Monday, June 23, 2008

The most beautiful place in Tuscany

was Siena. There was lots of competition for this pick, but from the minute we spotted the city "skyline" (below) it was as if we'd walked into a postcard. When we rounded a corner and came on to this massively ornate and complicated white Cathedral, well, I could understand why a friend had burst into tears of emotion at the sight.

I actually found the exterior, covered with a boiling stew of animals, leafs, garlands and swirls, a little overdone, but the interior moved me to buy a book about the building, which I rarely do because who ever reads them afterward. The floor is carpeted with these dramatic white and black scenes, not paintings or mosaics, but massive bold stone works of art. One, of the slaughter of innocents, features piles of mutilated babies stacked in one corner, gory sword wounds in their bellies and tongues hanging out. Awesome work.

In a spectacularly ornate and decorated library that matches the exterior for grandiosity, tourists file by a ring of glass cabinets on the walls, each of which contains these shimmery illuminated manuscripts. From the 15th century. I had to double check my Roman Numerals data bank -- but XV it was. They are so radiant you can understand why they use that term illuminated. It's as if monks inked them last week and as you move around the room you have to think about the time and effort it took to turn a blank ledger page into an explosion of red and blue flowers and vines around the letters and notes. I'm happy we have keyboards now, honestly.

Siena skyline as we emerged from a parking garage on the edge of the city.

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