Friday, May 23, 2008

Bats in the Belfry

The other graduate students (from the left, Mia, Jessica, Hillary) and myself are visiting Siena this weekend. Among other sights, we went to see the view from the top of the bell tower in Siena's historic city hall. According to Rick Steves' Italy 2008, the bell tower is the tallest secular tower in Italy (1). It overlooks the town's central piazza, Il Campo, and much of the surrounding countryside. The views are spectacular. The entire area is beautiful. I only wish that I was better equipped to capture it on film. Here some of the images I was able to get from the tower:

This is Il Campo, the central piazza in Siena. We ate at one of the restaurants here last night when we arrived. It was past ten o'clock, so we were fortunate to be served.

Here is an image inside the stairwell of the 330ft tower. The square spiral staircase is a challenge to ascend.

This is the Duomo. It is Siena's central cathedral. You can see the church itself (the black and white striped building with a tower) and a structure that looks like front wall of a church protruding to the left. Originally, the cathedral was planned to be the largest in Italy. According to Steves, Siena and Florence were engaged in a heated church-building contest when the plague struck forcing Siena to circumscribe its dreams of out-building Florence (2).

My favorite part of Siena so far has been the frescoes "Allegory of Good Government" and "Allegory of Bad Government" painted by Ambrogio Lorenzetti and located in the City Hall Museum. They depict the ruler of bad government with horns, a famous image. As I viewed the painting with Hillary she theorized that perhaps we had seen it before as the cover for Machiavelli's The Prince, but I cannot find a copy of this online. In any case, I think that she is right; that I have seen it used as a book cover.

If you can get a chance to visit Siena, I think I can speak for all us in saying that you should. The town contains countless, beautiful masterpieces of medieval art and architecture.

1. Rick Steves, Italy 2008 (Emeryville CAAvalon: Travel Publishing, 2008), 461.
2. Steves, 469.

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