somwhere where you meet the locals. Grattacielo is a little hidde, but just ask someone. The funnest is Grattacielo. You can pick anything from an abundance of mostly cold dishes, and they'll arrange it all on a plate for you. You never know the price before, it depends on how and what you eat, and who is at the cashier's that day. Try it!
Get to church!
Even if you are not religious and have not stepped inside of a church for years, do yourself a favor and visit the churches in Italy. The history, artwork, grandure and sheer size of it all will amaze you. Every chuch seems to have it's own special story too. It is hard to imagine how such monuments were built so long ago without modern equipment. They seem to have known even better than today's builders how to make structures last through time. There are several churches in Siena, but do not miss the Cathedral. It is amazing.
Siena's Duomo was originally intended to be the largest church in Christendom (a distinction, of course, which St. Peter's in Vatican City maintains). The current structure was completed in the 14th century, but you can still see the beginnings of the larger project that was stopped as a result of the Black Death which devastated Siena's population in 1348.
The interior of the Duomo is amazing except, I personally found the black and white striped marble pattern aesthetically displeasing. It's a bit dizzying to look at!