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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Arrezzo , Assisi and Sienna

After we left Cinque Terra we travelled by train ( four of them ) to Montevarchi where we were met by a very enthusiastic relative of Gadgets. We were quickly whisked off to his home where a huge meal awaited us.  As soon as we had finished eating he packed us up in the car along with Gadgets mother and stepfather ( whom were also on holidays  in Italy) and drove us to meet other relatives. 


On the way, he stopped off here.  If you have seen the Italian movie " the beautiful life" directed by Roberto Benigni this is the barn that the lead female actress falls out of and into a hay stack and the lead actor instantly falls in love and declares her his "principessa ".  The gorgeous old farmhouse beside it was abandoned .... Ohh wouldn't it be amazing to get an old house like that and renovate it.
Over the three days we spent with the family in Arrezzo we visited several lovely towns.

Assisi
There are two distinct areas of Assisi the modern town and the old walled city above it. We did visit the 
Basilica of santa Maria degli angeli , ( this is where Saint Francis of Assisi was baptised) in the modern town but then headed up to the walled village. Assisi is believed to date back to around 1000BC.


This is the Bascilica of St Francis of Assisi. This monumental church actually has three levels, a crypt, the lower and the upper church.  The crypt contains a sarcophagus containing the remains of Saint Francis, both the upper and lower churches have magnificent frescos. In the upper church the Frescos contain images from the life of Saint Francis. Sadly the  Basilica was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1997, during which part of the vault collapsed, killing four people inside the church. It took two years before the church could be re opened and rather than replace / recreate the frescos they lost they have returned what they could and left the gaps bare, so that the earthquake and the loss of lives will always be a visual history of the church.

 



This is the entrance to the upper church.


One of the gorgeous old streets, lined with wonderful little gift shops, cafes and gelateria's.





This is the Bascilica of Santa Chiara ( St Clare), this lovely church was very simple in its decorations, however the use of soft pink and white marble throughout gave the church a very definite feminine feel. It was also damaged greatly during the 1997 earthquake and has been restored. The crypt beneath the church contains the remains of Saint Clare, a gown that she made ( with the most amazing needlework) a skein of cotton that she spun and a glass reliquary filled with her hair.


This is the beautiful view across the valley below the walled city.

Siena
Siena, like other hill towns throughout Tuscany was first settled in the time of the Etruscians around 900–400 BC. It is one of the area's biggest tourist attractions. Siena is famous for its beautiful medieval streetscape, it's food and of course the Palio. The Palio is a traditional medieval horse race 
which is run around the piazza del campo ( the main square) twice a year. The city is divided into 17 
contrades ( areas ) and 10 of the contrades compete for the Palio , a painted banner depicting the image of the blessed Virgin Mary. The contrades are so serious about this race that the horses are taken into the churches were they are blessed by the local priests. The jockeys ride without saddles and there are very few rules, allegiances are formed by contrades and they are allowed to knock the other jockeys off their horses. However the winner is the first horse across the line, regardless of whether there is a jockey or not.


This is the Palazzo Publico, or the town hall of Siena. This building faces directly onto the Piazza de Campo, where the Palio is run.



The Piazza de Campo


The Siena Cathedral was  begun in the 12th century, Its main fa├žade was completed in 1380 and contains influences from French gothic, Romanesque and classical architecture. The original plan called for an ambitiously massive basilica, the largest in the world,  However, the scarcity of funds, in part due to war and plague, resulted in the project being reduced and the Sienese created a much more subdued version from the original plan's. 
The interior of the church is visually striking with black and white stripes on the walls and columns 
and the church is filled with many beautiful sculptures and the inlaid marble mosaic floor are just stunning and are considered to be among the most elaborate in Italy. 


In Contrast the Bascilica  of Saint Catherine of Sienna, is striking in it's simplicity.  St Catherine of Siena is one of the two patron saints of Italy.  She was instrumental in the return of the papacy to Rome. She lived outside but in accordance with the Dominican order. She provided care to the sick, and was known to abstain from taking food for considerable  periods.  The Bascilica contains the mummified head of Saint Catherine, whilst the remainder of her remains are interned in a church in 
Rome.


One of the gorgeous medieval streets.

Arrezzo
Arezzo is a lovely town and was used for several scenes in the movie, "life is beautiful". It has a huge church, that was quite lovely and lots of very interesting antique shops and cafes.

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This is the beautiful central square, it would be a lovely spot to sit and sip coffee. I think there is probably a lot about Arrezzo that I have yet to discover, but that is an opportunity for another time. Throughout our three nights in Arrezzo gadgets family, encased us in the warmest of love, they provided us with huge meals, they took us where ever we wanted to go it was just the most wonderful experience. Language was sometimes an issue , mainly for me as gadget understands a fair bit of Italian.

Ciao 

Googy girl 

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