Sienna Time

View from the terrace of our small hotel, Albergo Bernini

After Firenze, Dee and I headed off to Sienna for 2 days. Sienna was quite peaceful in the morning and busy, but not too busy during the day.

We stayed at the Albergo Bernini which has 11 rooms, but unknown to me only 2 rooms had private baths (not advertised on their website I might add). We managed; lucky for me I am an early riser! The hotel was located a short up and down walk from main sites and only a short city block from a gelato shop and a caffe’ bar (one for Dee, one for me).

Every place we went seemed to have fantastic ceilings. Many times the ceilings were as impressive as the buildings if not more so.

Ceilings in Italy captivate me.

While the duomo of Sienna was spectacular, we really enjoyed the self guided tour through the historic hospital, Santa Maria della Scala, which is located across the piazza from the Duomo.

Sienna Duomo

The hospital, built in the 13th century and renovated in the 15th century, was once an important hospital dedicated to caring for abandoned children, the poor, the sick and pilgrims. Revenues were generated partially from bequests and donations from the weathy citizens of Sienna.

Santa Maria della Scala was one of the first hospitals in Europe and is one of the oldest hospitals to have survived through the years. The name of the hospital refers to its location “across the steps” that lead to the cathedral.

The main building complex is quite large (several stories above the piazza and about 5 below as it is built on a hillside. The hospital’s properties includes much of both sides of what was one of the main roads in Sienna. The hospital ultimately built over the road which then became an internal road within the hospital. There were also several smaller hospitals in the area outside of the city walls. During the 13th and 14th centuries the hospital organized all of its holdings into large agricultural estates which are said to have been the largest concentration of land of the Sienese state. The agriculture component helped to fund the hospital’s activities.

Babies were often abandoned at the hospital. The children were cared for until the age of 18 when they were given the option of leaving. They were taught trades, and if they chose to work during their stay, their earnings were kept in trust for them and released to them when they left the care of the hospital.

You can view over half of the complex on your own for a small entrance fee. There are nearly 12,000 square meters of paths. You can even view a room dedicated to relics.

Relics of saints on display

We were nearly through with our time at the hospital (about 2 hours) when Dee spotted a unique view that was in a lighted roped off area.

Human bones

This pile of bones seemed to be at the bottom of a large chute. What had been an interesting tour suddenly conjured up many different thoughts and ideas (you can well image)….we decided to walk on! Off we went to the Baptistry.

For perspective, if you look closely you will see teeny, tiny people standing in front of the Baptistry doors. Usually baptistries are built adjacent to the cathedrals or churches, but due to the hilly nature of Sienna, this one is located on the other side of the cathedral hill.

Sienna Baptistry

Of course, we made it to the famous campo of Sienna. We were there early in the morning for viewing without tons of people.

Great view, except we were there before the trash pick up!
Quite peaceful in the early morning hours. Finally the garbage truck!

And of course, the neighborhood flags.

Dee, an uphill climb and flags

Finally, late in the day, we visited a large church, which I believe was a basillica, and found this quiet courtyard.

A perfect ending to our short visit to Sienna were the chiming bells in the nearby churches.

We left town early in the morning headed back to Bologna to prepare for our trip to Venice. We got on the train and received a bit of a surprise. It felt as if the air conditioner had been left on all night and it continued to be on until about 15 minutes out of Florence. Everyone on the train was opening up suitcases and backpacks to get coats! Bundle up!

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