Friday, June 6, 2014

Off Day in Sienna  June 5

                                                                     Current day.                         Trip to date

Distance Walked- Miles.                                   7.1                                       298.3  

Gross Climb- feet.                                           715.                                     23,835

Song of the day:  Come on, Come on by Mary Chapin Carpenter:

at the end of the honeymoon 
In 1948, late in the month of June
Your parents smile for the camera in sienna, shades of light 
Now you're older than they were

We had a wonderful day off in Sienna. We slept in until almost 8, a real luxury for us on this trip.  After a very good breakfast (at least by Italian standards) at our hotel, we set off to tour Sienna.   It truly is a spectacular city.   

Sienna is built on three hills (in a way similar to Rome which is built on 7 hills).  Until the mid 1300's, it was a real powerhouse in Italy, when a combination of the plague and several misguided attempts at war (pay attention America....) reduced its importance in the world.  Today there are about 75,000 permanent residents, but I suspect that many tourists on any given day.  

We quickly hurried over to the Duomo to make sure we saw it early in the day before the crowds came.  Unfortunately, we discovered that the Duomo doesn't open until 10:30 am (even God gets to sleep in), so we took the time to view the Roman section of the city built on one of the hills.  Interestingly, this is the only section of the city with straight, parallel streets.

We then went back to the Duomo.  We had to wait in a fairly long line to get tickets.  The tickets were quite complicated, and included several permutations and combinations of the church, the baptistry, the crypt and the museum.  As "pilgrims", we were granted free access to the Duomo itself, but had to pay for the others.  We only chose the museum, because it included a climb to the top, with a great panoramic view of the city. 

I previously mentioned the plague....turns out, the very impressive Duomo had plans to double its size, but just as the implementation was getting under way, the plague took hold, and the expansion was never finished.  Part of the museum tour included climbing to the top of the "ghost wall" of the unfinished expansion:

Here are a few photos from the finished portion of the Duomo.  This is truly a spectacular Cathederal, particularly the interior.  The black and white striped posts are quite impressive:

Here are a few shots we took from the ghost wall of the Duomo.  This first shot is of the il Campo, the great public square where they have the horse race twice each year (July 2 and August 16):

We later visited the third part of Sienna, which included the so called Jewish quarters, or "ghetto".  It was a very quiet, walled off street:

Here is a ground level view of the il Campo.  THis area is surrounded with restaurants and bars.  We had dinner there last night:

I have often commented on the various business models of the Catholic Church.  This includes for example unbundling the various attractions at the Duomo as described above.  We later visited another large church, called the Servi (purported to be the coldest Church in Europe because of its thick walls). This church clearly doesn't  have the pricing power of the Duomo, where a combo package of its 4 attractions goes for almost $20.  Here, the entrance is free, but if you want to see any of the exhibits, you have to pay about about 75 cents to see an exhibit lighted for 3 minutes.  As you can see from the cheap paper sign, this church is a little behind the times in technology: 

Sienna was a great way to spend a day off.  In spite of this being an off day, we still ended up walking 7 miles and climbing over 700 feet.  This is due to climbing all the many hills of the city and the steps of the attractions.  Still, we were abler to conserve some energy for the upcoming days.

We have about 170 miles left to Rome, with a plan to arrive the afternoon of Monday June 16.  

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