Friday we were Siena bound! I determined that this is another one of my favorite cities we’ve visited… right up there with Venice and Assisi. We got there and our first stop was to meet Marco at San Dominica. We had learned that Siena is divided into 17 districts; I didn’t realize how strong these boundaries were until we arrived. This church was the first time we came into contact with this idea. Half the church was clearly claimed by the Goose District and the other half was claimed by the Dragon District. Don’t ask me how this works, but it is all over the city! It really is pretty incredible how serious this district thing is taken. It is most evident twice a year during the Palio (a big horse race in the Campo). 10 of the districts get chosen to participate in the race and everyone really gets into it!
The goose flag and dragon flag splitting the church
We stopped at the Goose district’s church and museum next. The church is where the horse and jockey are blessed before the race. It was pretty surprising because the space is so small; I couldn’t believe they fit the horse and 300+ people inside during the blessing. Marco loves this city; it was so evident when he was telling us these stories. He told us that during the blessing if the horse “makes a poo poo” it is good luck for the Contrada (district) and everyone goes crazy!
In the museum there were a series of banners from all the races the Goose district had won. There were quite a few, and of course, Marco had a story for one of them. One was painted by a girl who secretly wanted the Tower District to win and favored the banner with their colors (which isn’t supposed to be allowed). The Tower District happens to be the Goose District’s enemy and guess what? The Goose District won it! It was a pretty big deal because the artist then has to present the banner to the winning contrada. Haha.
Where the horse stands to get blessed
Banners the district won
After spending time in the Goose District, we made our way through the city, which was beautiful even though it was traffic ridden. We made it to the Campo which is the main square where the Palio is held. It was awesome to see this finally… despite the rain. We made our way into the palace on the square. The inside was beautifully decorated with frescoes and sculptures, and the small chapel within was awesome.
After the tour, I was able to go to the Duomo and Baptistery. The Duomo from the outside resembled Orvieto’s, but not quite as beautiful. The inside, however, blew Orvieto’s away! It was absolutely amazing inside! So beautiful! The floors were decorated just as beautifully as the walls and ceiling. This place also had three organs! All 17 flags of the different districts were displayed in the nave which I thought was weird considering churches are used for praising God… but they are displaying their competitiveness within. I don’t know how I felt about that. The Baptistery was very different from any baptistery I have seen. It was a linear space, not octagonal like all the others. Wasn’t what I was expeting yet, it was still very beautiful.
The campo with the palace
We went back to meet Marco because he wanted to take us to the Ram District’s church because it contained a painting he loved, and it also had an amazing overlook of the whole city. It truly was beautiful. The clouds were breaking right when we got there so the sky looked fake! We went inside and Marco started talking about the painting. He was pointing at it with his umbrella and it crossed the sensor so the alarm went off… we decided we should leave after that haha.
The view from the churchMarco took us around the city some more and pointed out different contradas and things to see in the city. We ended at the center point of the city. It is where the road from Rome, Florence and the coast all meet. Before the day ended, we soaked up some sun in the Campo and people watched and just explored the town. It is such a beautiful place. That night we hung out at the hostel and played cards with an Australian guy we met that was travelling around running marathons. It’s so great to be able to meet new people on these adventures!
We headed to bed – should have gone earlier because we had to get up at 5am the next morning to catch our train to Riomaggiore to begin our hiking! …but we made it.
Stay tuned - Cinque Terre up next! Ciao!
Random leaf picture in Siena - it was pretty :)