Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Siena: get medieval

Last spring, this mother-daughter artist duo were handed the most incredible opportunity: to visit that famous hub of the Renaissance, Italy! In May we flew out to Tuscany with our family.

I was coming from London and Mom from New Jersey. It was her first time in Europe and we were so excited to spend this holiday together!

A view of the medieval district from the modern side,
featuring the Torre del Mangia.

Our first tourist visit was to the medieval centre of Siena, a city famous for its patron saint Catherine and for the artists who created the rich brown pigment that bears its name.

Mom and I catching some sun as the rest of us went shopping.

We walked down cobbled streets full of tourists like us, although I don't know if any of the families were as large as ours. Our family numbered 19 in all - we made up an entire tour group!

Mom with my uncle and nephew at the Piazza del Campo.
The absolutely enormous church and crowded square of San Domenico.
My grandfather in front of the entrance to San Domenico.

We were given little radios hooked up to the tour guide's microphone, so we could wander as we liked and she could call us back to a rendezvous point when it was time to move on. 

Unfortunately my brand-new camera ran out of battery soon after we took this picture. We soldiered on with Mom's brave little Blackberry, which did its best to rise to the challenge of capturing the sheer buildings and narrow streets.

I won't pretend we only loved Italy for the art and scenery! Here is our other great passion:

We passed at least three of these on a single street.

I can never contain my true feelings about gelato.

The Piazza Salimbeni, home to the Monte de Paschi di Siena,
one of the oldest banks still active today.

Our guide told us about the fascinating history of Siena and how this small but powerful city was further divided into contrade, or 'wards', factions with their own districts and heraldic animals. The Contrade still hold their annual horse parade and race, the Palio di Siena.

This ward is Aquila, guarded by the eagle. 
Fascinated by birds of prey and especially the peregrine falcon, I took this picture, only to realise later it was actually an eagle. Luckily I came across this:

Via Dei Pellegrini - Road of the Pilgrims.
Close enough to peregrine.
The latin name of the peregrine means 'the pilgrim hawk' - a fitting symbol for us wandering wonder women!

We closed the trip with another favourite hobby: beautiful postcards and stationery made from some of the finest paper in the world. All the better to write home with!

Enjoy this fun app that walks you through Siena virtually. 

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