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Agriturismo Il Colombaio Bed and Breakfast Siena, Tuscany - Italy

The cities > Siena

siena-2.jpgCity of the Virgin and the Standard. Black and white. Little inclined towards half measures, just like its armorial bearings. Passionate and contemplative Siena, revealing and obscure, forever going up and down. From the steepest and narrowest of lanes suddenly appears the blinding red of Piazza del Campo. Duccio di Buoninsegna's "Maestà" confronts the one by Simone Martini. Lorenzetti's "Buongoverno" and Nicola Pisano's pulpit dominate.

Domenico Beccafumi and Rutilio Manetti peep out from their hiding places in the churches. Along the lanes and in the Contrada museums and oratories the propitiatory chants of thc Palio evoke ancient rites and modern allegories, while, in the evening, the sound of footsteps on the deserted flagstones plays counterpoint to the calm of the green valleys prudently enclosed within the city walls by olden-day administrators centuries ahead of their time.

siena-3.jpg The cathedral and the amazing panorama from the vast facade, "il Facciatone", of the New Cathedral never completed after the 1348 plague. The Pilgrim's Room in Santa Maria della Scala, the Piccolomini Library and the prestigious Accademia Chigiana. Wide open spaces in the Medici fortress, whose bowels conceal the Enoteca ltaliana with its precious wines from Siena, Tuscany and the whole of the Peninsula: profanity only a few paces away from the Sanctuary of Saint Catherine. Italy's patron saint.

Deliciously smelling trattorias, spicy sweetmeats, sounds of handworkers, fountains splashing. Fontebranda and the mystery of the Diana, Siena's mythical underground river. The underground waterworks called "bottini' and their secrets. The geometrical alchemy of Piazza del Campo, cabala and esoterisms. Neo-Gothic fascination and popular catharsis.

siena-1.jpg These are but a few of the reasons why "Siena opens up its heart to you more than any other", as we are told by the famous inscription on Porta Camollia. In the land of Siena it is easy to be swept away by the turbulent ardour of the Palio on 2nd July and 16th August, bewitched by its rites and exterior aspects. But the city and the land around it harbour a far subtel mesh of festivals, anniversaries and other recurrences. Small treasures handed down by tradition, hidden in the intimacy of Siena lanes, or to be discovered in the villages further out in the province. An example? The individual feast days of each of the 17 Contradas, bound to rites, choreographies and rhythms that fan out from the celebrating district to fill the whole city with proud yet joyful processions. Or the antique Giostra di Simone (Simon's Joust) held on the first Sunday of August in the fortified village of Montisi near San Giovanni d'Asso in commemoration of a mediaeval tournament. No less spectacular amongst the events in historical costume are the Sagra del Tordo (Thrush Festival) in Montalcino on the last Sunday of October, and the Festa delle Torri (Tower Festival) in Monteriggioni halfway through July, while the Festa del Barbarossa (Barbarossa's Feast Day) intrigues the visitor to San Quirico d'Orcia in mid-June. Amongst the many carnival celebrations, the most fascinating is the one which takes place in the shadow of the towered palaces of San Gimignano. In the land of the Palio it is natural for horse races to take the lead, but one of the most interesting is the one in Casole d'Elsa in mid-July. An outstanding cultural event is the Serremaggio in the charming little town of Serre di Rapolano. And, last but not least, the country festivals: hundreds of them, all imaginative, whether olden-day or recent, crowded or spacious, celebrating the wildboar, the frog, the water-melon, and even one commemorating poverty: this takes place in Colle Val d'Elsa halfway through June and offers the simple dishes of the peasant civilisation.

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