The next stop on our itinerary after leaving San Gimignano was Siena. The landscape between these two towns evoked a correlation to the Renaissance paintings of long ago; hilltop medieval towns and farmhouses nestled among soft rolling hills, wheat fields and cypress trees. Siena lies about 45 minutes by car south east of San Gimignano. As noted in the previous narrative, words in light blue indicate a link to an external source providing historical information on the subject.
Siena is a city of art, alleys and towers and like many cities in the Tuscany region is renowned for its medieval brick buildings highlighted by the fan shaped central square -Piazza del Campo. Twice yearly on July 2nd and August 16 a horse race takes places within the perimeter of Piazza del Campo that lasts 90 secs. The 'Ill Palio' as the race is referred to has a history of 700 years. The race comprises 10 horses and riders representing 10 contrade (districts) ridden bareback.
Our accommodation during our two night stay was a 19th century palace, now the modern Hotel-Palazzo Ravizza, conveniently located near Siena Cathedral and Piazza del Campo. The cathedral boasts an impressive facade dating to the 13th and 14th centuries. The square surrounding the cathedral is not very deep and in camera perspective distortion was inevitable but I did manage to secure a platform on the perimeter that at the very least provided several feet of additional height. Thankfully as it was relatively late most of the crowd had dispersed to the restaurants lining Piazza Del Campo so I was able to setup my tripod without interfering with anyone.
As we walked the streets of the city by day and night it was like steeping back in time. At night the medieval streets are lit by diverse light sources; lampposts, store windows etc., such that mundane scenes by day turn bewitching by night. The low light of the medieval streets required a tripod and the use of a wide angle lens. An aperture of f/16 was used to ensure the star burst effects from the artificial light sources.
During the day we explored the streets off the beaten track away from the major tourist corridors and found to our surprise that they were invariably deserted with an almost eerie feeling.....and then of course there are scenes of humor such as the one below with the local resident peering his head out the window observing the characters below.
The Province of Siena stretches over some of the most well known Tuscan towns from the dense vineyards of Radda and Gaiole in Chianti, north east of Siena, to the hills and gullies of Val d'Orcia in the south.
Our time in the Chianti region was rather short and the day we travelled thru Gaiole in Chianti it was overcast and raining but that did not deter us from capturing our own classic shot.
To the south of Siena lies the medieval hilltop town of Montepulciano famous for its vino mobile red wine and the Torre di Pulcinella, a clock tower topped by Pulcinella, a classical character that originated in commedia dell'arte in the 17th century and became a stock character in Neapolitan puppetry. Like many other hillside medieval towns Montepulciano also its share of alleyways and narrow streets. Below are a few snapshots from our all too short visit.
The road from Montepulciano to Pienza is through hills, gullies, olives groves and vineyards. The countryside is gentle and sparsely populated. There are many scenic locations, some more famous than others.
Nestled in a hilltop overlooking the Orcia valley lies Pienza. While small, Pienza is a quaint and quiet town and perhaps one of my favorites because of the sense of tranquility you feel as you wander along its alleyways and medieval streets. The architecture of Pienza was conceived by Enea Silvio Piccolomini and designed by Bernardo Gambarelli. The design concept was based on classical antiquities focused on architecture that stimulated the capacity of meditation and spiritual well-being. Enea Silvio Piccolomini went on to become Pope Pius II and it was his vision to transform Pienza into a "perfect city". Pienza is the first example of urban planning.
On the road leading out of the center of Pienza is the Parish Church of Corsignano, alongside of which, is a private road from which you can capture sweeping views of the adjacent valley. It was late afternoon and perched on the hillside I captured the images below.