Saturday was Siena at the suggestion of people at work. At breakfast, I talked with a German engineering student who was making a tour of Europe. He was startlingly happy to be able to speak German with somebody, I guess he was kind of starved for it after being in Italy. After breakfast I packed up and took the train to Siena for about an hour and a half, which was kind of longer than expected, but it wasn’t a problem.
I didn’t have a particular plan, but I think I saw the main things all the same. There was a cloister that’s been converted to offices for the university economics department. I had some lunch on the weirdly-tilted center plaza, and wandered through the streets taking pictures of the well-worn but picturesque buildings (and buying some pretty things!)
I went to the Duomo, which had a sign outside claiming it had moved Wagner to tears. On entering, I saw what they meant… Definitely something Wagner would cry about. Medieval churches amaze me, I never feel able to believe they were built with just rudimentary tools and human lives. I also find it amazing how well they hold up – Professor Amy liked to tell us he hoped he would look as good after most of a millennium.
In art history class, I always found the photos of Italian churches looked kind of overdecorated. The more “tasteful” French churches were much nicer in pictures. But in person, I find the colorfully painted Italian ones at least as impressive, if not more, than the others I’ve been to. They seem more alive, more active in their worshipfulness. I’m not sure I can fault the Italians anymore for their national pride and refusal to adopt the Gothic style in favor of their local architecture. The frescoes just add to the impression of vast work that’s gone into the cathedral.
After that, I just wandered around to explore the alleys and take advantage of the patchy sun for pictures. I rode the train back for an hour and a half to Florence and had dinner at the hostel.