Favorite thing: Via di Cita is the main street of Siena and considered the most elegant in the city. It is formerly Via Galgaria, the street of shoemakers and most of the locals still call it by that name. This street is shopping paradise of Siena offering fancy cloths, fine shoes, Tuscany handcraft ceramic products and inevitable Pizzicheria de Miccoli.
Santa Caterina Benincasa (1347-1380), also known as Caterina da Siena, was Scholastic pholosopher and teologian. Although she hadn't long life have left behind alot of important works in teology. In 1970 Caterina Benincasa was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church. Santa Ceterina is a patron saint of Siena, but at the same time she is patron saint of Italy and Europe aswell.
At the age of six Caterina recieved her first vision and from that moment onwards the child began to follow a path of devotion. At the age of 15 she joined Dominicans and become Tertiary sister, working tirelessly to help the sick at the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. Her fame spread throughout the Europe and she travelled abroad to act as mediator for the Papacy, spending some time in Avignon where she urged Pope Gregory to bring the Papal Court back to Rome from its exile in France. On returning back to Siena, Caterina founded Monastery of Santa Maria degli Angeli in the castle of Belcaro.
Caterina died at just 33 of age and was buried in Rome at Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. In 1461 Caterina was proclaimed a saint by Pope Pius II.
Terzo di Camollia is very pitoresque part of Siena, up and downhills with rare flat grounds. I got impression it's kind of working class area because I haven't seen much of classy houses or imposing sacral objects around here. But in spite of that downhill streets of Camollia are of exceptional beauty.
Fondest memory: The most intriguing question for me was, how do this people drive car in this narrow streets?
I was on my way out of the town, trying to find another perspective for the panoramic pictures. There was a side local road partly in dirt but I didn't care much about it because was so much attracted by the landscapes, one more beautiful then other. Some crazy ideas crossed my mind, was thinking to go astray here and explore this beauty for few months.
Fondest memory: Tuscany is very cultivated area with exceptional landscapes.
Just wanted to share a few of the things that we saw while in Siena, other than the major tourist sites of course. Like this "bridge" three stories up, made of different material from the two buildings it connects, so obviously a later addition. Was it used as an actual room or just a connection between the two buildings. WHY connect the two???
A small church, but with a beautiful facade of enormous columns and two commanding statues bracketing the entrance (which was NOT arched, also unusual).
Then a building with windows that brought to mind those on the bell tower, wondered which came first.
Last but not least a ceiling detail from a porch, yes a porch, that we saw. Could not find any explantion signs or entrance fees to the building (which had a tall metal fence closing the entrance to the porch), so no idea what the building was, but the ceiling was great, I just stuck my hand and camera through the fence and "snap-snap".
Wandering the streets of Siena brought us many scenes that we took home in our memories, like the "Golden Boy", a guy pretending to be a statue, guess he is to lazy to actually ACT. But the girls liked him.
Then there is the cockroach of the bird world, the PIGEON, evident everywhere, flying and crapping on everyone and everything...many of the beautiful ancient statues found in Italy carry a covering of pigeon ***, usually most thick on the heads of warriors, statesmen and goddesses.
But then you have the everyday scenes on the streets, not just the tourists scurrying of to the next place their guide is leading them, but the everyday people of the city, off to work, getting groceries, picking ups some mushrooms, or just having a cup of coffee with friends in the nearest cafe.
Siena’s tourist office has an excellent location directly at the Campo (approx. in the middle of the half round opposite of Palazzo Communale). And they have an excellent selection of free information brochures about the city and its surroundings. Especially the brochures are a piece of art itself with marvellous photos and excellent text. I especially liked the ones Val d’Orcia, Le Crete and Terre di Siena – holiday with the bike. These are available in Italian, English, German and French.
Most of the information is also provided on their (excellent) website. From what I could see they also have more brochures than the ones I picked, available as a “flash flip-through” version. In addition, the website has short atmospheric videos about each region (each approx. 2-3 minutes) and much more specific details. A really good and well-thought-out site!
Piazza Campo 56, Phone: +39 – 0577 – 280551
Opening hours, winter: 8:30 – 13:00, 15:00 – 19:00
Opening hours, summer: 8:30 – 19:30
Terre di Siena
© Ingrid D., November 2010.
Where I live we have the change to take 5 days “educational leave” per year (employee pays lessons, company provides free days), 10 days can be accumulated. I didn’t take advantage of this for a long time and this year (2010) I thought that it is time to polish up my Italian. However, my country being bureaucratic to the bone, we can only book lessons with a specific, listed reference number. This ruled out my teacher Edvige Galasso in Gubbio and Perugia’s school which don’t have applied for such a number. And I didn’t want to go to Tropea, Milano, Roma or Firenze where schools and teachers had this number. But with Siena’s Dante Alighieri School I finally found both: number and location. When I contacted the school to book my lesson (2 weeks, private individualised teaching), they sent me a 3 pages need analysis. I asked for private teaching, and that I need to talk, talk, talk, to make sure my daily conversation skills would be improved. When I arrived for my lesson, I was thrilled how perfect my needs were met. I had three teachers (Francesca, Letizia and Claudio), each for a specific part of the day. Each of them was different with different interests and teaching methods and this was really perfect to make sure that I don’t get “used” to one specific style. I had lessons from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with one hour lunch break. When it rained we stayed in the school, when the weather was better we went outside and talked there. At the end, not only my Italian was improved but all three showed me exciting parts of Siena which not everyone would notice without a local explaining and showing them.
