Monday, July 10, 2017

SIENA, ITALY, Guest Post by Cathy Bonnell


View of the Duomo, Siena, Italy
My friend Cathy Bonnell, a school librarian (now retired) in Phoenix, Arizona, loves to travel. Recently, she went to Italy, visiting Florence, Siena, and Milan with her daughter Courtney. I thank her for sharing the joys and discoveries of this special trip and for being one of my most faithful followers of The Intrepid Tourist. Here is Part 2, about her visit to Siena.
 
After a short train ride from Florence we arrived in Siena and checked into Villa Scacciapensieri Hotel on the outskirts of town. 
Grounds of the Villa Scacciapensieri
We felt like we were in the forest with lots of trees, manicured gardens and a beautiful rooftop terrace.   
Campo area of Siena with view of the Palazzo Pubblico
After a short bus ride back into Siena, we headed for the Campo area and the huge sloped brick piazza. The sunny day brought out “hundreds” of people, kids and dogs, who were sitting, lying and enjoying the site of the Palazzo Pubblico—the spectacular town hall.  We spent several hours viewing the frescoes inside.  An interesting site back on the piazza was the end-of-term students in their robes rollicking in the many open air restaurants and bars and driving their oddly adorned old cars around the square.
Inside the Duomo in Siena
A short walk away is the huge Duomo—very striking in its Romanesque-Gothic architecture holding so many sculptural masterpieces by Donatello and Michelanglo and others.  The black-and-white striped marble pillars are almost contemporary looking and the inlaid marble floors are stunning. 
Baptismal font by Donatello inside the Siena Duomo Baptistry
The smaller Baptistry is even more stunning with a spectacular baptismal font by Donatello.  So much beauty, effort and money poured into these churches over the centuries still made me pause to think if some of that could have gone in to helping people have better lives.
Unique Italian pottery vase found in Siena
One of the few treasures I purchased on the trip was a colorful pottery vase in a unique style—from the Ceramiche Tombelli shop behind the Baptistry.  It was shipped home and arrived in perfect shape.
Two intrepid tourists with San Gimignano and its famous towers in the background
I long wanted to make this trip to see the art I had missed years ago but in the end I think my most favorite part of the whole trip was the next two days spent with a private driver touring the many medieval villages and seeing the lush green rolling hills of the countryside –one day to the south, the next day to the north. 
Fountain in Montepulciano with Medici coat of arms at the top
The perfectly groomed vineyards, red poppies in bloom, as well as the typical Tuscan cypress tree landscapes were so soothing to these desert eyes.  
At the Castellina family winery
AND, also some of the best meals I’ve ever had were the two lunches our driver treated us to—one at the Querceto di Castellina family winery, cooking school and hotel in the Chianti area, and the other at a five star rated restaurant near Pienza with a breathtaking 180 degree view.  Pasta, pasta, and more pasta but so delicious. 
Winery buildings in foreground and traditional Tuscan home beyond

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