October 31st, 2014
Since we were so close, I couldn’t go to Florence without also taking a quick side trip to Siena. I had fallen in love with the honey-colored buildings and striking town hall tower in pictures, but I had never dreamed I would one day have a chance to walk the streets myself.
Our first stop was Siena’s own Duomo.
The interior is still one of my favorites, even though we’ve now been in dozens of cathedrals. While this one might not have the lightness or brilliant color of some of the others, it felt celestial. The ceiling looked just like a night sky with twinkling stars. The entire experience was akin to looking up at the heavens on a clear summer evening.
After leaving the main worship space, we went through the museum located in a separate back building. After wandering around the bright tapestries and gilded coffers for a while, I needed the bathroom. I took several dead ends before I finally found a woman seated by a desk, and I approached her to ask where the nearest restroom was located. Preempting my question, she just pointed down a hallway and said “That way. Go. Now.” Feeling a little flustered, I walked to the end of the hallway, where a man was standing at the foot of some stairs. I opened my mouth to ask him for directions, and he did the exact same thing, practically pushing me up these stairs and just repeating “Go. Go. Now. Go.” At this point I was starting to feel a little harassed. What does a person have to do to find a toilet in this place? I obediently climbed up the stairs. And kept climbing. And kept climbing. And kept climbing. 131 steps later, I still hadn’t found a bathroom, but I no longer cared. I had unknowingly climbed the Facciatone, the facade of an unfinished portion of the Cathedral, and I was rewarded with these views:
I had been gone for some time, and I knew Stephen must be getting worried. No one spends half an hour in the bathroom unless something is wrong. I tried to call him, but I didn’t get any cell signal, and I was very unwilling to climb down before I had drunk in as much of the scenery as possible. Luckily, he eventually found me. (Oh, in case you were wondering, the reason the employees were so insistent I hurry up the tower was due to the one-way traffic system they have in place. Because the spiral staircase is only wide enough for one person, you must ascend and descend in groups, and the groups at the top and bottom have to take turns. I had inadvertently caught the tail end of a group ascending, and the employees all must have assumed I was a straggler.)
After we finished exploring the museum, we walked to the town square, Piazza del Campo, where the biannual Palio di Siena horse race is held.
Siena was a lovely little day trip from Florence. I would highly recommend it, even if only to have a wander around its atmospheric medieval city streets and get some spectacular panoramic views of the Tuscan countryside.