The school has everything one needs: space enough for many groups, internet access, a fabulous secretary, a recreation room with a piano and soft drinks and coffee machines. The school is located in an old house in Siena’s south, a nice building itself. On the message board I saw countless evening and weekend events, the teachers offered, such as cooking, wine tasting, hidden Siena, trips to the surroundings, etc.
Thanks Dottoressa Alexandra (the boss of the school) for your brilliant idea with the three teachers, thanks Francesca, Letizia and Claudio for your lessons and our stimulating and inspiring discussions! And thanks Serena for your help with the car!
Oh, and since we also had “internet lessons”, it was easy to convince Letizia to become VT member.
Oh, I should mention that Toscana dialect is a bit difficult in the beginning for those who speak a bit of Italian. The pronounciation of "hard c" is soundless. That makes for example casa sound like "(h)-asa"...
Dante Alighieri School, Siena.
Adress: Via Tommaso Pendola, 37 - 53100 Siena (IT).
Tel: +39 - 0577 - 49533.
© Ingrid D., November 2010.
One of the best ways to see Siena's sights is the combined ticket called "My Name is Duccio", named after the medieval Sienese artist, Duccio di Buoninsegna. It costs, as of 2009, €10.00 and allows the visitor to visit the Duomo, Baptistry, Crypt, Museo dell'Opera + Facciatone and the Oratory of San Bernardino. Normally, each one of these sight charges about €3.00 entry fee. The card is valid for three days and is well worth the little investment.
See the following web-site for more information:
Siena's location on the gentle rolling hills of Tuscany makes it an ideal alternative base for exploring the region called Il Chianti - one of Italy's most enchanting areas characterized by rolling hills and gentle valleys blanketed with vineyards where some of Italy's most famous wines come from.
Within the historic center of Siena, there are a few spots where these marvelous topography could be preserved for posterity by shutter-happy tourists. My recommendations:
Via San Giovanni Dupre, near the gigantic Chiesa di Sant' Agostino - sweeping views of the nearby hills covered with vineyards with lovely medieval structures seemingly popping out of the hills, with the Basilica di Sta Maria dei Servi a very prominent landmark. Directly below Via San Giovanni Dupre is a park that makes for an ideal venue for leisurely walks (and burn those calories from Siena's many wonderful restaurants).
Via del Comune just off Piazza San Francesco - around sunset on a clear day, the reflection of the rays of the setting sun on a medieval church across the other hill is simply enchanting. Getting here is a bit tricky - from the town center along Via del Rossi, take a left turn on a small alley before reaching Piazza San Francesco. At the time of my visit, the distinguishing mark are some bold graffiti on the walls of the building beneath which the alley could be accessed.
The park around Fortezza Medicea - close to the local stadium,Stadio Comunale, there is a park from where you get good vantage points to take pictures of the Duomo and the old historical center. More dramatic lighting around sunset, too.
Ok, this wasn't my favorite thing, but it was important nonetheless. When you leave the parking lot, and walk to the entrance of Siena, you will find the rest rooms located near the entrance of the Basilica of San Domenico. Just look to your right, go down the stairs, and you will find what you need.
There may be a person collecting money for using the facility, but I was told that it was not required to pay. I was grateful for the clean facility, so readily available, so I gave the woman a coin!
Favorite thing: Terzo di Citta was the original residential nucleus of Siena that relied on the Castelvecchio for its defense. It is the oldest part of the town, concentrated around the Cathedral, and certainly one of the most beautiful and pitoresque in whole of Siena.
Every Sienese lives the life of his Contrada (district), which still plays a civil role in organizing its members' free time. There are seventeen districts in the town of Siena with precise territorial organizations (the marks are visible everywhere in the town) which gather together the citizens of the same neighbourhood. For twelve months of the year the life of the Contrada is in fervour, but during the days before the Palio the atmosphere becomes really explosive.
The names of Contrade are curioius and symbolic;
Terzo di Citta: Aquila, Chiocciola, Onda, Pantera, Selva, Tartuca
Terzo di Camollia: Bruco, Drago, Giraffa, Istrice, Lupa, Oca
Terzo di San Martino: Civetta, Leocorno, Nicchio, Torre, Valdimontone.
Favorite thing: The quarter of San Martino, which is situated right next to Piazza Campo, is characteristic by its unusually tall 4-5 storey houses. It was the original residential nucleus of Siena that relied on the Castelvecchio for its defense. Starting from the 16th century, it was the ghetto, area of the city where the Jews were forced to live.
For the Sienese people, Palio is not only the game it is much more then this, a way of living. The origins of the Siena Palio, however, have never been satisfactorily explained. The only sure thing is that festival already existed well before 1310, the year when the official institution of the Palio was consecrated, to be competed for on the 16th August in honour of the Assumption into Heaven.
In 1656 the institution of a second Palio was officially recognized, the "Palio of the Districts", to be run on the second July in honour of the Madonna di Provenzano.