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Siena

We were instantly captivated by the charm of medieval Siena.It helped that we were staying somewhere central and comfortable: after a picturesque but wet journey from Florence to Siena we agreed that we needed to stay in a hotel to dry out. Thanks to the Guide Routard we picked on a delightful pensione in Via Roma – Casa Laura.

Our first evening the rain lifted (temporarily) and we wandered up to the heart of Siena – Il Campo – and caught it at its most charming, with all the locals also taking their evening stroll – the passegiata. The next day we saw it again in the pouring rain. But no matter, we already loved Siena. The whole town is a glorious collection of old brick buildings, with hardly a modern facade to interrupt the sense of having dropped into the Middle Ages. The dominant colour is a warm pink.

Apart from the Campo and walks in the maze of little surrounding streets, we visited the 13th century Palazzo Pubblico (and looked out on the rain-sodden but cheerful crowd at a – municipally organised – demonstration for peace.

Then we saw (rushing through another downpour) the Duomo, which with its amazing red, white and green marble facade, looks rather like a sugary concoction.

Given the weather we took advantage of the superb art collections, particularly appreciating the splendid Sienese frescoes. In the Palazzo Pubblico my abiding memory is of the two works by Lorenzetti – Good Government and Bad Government.

Even more impressive is the amazing collection in the Pinacoteca Nationale. While fifteenth century painters in Florence were edging towards the realism and secularism of the Renaissance, Sienese artists were still painting religious scenes full of gold and iconic figures. After an hour or two we began to get slightly drunk on this non-stop diet of splendid madonnas. Nevertheless I still remember with particular awe the works by Duccio and Simone Martini

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